An Overview of Anthropology and its Branches

The term Anthropology derives from two Greek words: anthropos and logos. Anthropos means man, and logos means treaty or study. Therefore, according to its etymology, Anthropology implies the study of the human species at any time and anywhere on the planet.

The Amplitude of Anthropology

Thus Anthropology is a very interesting area of ​​study that covers various aspects of human life.

As Kaplan and Manners tell us:

“Whoever has looked at an introductory anthropology text, even casually, will hardly have failed to notice the enormous field of that discipline. Whatever anthropology may be, it is surely the most ambitious of the social sciences, not only because it considers cultures of all places and times as a legitimate field, but because it includes topics such as kinship, social organization, politics, technology, economics, religion, art, and mythology, to name just a few of the anthropological themes that come quickly to mind. And it is also the only one in the social sciences that tries to speak about the two aspects of human nature, both biological (physical anthropology) and cultural (cultural anthropology). ”(Kaplan and Manners, p.19)

Each of the main themes, Physical or Biological Anthropology and Cultural and Social Anthropology is subdivided into several other subsections; Thus, cultural anthropology can be subdivided into linguistic, economic, religious anthropology, etc. and biological anthropology in forensics, population, paleoanthropology, and more.

Thus we have that there are many anthropologists who are dedicated to studying fossils to solve the mysteries of human evolution (paleoanthropology). While others are dedicated to understanding how the economic logic of a rural town can affect its development (economic anthropology) or how a community relates to the environment (ecological anthropology).

In this article, we will discuss the two main branches of this social science.

Cultural and social anthropology

Understanding what culture is

The media perpetuates the idea that culture is only related to arts such as cinema, theater, music. Source: Internet

For most of us, the word culture is not uncommon  , we hear it everywhere, on television, in the streets, we hear it from politicians, teachers and the general public.

Despite its generalization,  Culture  is used daily as something exclusive, something that only a group of people share and that others do not have. Thus, we believe that generally those who possess it are only a group of people who have had a privileged education or belong to a high social class, often forming quite closed circles.

In Anthropology, in particular, this term is used with a different meaning from that given in daily life. Stop being something that only a privileged few have to become something that ALL human beings on earth have. So much so that from Anthropology a human group without culture  DOES NOT EXIST . In other words, there is no INCULT group  . It may sound strange to those who have been bombarded their entire lives by the media, which dictate many of our perceptions. You are probably wondering how is it possible that there is no uneducated human group ?.

The problem to fully understand this concept is that it has many meanings. However, this has not been an obstacle for anthropologists to do their work analyzing social reality through this concept since:

“Despite the great diversity that exists about what culture encompasses, there is some agreement on its centrality as an object of anthropology (…) However, the same diversity contributes to the difficulty of the definition and scientific entity of the discipline ”(Teresa del Valle, Spanish anthropologist)

Now, recognizing the centrality of “culture” we must say that this above all occurs in the American school of anthropology, but not in social anthropology of British origin, as Peacock says:

“The emphasis that culture receives varies in different schools and branches of Anthropology (British Social Anthropology places more emphasis on its social context while North American cultural anthropology affects culture itself, but the concept of culture is important in all slopes of the discipline ”

What do cultural and social anthropologists do?

“Sociocultural anthropologists explore how people live in different places and how they understand the world around them. Anthropologists want to know that what people think is important and the rules they make about how they should interact with each other.

Even within a country or society, people may disagree about how they should talk, dress, eat, or treat others. Anthropologists want to hear all voices and points of view in order to understand how societies vary and what they have in common. Sociocultural anthropologists frequently find that the best way to learn about diverse peoples and cultures is to spend time living among them.

They try to understand the perspectives, practices, and social organization of other groups whose values ​​and lifestyles may be different from their own. Gained knowledge can enrich human understanding on a broader level. ”

Physical or biological anthropology

Paleoanthropology, a branch of physical anthropology, has shown that evolution is not as simple as can be seen in this image.

Biological anthropologists seek to understand how humans adapt to different environments, what causes disease and early death, and how humans evolved from animals. To do this, they study humans (living and dead), other primates such as monkeys and apes, and human ancestors (fossils). They are also interested in how biology and culture work together to shape our lives. They are interested in explaining the similarities and differences that are found among humans throughout the world. Through this work, biological anthropologists have shown that, while humans vary in their biology and behavior, they are more similar to each other. more than different. (americananthro).


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