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Chapter 1. The Essence of Anthropology. Chapter Outline. The Anthropological Perspective Anthropology and Its Fields Anthropology, Science, and the Humanities Fieldwork Field Methods Anthropology's Comparative Method Questions of Ethics Anthropology and Globalization. Anthropology.

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chapter 1

Chapter 1

The Essence of Anthropology

chapter outline
Chapter Outline
  • The Anthropological Perspective
  • Anthropology and Its Fields
  • Anthropology, Science, and the Humanities
  • Fieldwork
  • Field Methods
  • Anthropology's Comparative Method
  • Questions of Ethics
  • Anthropology and Globalization
  • The study of humankind in all times and places.
  • The focus is the interconnections and interdependence of all aspects of the human experience in all places, in the present and deep into the past, well before written history.
holistic perspective
Holistic Perspective
  • The idea that the various parts of human culture and biology must be viewed in the broadest possible context in order to understand their interconnections and interdependence.
  • A fundamental principle of anthropology which helps anthropologists avoid the pitfalls of ethnocentrism.
culture bound
  • Theories about the world and reality based on the assumptions and values of one’s own culture.
  • The cross-cultural and long-term evolutionary perspective of anthropology distinguishes it from other social sciences and guards against culture-bound behavior.
the four fields of anthropology
The Four Fields of Anthropology


applied anthropology
Applied Anthropology
  • The use of anthropological knowledge and methods to solve practical problems, often for a specific client.
  • Involves collaboration with communities in order to set goals, solve problems, and conduct research together.
medical anthropology
Medical Anthropology
  • An applied specialization in anthropology that brings theoretical and applied approaches from cultural and biological anthropology to the study of human health and disease.
physical anthropology
Physical Anthropology
  • Also known as biological anthropology.
  • The systematic study of humans as biological organisms.
    • Molecular anthropology is a branch of biological anthropology that uses genetic and biochemical techniques to test hypotheses about human evolution, adaptation, and variation.
  • The study of the origins and predecessors of the present human species (human evolutionary studies).
  • Uses a biocultural approach, focusing on the interaction of biology and culture.
  • Genetic analyses indicate that the human line originated 5 to 8 million years ago.
  • The study of living and fossil primates.
    • Primates include the Asian and African apes, as well as monkeys, lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers. Biologically, humans are members of the ape family.
  • Primatologists designate the shared, learned behavior of nonhuman apes as culture.
  • Tool use and communication systems indicate the elementary basis of language in some ape societies.
human growth adaptation and variation
Human Growth, Adaptation, and Variation
  • Anthropologists examine biological mechanisms of growth as well as the impact of the environment on the growth process.
  • Physical anthropologists study the impacts of disease, pollution, and poverty on growth.
  • Studies of human adaptation focus on the capacity of humans to adapt or adjust to their material environment—biologically and culturally.
forensic anthropology
Forensic Anthropology
  • Subfield of applied physical anthropology that specializes in the identification of human skeletal remains for legal purposes.
  • Forensic anthropologists use details of skeletal anatomy to establish age, sex, population affiliation, and stature of the deceased.
cultural anthropology
Cultural Anthropology
  • Also known as social anthropology or sociocultural anthropology.
  • The study of customary patterns in human behavior, thought, and feelings.
  • It focuses on humans as culture-producing and culture-reproducing creatures.
  • Involves two main components: ethnography and ethnology.
  • The standards by which societies operate.
  • These standards are socially learned, rather than acquired through biological inheritance.
  • No person is “more cultured” in the anthropological sense than any other.
components of cultural anthropology
Components of Cultural Anthropology
  • Ethnographyis a detailed description of a particular culture primarily based on fieldwork.
  • Ethnology is the study and analysis of different cultures from a comparative or historical point of view, utilizing ethnographic accounts and developing anthropological theories that explain why differences or similarities occur among groups.
linguistic anthropology
Linguistic Anthropology
  • Branch of anthropology that studies language.
  • Linguists may study:
    • The description of a language - how a sentence is formed, or a verb conjugated.
    • The history of languages - how languages develop and change with the passage of time.
    • The relation between language and culture.
  • The study of human cultures through the recovery and analysis of material remains and environmental data.
    • Archaeology involves various sub-specializations such as bioarchaeology (the archaeological study of human remains), ethnobotany (the cross-cultural study of indigenous plants), and zooarchaeology (tracking animal remains at archaeological sites).
cultural resource management
Cultural Resource Management
  • A branch of archaeology that is concerned with survey and/or excavation of archaeological and historical remains threatened by construction or development and policy surrounding protection of cultural resources.
  • Based on observations of the world rather than on intuition or faith.
  • A tentative explanation of the relation between certain phenomena.
  • In science, an explanation of natural phenomena, supported by a reliable body of data.
  • An assertion of opinion or belief formally handed down by an authority as true and indisputable.
  • The term anthropologists use for on-location research.
  • Participant observation: in ethnography, the technique of learning a people’s culture through participation and personal observation within the community being studied, as well as interviews and discussion with members of the group over an extended period of time.
field methods of archaeology and paleoanthropology
Field Methods of Archaeology and Paleoanthropology
  • Artifact: any object fashioned or altered by humans; a form of material culture.
  • Site: places containing archaeological remains of previous human activity.
  • Fossil: the preserved remains of plants and animals that lived in the past.
dating techniques in archaeology and paleoanthropology
Dating Techniques in Archaeology and Paleoanthropology
  • Relative dating: techniques that establish the relationship among a series of remains by using geological principles to place remains in chronological order.
  • Absolute dating: also called chronometric dating; establishes actual dates calculated in years “before the present” by using properties such as rates of decay of radioactive elements.
ethnographic field methods
Ethnographic Field Methods
  • Key consultant: a member of the society being studied who provides information to researchers so that they understand the meaning of what they observe.
  • Informal interview: an unstructured, open-ended conversation in everyday life.
  • Formal interview: a structured question-answer session based on prepared questions.
  • Eliciting devices: activities and objects used to draw out individuals to help them recall and explain.
comparative method
Comparative Method
  • Anthropologists are concerned with the objective and systematic study of humankind.
  • The comparative method is key to all branches of anthropology.
  • Anthropologists make broad comparisons among peoples and cultures past and present, related species, and fossil groups.
anthropological ethics
Anthropological Ethics
  • “Anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research, or perform other professional activities.”
  • Anthropologists have special obligations to those whom they study, those who fund the research, and those in the scientific community.
  • Worldwide interconnectedness, evidenced in global movements of natural resources, trade goods, human labor, finance capital, information, and infectious diseases.