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 Anthropology - Greek words – Anthropus and logus

 Aristotle: ‘anthropologist is one who gossips of himself’

 Haddon cites an early English book by anonymous writer

in 1665 - titled : “Anthropology Abstracted” – speaks of
the subject as “The History of Human nature”

Today anthropology is- one interested in all aspects of

human species and behaviour, in all places and at all times –
from the origin and evolution of the species through its
prehistoric civilizations down to present
Anthropology is study of :

- universalities and uniqueness;

- study of startling contrasts and surprising
- study of meaning and logic in what seems
- study of ourselves as reflected in the
variety of ways- far different from our
• Klukhohn – anthropology holds up a mirror to man
and lets him to look at himself in his infinite ways

• Geertz – all humans are born with the potential to live

thousands of different lives, yet we end up having
lived only one.
• the central task of anthropology is of giving accounts
of some the other lives we could have led.

Anthropology: very complex and diversified subject;

goes on in a number of directions, and utilizes a variety
of methods and organizing ideas.

• Herskovits – Anthropology is ‘study of man and his

How is anthropology distinct?

Uses Culture as its central concept

• Anthropology studies man – the only being with culture. Assigns a special
place for the study of this unique feature of man. Its concepts and theory
revolve round this concept.

Anthropology focuses on ‘primitive society’

• Where practically all other students of man concentrate upon “civilized” people , study
of the range of differences has led anthropologists to concentrate markedly upon
investigation of the many so-called “primitive” or non-literate peoples.

• Early interest in origins and evolution of different social institutions ;

• Thought it is logical to proceed from simple to complex for general theory building
• Helps in understanding the interdependencies
• Easier to make observations in cultures unlike our own – more objectivity.
• Primitive societies are rapidly vanishing.
• Study of primitive society is interesting since they provide description of way of life,
values and the beliefs – living without what we consider as minimum requirements
Studies both physical and cultural dimensions of man
• The anthropological view point, in dealing with the broadest perspectives of
time and space, describes man in both his physical (biological) and his
cultural and social characteristics.

it is comparative:
 Missionaries' and administrators - ‘to compare’ meant - examine things with
an intent to bring out similarities and differences in their characteristic
 Later, to compare itself became significant job – having been influenced by
comparative jurisprudence, comparative religion etc.
 Purpose of comparison now is to establish the common ancestor, for the
similarities. The comparative study of human species centers its attention
 differences and similarities that separate and unite all of the people on the
earth; isolate and define the laws and principles that account for the
development and perpetuation of such differences and similarities.
B) It is holistic
studies one manifestation of culture in relation to other
dimension of whole life of man. Holistic study involves study
of human beings in terms of the entire pattern of their life.
The fundamental proposition is that ‘ no part can be fully or
even accurately understood apart from the whole. And
conversely, the whole can not be accurately perceived without
accurate and specified knowledge of the individual parts.

C) Emphasizes on participant observation

Field work is the basic component; Field work emphasizes
participant observation.
Anthropologists agree that one must live with the people as
close as possible and under the same conditions of living in
order to understand how they feel and see life from their
point of view.

The different perspectives in anthropology correspond

to the different branches of anthropology.

Each branch of anthropology studies one special aspect

of behaviour and also each works separately with its
own methods and its own subject matter.

Together they form a whole that is distinct from all other

social sciences.
Physical anthropology:

Concerns with our relationship to other animals our

deviation and evolution and our special physical

Emphasizes the place of man in animal kingdom –

among primates, particularly; deals with stages of
evolution –emphasizes on the acquisition of special
physical characteristics.

 In all physical Anthropology deals with human

evolution and human variation.

 Sometimes called Pre-history (Prior to History)

 Concerns primarily with human existence prior to written records
 Aims to reconstruct the origin, spread and evolution of culture.
Examines the past remains (artifacts) for this job
 has two differences with history
(1) Studies societies before the emergence of literacy.
(2)History depends upon written records-which were restricted
to small elite group of people. They tend to describe the events
and achievements, activities surrounding these elite groups.

 Archaeologist- not interested in biographies which historians

usually do- but with the whole society.

 Tries to understand the human behaviour from the remains of

the past

 study of language from anthropological perspective

Explores relationship between language and cultural behaviour.
Anthropological linguistics-asks questions about language from
the point of view of the human species, rather than trying to
describe language or its structure-
Different aspects- art ,food tastes, kinship relations
,supernatural powers, diseases are not uniformly conceived. As
per their conceptions, they have their language.
Studies cultural conceptions of nature, universe as reflected in
the language.

 Areas of interest: Origin of language; study of how language

determines cultural order and social behaviour; the way people
order their universe; know which is important to society
Social Anthropology:

• Use of the term Social anthropology is not

uniform in all countries – confused with
anthropology and also with ethnology
• It is taught under these names – anthropology
and/or ethnology – since 1884 at Oxford, since
1900 at Cambridge, and since 1908 in London
• The University Chair which bore the title of Social
anthropology was held by Sir James Frazer at
Liverpool in 1908.
Distinction between ethnology, ethnography and
social Anthropology:
•For those who distinguish between ethnology and
Social Anthropology – both study the same range of
people- but with different purposes
•Task of ethnology is to classify people on the basis of
their racial and cultural characteristics and then to
explain their distribution in the present or in past times
– by the movement and mixture of people and the
diffusion of cultures
• The task of ethnologist is to reconstruct the history of the
people, where past historical records are lacking; Compelled
to relay on inferences from circumstantial evidences
• Social anthropology studies social behaviour, generally in
institutionalized forms such as family, kinship system.
• Studies either in contemporary societies or in historical
societies for which there is adequate data
• Essentially the difference is – where as some custom of
people when plotted on a distribution map is of interest for
ethnologist as evidence of an ethnic movement, or past
contact between peoples, or of a cultural drift;
• For an anthropologist – it is part of the whole social life of
the people at the present time and this requires explanation
as such.
What is ethnography?
•Ethno is group; graphy is to description – so
ethnography is description about a group.
•Robert Launay says: an ethnography is any
written report that is based on field-work.
•Traditionally it meant monograph about
‘primitive’ people
•What do social anthropologists study in primitive society?
How do they study what they study? But why do they study
‘primitive society’?
•‘primitive’ in anthropology does not mean that these societies
are earlier in time or inferior to other kinds of people. – they
are more complex in some other ways.
•By ‘primitive’ – they mean only small scale societies – small
in numbers, territory and range of social contacts