what is anthropology Essay

Submitted By Vivian-Qiao
Words: 1150
Pages: 5

Anthropology: the study of the human species and its immediate ancestors.
It offers a broader view – a distinctive comparative, cross-cultural perspective.
Do more than study nonindustrial societies.
Seeks reliable explanations with reference to the material and physical world.
Unique blend of biological, social, cultural, linguistic, historical and contemporary perspectives.
Also linked to humanities.
A comparative science that now extends to all society: ancient and modern, simple and complex.
Constantly comparing the customs of one society with those of others
Main difference between anthropology and other fields that study people is holism.
A holistic science
Holism: study of whole of human condition: past, present, and future; biology, society, language, culture.
Human diversity if the subject matter of anthropology.
Developed as specific field in US
Early American anthropologist studying native peoples of North America combined studies of customs, social life, language, and physical traits in the 19th century. In Europe it began as the study of Africa and other parts of the “undeveloped” world.
Creativity, adaptability, and flexibility are basic human attributes.
Human adaptability:
Adaptation: the process by which organisms cope with environmental stresses.
Humans among most adaptable animals are able to inhabit widely variant ecological niches.
Humans unique in using biological and cultural means of adaptation
Four types of human adaptation
Cultural (technological) adaptation
Social and cultural adaptation increasingly important for human groups.
Devised ways of coping with wide range of environments.
Rate of cultural adaptation rapidly accelerating during the last 10,000 years
Food production: cultivation of plants and domestication of animals-Developed 12,000 - 10,000 years ago (y.a.)
First civilizations developed 6,000 - 5,000 before the present (BP)
Spread of industrial production
Genetic adaptation
Long-term physiological or developmental adaptation
Short-term or immediate physiological adaptation
Humans share both society and culture
Culture: traditions and customs, that govern behavior and beliefs of people exposed to them, distinctly human, transmitted through learning.
The most critical element of cultural traditions is their transmission through learning rather than through biological inheritance.
Society: organized life in groups
Shared with other animals
Human Biological Diversity and the Race Concept
It is not possible to define human rare biologically.
Used study biological diversity in two main ways:
Racial classification(now largely abandoned)
The current explanatory approach.
Racial classification: the attempt to assign humans to discrete categories based on common ancestry (largely abandoned)
Biological race: geographically isolated subdivision of a species
Humanity lacks such races because human population not isolated enough to develop into discrete groups
The most fundamental assumption: sound conclusion about “human nature” cannot be divided from studying a single population, nation, society, or cultural tradition.
Race reflects genetic ancestry
Racial classifications usually based on phenotypical traits (e.g., skin color)
Phenotype: organism’s evident traits
Problems with phenotype-based racial classifications:
Impossible to determine which trait(s) most important
Racial classifications don’t accurately describe skin color
People may not fit into any of three “great races”
Phenotypical similarities and differences don’t necessarily have a genetic basis
Bodies vary from culture to culture and within one culture over time
Anthropology’s comparative biological perspective recognizes that environment factors, including customary diet and other cultural faces, constantly mold human biology.
Explanatory Approaches
Biological similarity doesn’t necessarily indicate recent common ancestry
Natural selection: process by which forms most fit to