Anthropological Schools

Anthropology, the science charged with studying man, has several schools. Are they:

  • Social Evolutionism;
  • French Anthropological School;
  • Functionalism;
  • North American Culturalisms;
  • Structuralism;
  • Interpretative Anthropology;
  • Postmodern Anthropology.

Social Evolutionism

Social Evolutionism was the 19th century school responsible for the systematization of knowledge about “primitive peoples”, which was organized in office work, without ” in locu ” observation .

In general, they argued in favor of evolutionism in human societies, where they would evolve from “primitive” to “civilized”. Its main representatives were:

  • Herbert Spencer and his work “ Principles of Biology ” (1864)
  • Tylor and his work “ A Cultura Primitiva ” (1871).

French Anthropological (or Sociological) School

This school emerged in the late 19th century and focused its studies on collective representations and scientific methodology.

The greatest writer of this school was, without a doubt, Émile Durkheim, who created a methodological framework with “Rules of the sociological method”, published in 1895.


Functionalism emerges at the beginning of the 20th century and establishes a model of ethnography with its fieldwork (Participant observation).

The main representative was Bronislaw Malinowski and his work ” Argonauts of the Western Pacific “, published in 1922.

North American Culturalism

North American Culturalism emerged in the 1930s and established the comparative method and the formation of cultural patterns, from which it is possible to apprehend the laws in the development of cultures.

The main representative was Franz Boas with emphasis on the works: ” The objectives of ethnology ” (1888) and ” Race, Language and Culture ” (1940).


The structuralism will flourish in the 1940s, to seek the structural rules of the cultures present in the human mind.

His great representative was Claude Lévi-Strauss with his work “ Pensamento Selvagem ”, published in 1962.

Interpretative Anthropology

The Hermeneutic or Interpretative Anthropology of the 1960s will establish culture as a hierarchy of meanings, based on the “natives” reading of their own culture.

Its greatest representative is Clifford Geertz and his book “ The interpretation of cultures ”, published in 1973.

Postmodern Anthropology

Postmodern or Critical Anthropology emerged in the 1980s and is concerned with the textual reinterpretation of classic and contemporary ethnographies.

James Clifford is one of the most prominent writers at this school. His most prominent work is “ Writing culture – The poetics and politics of ethnography ”, published in 1986.

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