Anthropology

For the past century, Anthropology has come to be known as a study of an infinite curiosity about humans. Not only concerned with an interest in human beings and their developements, Anthropology is much more broad in concept of trying to understand the relationships between human beings and all possible questions about them. Anthropology is trying to understand all aspects of human beings through the broad discovery, study, interpretation and inference of past and present cultural characteristics. In appling the knowledge aquired, one can gain an understanding of individuals in society, regardless of the resulting conclusion being right or wrong.

The scope of anthropology is much more broad than that of other disciplines ofscience.…show more content…Motivated by the will to eliminate error and inaccurate theory, Anthropology seeks to find consistent data for analysis of human exsistence. By removing skeptic ideals, Anthropologists can form a widley accepted explanation of human developement through time.

There are different branches of Anthropology and each of them enhances our understanding of us by recourse to theory and practical application of the theory to the questions concerning our human existence.

History of anthropology

The modern discourse of anthropology crystallized in the 1860s, fired by advances in biology, philology, and prehistoric archaeology. In The Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin affirmed that all forms of life share a common ancestry. Fossils began to be reliably associated with particular geologic strata, and fossils of recent human ancestors were discovered, most famously the first Neanderthal specimen, unearthed in 1856. In 1871 Darwin published The Descent of Man, which argued that human beings shared a recent common ancestor with the great African apes. He identified the defining characteristic of the human species as their relatively large brain size and deduced that the evolutionary advantage of the human species was intelligence, which yielded language and technology.

Branches of anthropology

Anthropology is the study of evolution of culture and societal origins of humankind. The subject of Anthropology concerns itself with the study of all aspects of human existence.

Compared to other subjects like Economics and the Social Sciences, Anthropology covers a wide gamut of fields and sub-topics that range from cultural studies to evolution to organization of societies. Hence, there are different branches of Anthropology within the main grouping and we discuss some of them here. Among the branches of Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology refers to that field of study that concerns itself with studying the logic behind cultural norms. During the course of studying cultures, cultural anthropologists live with the cultures that they are studying and observe the norms and rituals that these cultures follow and research the underlying reasons for them. For instance, we in the US might find scarring of the bodies to be bizarre. However, there are tribes in Africa where this is the accepted norm and hence this branch of Anthropology brings us insights into different cultures around the world.

Importance of anthropology

If you ask people about the importance of Anthropology, you would different answers depending on whom you ask.

The fact that Anthropology is important as a discipline is universally recognized and acknowledged by experts in the field. As humans, we are inquisitive and curious by nature. We want to know where we came from, why we are the way we are. We turn to different explanations offered by different subjects like economics, biology and history. And, Anthropology is the one field that can provide comprehensive answers that tie in the different strands of thought from all these fields. Hence, Anthropology and its study are indeed important from the perspective of knowing more about us.

Anthropology has different branches and each of the branches provides for a certain aspect of the inquiry into our origins and evolution as a species. For instance, the study of language is the domain of linguistic anthropology. We all know that there are different languages spoken around the world and dialects among these languages as well. To know more about the linkages between these different languages and the differences that exist in the use of words is something that Anthropologists explain.

What is cultural anthropology ?

Cultural anthropologists study the similarities and differences among living societies and cultural groups. Through immersive fieldwork, living and working with the people one is studying, cultural anthropologists suspend their own sense of what is “normal” in order to understand other people’s perspectives. Beyond describing another way of life, anthropologists ask broader questions about humankind: Are human emotions universal or culturally specific? Does globalization make us all the same, or do people maintain cultural differences? For cultural anthropologists, no aspect of human life is outside their purview. They study art, religion, healing, natural disasters, and even pet cemeteries. While many anthropologists are at first intrigued by human diversity, they come to realize that people around the world share much in common.

While cultural anthropologists traditionally conduct fieldwork in faraway places, they are increasingly turning their gaze inward to observe their own societies or subgroups within them. For instance, in the 1980s, American anthropologist Philippe Bourgois sought to understand why pockets of extreme poverty persist amid the wealth and overall high quality of life in the United States. To answer this question, he lived with Puerto Rican crack dealers in East Harlem, New York. He contextualized their experiences both historically in terms of their Puerto Rican roots and migration to the U.S. and in the present as they experienced social marginalization and institutional racism. Rather than blame the crack dealers for their poor choices or blame our society for perpetuating inequality, he argued that both individual choices and social structures can trap people in the overlapping worlds of drugs and poverty (Bourgois 2003). For more about Bourgois, please see the interview with him in the learning resources, Anthropology in Our Moment in History .

Summary

Social anthropology can and should be part of the interdisciplinary study of human origins. Anthropological theory and ethnographic comparison can easily be brought into the frameworks of both primary research and intellectual debate on the subject. I would go further: the study of human origins can and should be a legitimate subdiscipline within social anthropology. I hope I have demonstrated that its inclusion among the sciences dealing with this issue is warranted and that its contribution could be considerable.From within social anthropology the contribution of the discipline might at first seem more speculative than that of some other disciplines, but social anthropology is a qualitative social science by nature. It need not be any more speculative than, say, archaeology or human genetics – disciplines in which plausibility and likelihood are often sufficient for the construction of hypotheses and even for longstanding and widely accepted theories. No modern scientist has ever seen the origin of tool-making, the development of language, a symbolic revolution or a migration which has led to the colonization of an empty continent. In this, social anthropology is on exactly the same footing as archaeology or human genetics. The only difference is that genetics and archaeology rely on ‘hard data’, which are almost invariably either material (in the case of archaeology) or quantitative, or at least involving careful sampling (in the case of genetics). After that, the rest (for archaeologists and geneticists) is pure inference and deduction.