What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is a science that is dedicated to the study of the human being in its entirety. The human being is understood by anthropology in its biological, cultural and social dimensions, simultaneously.
The term of Greek origin, formed by “ anthropos ” (man, human being) and “ logos ” (knowledge). The reflection of human beings in their social behavior is known since Classical Antiquity by the thought of different philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
There is still a great emphasis on the Greek Herodotus, considered the father of History and Anthropology.
However, the modern conception of Anthropology and its establishment as a social science has its origin with the Enlightenment Movement in the 18th century.
The Enlightenment sought to base knowledge on reason and build secure knowledge, identified as science. An understanding of the different “races of human beings” was sought through the improvement of methods and classifications.
Positivism also has a strong relationship with the establishment of anthropology as a science. From the positivist perspective, we sought to find methods for the construction of a social science similar to the already established exact and natural sciences.
Thus, anthropology is born from reports about the way of life of the original peoples of the colonies, natives of the new discovered lands. Debates about the human condition and different ways of life in relation to metropolises.
Anthropological studies were based on the comparison between “primitive” and “civilized” peoples.
This perspective was gradually abandoned, recognized as ethnocentric, based on the idea that there was an evolved human way of life that could operate as a standard for reading other societies.
Anthropology is modified from an idea of relativization, which understands that there is no linear evolutionary process of societies and their individuals.
Studies on the human being and its cultural diversity become multidisciplinary and seek to reflect on all dimensions of human life.
Historically, these dimensions occur in the division of anthropology into two broad areas:
1. Physical or Biological Anthropology
It studies the genetic and biological aspects of man. It is also called bioanthropology, dedicated to understanding the mechanisms of adaptation and evolution of man.
This division of anthropology is heavily influenced by the work of Charles Darwin, especially On the Origin of Species (1859).
Among his objects of study are the genetic characteristics that differentiate peoples and enable them to survive in certain environments. For example, when studying the physiology of different human groups, among other genetic issues.
In addition to genetics, paleoanthropology (the study of human evolution) is more strictly dedicated to this area. Forensic anthropology also uses knowledge from biological anthropology to prepare its reports of identification of corpses and studies on crimes, used by criminal law.
Social and Cultural Anthropology
It analyzes the behavior of the human being in society (social groups), the social and political organization, the social relations and its institutions.
Social anthropology differs from sociology in the object of investigation. Sociology is dedicated to understanding social movements and structures in a macro way, while social anthropology is focused on the relationship that human beings establish with these phenomena in a more being-centered search.
The North American division of anthropology does not use the concept of social anthropology, but the so-called Cultural Anthropology.
Cultural Anthropology investigates cultural issues that involve human beings, such as:
- other fundamental aspects in the formation of culture.
The notions of culture and otherness are concepts worked by social anthropology.
Within the scope of cultural anthropology there are still studies of linguistics and ethnography as fields of specialization.
Linguistics seeks to analyze the formation of a culture reflected or constructed by the use of language. In other words, it starts from the understanding that the way a social group organizes itself has a close relationship with its language.
Ethnography is anthropology’s own research method and has been appropriated by other areas of the social sciences. The anthropologist, who in this role can also be called an ethnographer, closely follows the group he is studying, living like them, within the community.
From the observation of the social group, the anthropologist produces a field diary, where he collects as much information as possible, analyzed later. Ethnography aims to observe the organization of a social group with minimal intervention by the researcher.
List of Acronyms Related to Anthropology