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Introduction to Anthropology

What is Anthropology?
How is the discipline defined?
How is the discipline distinguished
from others, how is it unique?
Central Themes or Questions
• How is the discipline distinguished from
others, how is it unique?
• What is the nature of being human?
• What makes humans unique among
• How are we distinct from other primates?
• How did we become the way we are?
• Is it Nature or Nurture?
• Why are people different around the world?
• How can we make the world a better place?
Definition of Anthropology
• ‘Anthropos’ is the Greek term for
• ‘ logos” is the Greek term for Study
• A comparative and holistic social science.
• Comparative: human diversity, past and present
(primates included)
• Holism: Considering a whole system Utilizes
biology, psychology, history, ecology, &
geography. Studies of all aspects of humanity
• Participant Observation: living with informants,
direct observation
• Indigenous and Tribal groups: Other disciplines
tend to ignore these groups
Four Subdisciplines of
• Cultural or Social (Sociocultural)
• Physical or Biological
• Linguistics
• Archaeology
Anthropological Approaches

• All four subdisciplines are

• Theoretical – academic, why & how (ivory
tower view) – leads to testing, research
• Applied – academic & non-academic;
problem-solving (practicing anthropologists),
needs testing & research to apply knowledge
• All are interested in variation through time &
What is Cultural Anthropology?

• Emphasis is on learned behavior,

norms, beliefs, identity, etc.
• Origins of cultural attributes & cultural
• Variation in expression
Examples: Cultural

• Marriage & Sexuality

• Gender Roles
• Kinship
• Concepts of Beauty
• Economic & Political systems
• Illness
Applied Cultural Anthropology

• HIV Education In Africa

• Teen Prevention
• Refugee settings
• NGO’s, Development Agencies (USAID)
What is Physical or Biological
• Human Evolution
• Primate Genetics
• Growth & Development
• Biological Adaptation
• Biological Plasticity
• Non-Human Primates
Biological Anthropology
• Anatomical differences in humans,
chimps & hominid ancestors
• Locomotion
• Disease
Applied Biological Anthropology

• Forensics
• Grave Excavations in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, Rwanda, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Iraq
What is the study of Linguistics?

• Study of language across time & space

• Origins, evolution, & reconstruction
• Acquisition, Gender, Age
• Language Variation, within & between
Examples of Linguistic Studies

• Studies of related terms in different

languages & hence associations among
people (Siouan Languages: Omaha,
Lakota, Iowa, Hidatsa, Osage, etc.)
• Changes through time in the meaning of
a word (e.g. gay, “…don we now our gay
apparel, falala, lalala, lalala…)
Applied Linguistics

• Assisting community or ethnic group in

saving a native language or increasing
the numbers of speakers, e.g. Omaha;
• Constructing a dictionary for an oral
language, e.g. Maya Languages in
What is Archaeology?

• The Investigation of human material

culture and behavior.
• Cultural evolution among extant &
extinct cultures
• Reconstruct & interpret past life-ways
Examples of Archaeology

• Settlement Patterns
• Dietary Reconstruction
• Technology
• Ideology
• Subsistence
Applied Archaeology

• Cultural Resource Management (CRM)

• Tourism development
• Resuscitation of ancient technologies
What unifies the four field
• Humans can’t be understood by
studying one culture, a single group
• Comparative, cross-cultural
approaches essential
• Focus on variation in time & space
• Cultures are not isolated
• Theoretical & Applied
Additional Notes on

• Young discipline: First studies in 19th

• Anthropologists interested in all
people, all places, all time periods
• Ultimate outcome is better
understanding & communication within
& between peoples of the world