Four Fields in Anthropology


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Discusses Holism and Comparison in Anthropology and Presents the Four Subfields: Cultural, Physical, Linguistic, and Archaeological

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Four Fields in Anthropology

  1. 1. The Four Fields of Anthropology Culture as the Central Concept
  2. 2. Culture and the Four Fields of Anthropology <ul><li>Anthropology is centered around culture </li></ul><ul><li>Next question: what do cultures have to do with the following? </li></ul><ul><li>Physical anthropology </li></ul><ul><li>Linguistics </li></ul><ul><li>Archaeology </li></ul><ul><li>This is where the definition of anthropology itself comes in </li></ul>
  3. 3. So How Do We Define Anthropology? <ul><li>Your syllabus: “The Holistic and Comparative Study of Humankind” </li></ul><ul><li>Holistic: Asks two questions: </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnographic Holism : Asks whether, and if so how, all parts of a culture fit together </li></ul><ul><li>This has already been covered under “Culture is Patterned or Integrated” </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplinary Holism: Asks how all the four subfields of anthropology fit together; this, we cover next. </li></ul><ul><li>Comparative Method: Tries to answer the questions of why cultures are both diverse and similar </li></ul><ul><li>We cover both the disciplinary holistic and comparative strategies in turn </li></ul>
  4. 4. Disciplinary Holism and the Four Fields of Anthropology <ul><li>Disciplinary Holism: This method a sks why we include the following under “anthropology </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Anthropology: The comparative study of cultures around the world </li></ul><ul><li>Physical Anthropology: The comparative study of human attributes, past and present </li></ul><ul><li>Linguistics: The study of spoken language, a distinctly human trait </li></ul><ul><li>Archaeology: The comparative study of past cultures through its material cultural remains </li></ul><ul><li>All fields involve a question about culture: where it came from, what it entails, what its consequences are </li></ul>
  5. 5. Defining Cultural Anthropology: Research Techniques <ul><li>It involves the study of mostly non-Western cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Basic technique involves fieldwork </li></ul><ul><li>You will be practicing virtual fieldwork using EthnoQuest </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes, ethics are involved, as this cartoon implies </li></ul><ul><li>A fair question: just what do anthropologists use their information for? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Defining Cultural Anthropology: Topics <ul><li>Central concern is kinship , because marriage and family are our first institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Reflected by this three generations of Native American females (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Also includes technology , from hunting to housebuilding </li></ul><ul><li>Economic Anthropology : how goods and services are produced and distributed </li></ul><ul><li>Political Anthropology : The study of power and social control (lower left) </li></ul><ul><li>Other areas : supernatural beliefs, psychology, culture change, arts and oral tradition </li></ul>
  7. 7. Defining Physical Anthropology <ul><li>The studies of past and present human forms </li></ul><ul><li>Comparative Primate Anatomy: How similar or different we are from the monkeys and apes </li></ul><ul><li>Fossil Hominins: How we evolved from Australopithecus (“Lucy,” depicted in cartoon) to Homo </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Capacity: Defines how we acquired ability to speak, make tools, walk on two feet </li></ul><ul><li>Human Variation: Study of so-called races—a present concern </li></ul><ul><li>Forensic Science: Tracing evidence of criminal activity </li></ul>
  8. 8. Tying Physical Anthropology to Culture <ul><li>Our brain: </li></ul><ul><li>Source of our language </li></ul><ul><li>Source of our tool-making ability </li></ul><ul><li>Our Lungs and Mouth: Our ability to speak </li></ul><ul><li>Our Arms and Hands: Our ability to make and use tools </li></ul><ul><li>Our Bipedal Skeleton: Our ability to stand, walk, and ability to do all of the above </li></ul>
  9. 9. Defining Linguistics <ul><li>The study of spoken language around the world </li></ul><ul><li>Focuses on phones (speech sounds) and phonemes (sound units that carry language) </li></ul><ul><li>Looks at word and sentence formation </li></ul><ul><li>Examines how children learn to speak—in one-word sentences! (See cartoon) </li></ul><ul><li>Relates language to culture </li></ul>
  10. 10. Tying Linguistics to Culture <ul><li>We learn everything through language: </li></ul><ul><li>Even the blind and deaf (Helen Keller and her mentor Ann Sullivan, upper left photo) </li></ul><ul><li>They use Braille and sign language to communicate </li></ul><ul><li>We can think of things not tangible: math equations (lower left), things not present, things nonexistent </li></ul><ul><li>We can produce new words when necessary, from blip to iPod </li></ul>
  11. 11. Defining Archaeology <ul><li>Reconstruction of past cultures: focus is on techniques analyzing remains of material culture </li></ul><ul><li>Looks at artifacts: portable objects from tools to Venus sculptures </li></ul><ul><li>Looks at structures: Huts to pyramids </li></ul><ul><li>Excavations destroy everything: Objects have to be measured exactly where found before removal </li></ul>
  12. 12. Tying Archaeology to Culture <ul><li>Archaeology is primarily about cultural remains of human societies </li></ul><ul><li>(Even stone tools are hard to identify, as Gary Larson tells us) </li></ul><ul><li>Human and prehuman physical remains are also important </li></ul><ul><li>(Did this Neanderthal mate with that human female? Stay tuned! </li></ul><ul><li>Both archaeologists and physical anthropologists would like to know.) </li></ul><ul><li>Comparison of present with past cultures is also essential </li></ul>
  13. 13. Anthropology and other Social Sciences <ul><li>By their nature, economics, political science, sociology are all specialized </li></ul><ul><li>They create specialized perceptions of humankind </li></ul><ul><li>Economics focuses on economic man (and woman) </li></ul><ul><li>Political science is about humans hungry for power </li></ul><ul><li>Psychology is about human with various drives: sexual, hunger, prestige </li></ul><ul><li>Sociology is about social humans </li></ul>
  14. 14. Recall the Fable of the Six Blind Men Defining an Elephant <ul><li>Each man feels a part of the elephant </li></ul><ul><li>And describes his take on what it is like </li></ul>
  15. 15. The First Two Parts of an Elephant <ul><li>The first man feels the side of the elephant. </li></ul><ul><li>He calls it a wall </li></ul><ul><li>The second man feels one of the elephant’s tusks. </li></ul><ul><li>He compares it to a spear </li></ul>
  16. 16. Two More Parts of an Elephant <ul><li>The third man feels the trunk. </li></ul><ul><li>He then calls it a snake </li></ul><ul><li>The fourth man then feels the elephant’s legs. </li></ul><ul><li>Lo and behold, he says, here we have a tree </li></ul>
  17. 17. Last Two Parts of an Elephant <ul><li>The fifth man touches the ears. </li></ul><ul><li>He then says that it is like a big fan </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, the sixth man grabs the tail </li></ul><ul><li>He proclaims “I see (though he’s blind) it’s very like a rope” </li></ul><ul><li>Now the argument begins. . . </li></ul>
  18. 18. What do we get? A Metaphorical Elephant <ul><li>And so like six blind men </li></ul><ul><li>Specialists dispute “loud and long” </li></ul><ul><li>Though each is partly in the right, </li></ul><ul><li>All are in the wrong </li></ul><ul><li>And so we get a caricature of the social sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Like this (reconstructed) elephant. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Economics and Its Limits <ul><li>Economics posits an “economic man” whose aim is to maximize his wealth and to get the most out of his assets </li></ul><ul><li>But peoples of many cultures are not that obsessed with wealth </li></ul><ul><li>This Ache (Indonesian) man is actually sharing the meat he just hunted </li></ul><ul><li>Does he look like economic man to you? </li></ul>
  20. 20. Political Science and Its Limits <ul><li>Political man lusts for power, even at the point of a sword (or barrel of a gun) </li></ul><ul><li>Some peoples curb others’ power. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, drum song duels kept Eskimos from taking over the band </li></ul>
  21. 21. The Bottom Line of Holism <ul><li>Anthropology concerns all aspects of society </li></ul><ul><li>How do the economy, social control, myths, and all else fit in with the culture as a whole. </li></ul><ul><li>This will be the central question as we examine each subfield of cultural anthropology </li></ul>
  22. 22. Second, Anthropology is Comparative <ul><li>If we are to understand how cultures function </li></ul><ul><li>We have to compare them </li></ul><ul><li>All science involves comparison </li></ul><ul><li>Take families </li></ul><ul><li>In Non-western societies, people rely on family and its extensions for all social functions </li></ul><ul><li>Such as this Vietnamese immigrant family in Canada </li></ul><ul><li>These include education, economic needs, social control </li></ul><ul><li>In Western societies, families are nuclear and thereby play fewer important roles </li></ul><ul><li>Schools educate the young, workplaces are the sources of livelihood, and governments exercise social control </li></ul>
  23. 23. Anthropology and Other Disciplines <ul><li>Most other social sciences specialize in industrial societies: </li></ul><ul><li>Economics: Focus is on industrial societies </li></ul><ul><li>Sociology: Social relations in industrial societies </li></ul><ul><li>Psychology: Study of hang-ups in industrial societies </li></ul><ul><li>Anthropology provides data on all these aspects cross all cultures around the world. </li></ul><ul><li>Any valid social explanation has to address all cultures, not just industrial ones </li></ul>
  24. 24. Conclusion: Culture, Holism, and Comparison <ul><li>Basic Question: Why are People so Different? </li></ul><ul><li>This is a question about culture </li></ul><ul><li>Culture is learned, symbolic, shared, integrated, and adaptive </li></ul><ul><li>It involves questions of how parts of a culture fit—a holistic issue of ethnography </li></ul><ul><li>It involves questions of what every subfield has to say about culture—a disciplinary holism </li></ul><ul><li>It demands an explanation of cultures—a comparative and therefore scientific question. </li></ul>
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