What do we study?
Anthropology is the study of human beings, both physically and culturally, in the past and present, mostly in the non-Western world, mostly through the method of fieldwork.
- "Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities." (Eric Wolf)
- "Anthropology is the only discipline that can access evidence about the entire human experience on this planet." (Michael Brian Schiffer)
- "Anthropology provides a scientific basis for dealing with the crucial dilemma of the world today: how can peoples of different appearance, mutually unintelligible languages, and dissimilar ways of life get along peaceably together?" (Clyde Kluckhohn)
- "The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences." (Ruth Benedict)
Characteristics of Anthropology
What makes anthropology unique in the way people are studied?
- Holistic -- Whole approach -- looking at everything about people, studying people both culturally and physically -- a general rather than a specialized approach.
- Evolutionary -- Studying people during all time periods from the distant past through ancient civilizations to the present.
- Non-Western Emphasis -- Studying and comparing people all over the world, emphasizing those non-Western cultures (Africa, Middle East, Asia, Australia, Oceania, Latin America, North American Indians, etc.) and ethnic groups that other disciplines tend to de-emphasize.
- Fieldwork Method -- Studying people mainly through fieldwork (participant observation), the first-hand study of people that requires an anthropologist to live where he/she is doing research, to learn the local language, and to become as much a part of the group as any outsider can.
Subfields of Anthropology
- Cultural Anthropology --The study of living peoples' ways of life, mostly in the non-Western world, and mostly through fieldwork.
- Biological/Physical Anthropology --The study of peoples and non-human primates as biological beings both in the past (evolution) and the present.
- Anthropological Linguistics --The study of languages, mostly non-Western and mostly preliterate, and of the nature of language.
- Archaeology --The study of past peoples' ways of life, through the excavation and analysis of artifacts.
Applications of Anthropology
- Academic Anthropology -- The study of any of the above four subfields for the knowledge and insights they provide about humankind.
- Practicing (Applied) Anthropology --The use of any of the above four subfields to solve peoples' practical, and often pressing, problems.
- Public Anthropology --The communication of anthropological knoweledge to the public in museums, parks, and other public educations settings.