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What is Anthropology?. From Greek anthropos (human) and logia (study) Study of Humankind Who we are, how we came to be that way Social, cultural, and biological beings. Four Subfields. Archaeology Historical Prehistoric Resource management Physical Anthropology Paleoanthropology

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what is anthropology
What is Anthropology?
  • From Greek anthropos (human) and logia (study)
  • Study of Humankind
  • Who we are, how we came to be that way
  • Social, cultural, and biological beings
four subfields
Four Subfields
  • Archaeology
    • Historical
    • Prehistoric
    • Resource management
  • Physical Anthropology
    • Paleoanthropology
    • Evolutionary psychology
    • Primatology
    • Human variation
    • Forensic
  • Linguistics
    • Historical
    • Descriptive
    • Ethnolinguistics
    • Sociolinguistics
  • Social/Cultural Anthropology
    • (Ethnology): e.g., economic, psychological, medical, urban, political, applied
“We [anthropologists] have been the first to insist on a number of things: that the world does not divide into the pious and the superstitious; that there are sculptures in jungles and paintings in deserts; that political order is possible without centralized power and principled justice without codified rules; that the norms of reason were not fixed in Greece, the evolution of morality not consummated in England. Most important, we were the first to insist that we see the lives of others through lenses of our own grinding and that they look back on ours through ones of their own.”

- Clifford Geertz


five hallmarks of anthropology
Five Hallmarks of Anthropology
  • Cultural relativism
  • Subjective understanding (emic vs. etic)
  • Holism
  • Fieldwork
  • Comparison

Cultural relativism

    • Viewing other cultural practices in the context of the cultural system
      • No absolute standards
    • Suspension of value judgment for the purpose of study
      • Tool for understanding logic of behavior
    • Opposite of ethnocentrism
      • Ethnocentrism:
        • Viewing other cultures through the lens of your own culture
        • Judging other’s behavior based on the standards of your own cultural assumptions and practices
        • Belief that your own culture is superior to others
Subjective Understanding

How people view their own behavior – their explanation, logic

Emic: Inside, “native’s point of view”

Etic: Outside, ethnographer’s view, analysis

Theoretical approaches:


Behavior stems from way people perceive and classify the world

Uses emic analysis


Material conditions, e.g. the environment, determine thoughts and behaviors

Uses etic analysis


Interrelated parts in context of the whole


what is culture big c little c
What is Culture?Big ‘C’, little ‘c’
  • ‘Culture’ – arts, refinements, high and low, cultured/uncultured persons
  • culture – the way of life of a people
definitions of culture
Definitions of “Culture”:

Edward Tylor (1871):

“Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”

clyde kluckhohn mirror for man 1944 compiled by geertz
Clyde Kluckhohn – “Mirror for Man” (1944)(Compiled by Geertz)
  • The total way of life of a people
  • The social legacy the individual acquires from his group
  • A way of thinking, feeling, and believing
  • A theory on the part of the anthropologist about the way in which a group of people in fact behave
  • A storehouse of pooled learning
  • A set of standardized orientations to recurrent problems
  • Learned behavior
  • A mechanism for normative regulation of behavior
  • A set of techniques for adjusting both to the

external environment and to other men

  • A precipitate of history
  • A behavioral map, sieve, or matrix
clifford geertz 1973
Clifford Geertz (1973)

“The concept of culture I espouse...is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning.”

gary ferraro
Gary Ferraro:
  • Everything that people have, think, and do as members of a society
    • Material objects
    • Ideas, values, attitudes
    • Behavior patterns
  • Transmitted through learning
capacity to symbolize
Capacity to Symbolize
  • Symbol:
    • Something that stands for (represents) something else
  • Leslie White:
    • Ability to symbolize is most important hallmark of humanity
    • Culture = “things and events, dependent on symboling”
  • Identify, sort, and classify things, ideas and behaviors
  • Language is symbol system
  • Shared symbols unify a group
  • Creativity
    • Assign arbitrary meanings
    • Distinguishes culture from animal behavior
culture is
Culture is:
  • Shared
  • Learned
  • Largely unconscious
culture is shared
Culture is Shared
  • Social phenomenon
  • Makes things more predictable
  • Internal diversity/degrees of homogeneity
    • Age, Gender
    • Class, caste
    • Ethnicity, religion
    • Geographical region
  • Levels of generalization
    • National
    • Regional
    • Local
    • Personal
  • Subcultures
  • Pluralistic societies