THE DEFINITION OF ANTHROPOLOGY
The term "Anthropology" is derived from the Greek words: anthropos, meaning human or man, and logos meaning study. Thus, Anthropology means the study of humans. The working definition that we will use in this course is given below. ( You will find that important definitions in the lectures are boxed.)
The study of humankind at all times and all places.
Anthropology is a discipline of infinite curiosity about human beings. It focuses on humankind, their cultures, their adaptations, their behavior, and their physical variation within the context of learned social behavior, which we call culture.
Anthropology is concerned explicitly and directly with all varieties of people throughout the world - not just those close at hand or within a limited area, such as in cities. Anthropology is also interested in people who lived at all periods of time. Beginning with the immediate ancestors of humans, who lived a little over four million years ago, Anthropology is interested in the development of humans and their cultures right up to and including the present. Anthropology is also interested in finding out about humankind's closest primate relatives their evolution and behavior.
A few of the questions that Anthropologists ask and seek answers about are:
When, where and why humans and their ancestors appeared on the earth?
How and why they have changed during this time?
How and why human populations vary in physical characteristics?
How and why societies came into being?
How and why societies in the past and present have varied in their customs and languages?
Anthropology differs from other disciplines concerned with people in that it is much broader in scope. It traces human evolution and cultural development from millions of years ago to the present day. It looks at all current and past societies. Anthropology is therefore both diachronic and synchronic.
THE SUBDISCIPLINES OF ANTHROPOLOGY
The discipline of Anthropology is subdivided into two major subdisciplines, each of which is further divided into fields of specialization.
The two major subdivisions of Anthropology are Cultural Anthropology and Biological Anthropology, or Physical Anthropology. Physical Anthropology is the older traditional designation for the subdiscipline; Biological Anthropology is the newer term. Both are used currently in the field of Anthropology. We will look briefly at Cultural Anthropology first, and then continue to Biological Anthropology for the rest of the semester.
Cultural Anthropology is a broad and inclusive field; however, we can define it as follows:
The subdiscipline of Anthropology that focuses on learned human social behavior.
An Anthropologist usually thinks of the term "culture" as referring to the customary ways of thinking and behaving of a particular population or society. Among many other behaviors, the culture of a specific population includes
We will briefly examine the several subfields of Cultural Anthropology.
The specialization of Ethnology can be defined as follows:
The study of cultures, from a comparative or historical point of view, that can be or have been observed firsthand .
Ethnology is the study of existing and recent cultures. Ethnologists seek to understand how and why peoples today and in the recent past differ from each other in their customary ways of thinking and acting. Ethnology, then, is concerned with patterns of thought and behavior such as marriage customs kinship organization (how people know to whom they are related) political systems (tribes, bands, states, etc.) economic systems (trading systems, money, etc.) religion folk art music and the ways in which these patterns differ across recent and contemporary societies. Ethnologists also study the dynamics of culture,