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Encyclopedia > Cultural anthropology

Cultural anthropology, also called socio-cultural anthropology or social anthropology, is a field (one of four that are commonly recognized in the United States) of anthropology, the holistic study of humanity. It is the branch of anthropology that has developed and promoted "culture" as a meaningful scientific concept; it is also the branch of anthropology that studies cultural variation among humans. The anthropological concept of "culture" reflects in part a reaction against earlier Western discourses based on an opposition between "culture" and "nature", according to which some human beings lived in a "state of nature". Anthropologists argue that culture is "human nature," and that all people have a capacity to classify experiences, encode classifications symbolically, and teach such abstractions to others. Cultural anthropology, also called social anthropology or socio-cultural anthropology, is one of four commonly recognized fields of anthropology, the holistic study of humanity. ... Initiation rite of the Yao people of Malawi Anthropology (from the Greek word , man or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ... Discourse is a term used in semantics as in discourse analysis, but it also refers to a social conception of discourse, often linked with the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Jürgen Habermas The Theory of Communicative Action (1985). ... Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning to cultivate), generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance. ... Galunggung in 1982, showing a combination of natural events. ...


Since humans acquire culture through learning, people living in different places or different circumstances may develop different cultures. Anthropologists have also pointed out that through culture people can adapt to their environment in non-genetic ways, so people living in different environments will often have different cultures. Much of anthropological theory has originated in an appreciation of and interest in the tension between the local (particular cultures) and the global (a universal human nature, or the web of connections between people in distinct places/circumstances).

Contents

A brief history

Modern socio-cultural anthropology has its origins in 19th century "ethnology", which involves the organized comparison of human societies. Scholars like E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazer in England worked mostly with materials collected by others – usually missionaries, explorers, or colonial officials – this earned them their current sobriquet of "arm-chair anthropologists". Ethnologists had an especial interest in why people living in different parts of the world sometimes had similar beliefs and practices. In addressing this question, ethnologists in the 19th century divided into two schools of thought. Some, like Grafton Elliot Smith, argued that different groups must somehow have learned from one another, however indirectly; in other words, they argued that cultural traits spread from one place to another, or "diffused". Other ethnologists argued that different groups had the capability of inventing similar beliefs and practices independently. Some of those who advocated "independent invention", like Lewis Henry Morgan, additionally supposed that similarities meant that different groups had passed through the same stages of cultural evolution (See also classical social evolutionism). Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Ethnology (greek ethnos: (non-greek, barbarian) people) is a genre of anthropological study, involving the systematic comparison of the folklore, beliefs and practices of different societies. ... Edward Burnett Tylor. ... Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scotland – May 7, 1941), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. ... Motto: (French for God and my right) Anthem: God Save the King/Queen Capital London (de facto) Largest city London Official language(s) English (de facto) Unification    - by Athelstan AD 927  Area    - Total 130,395 km² (1st in UK)   50,346 sq mi  Population    - 2006 est. ... Look up belief in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Grafton Elliot Smith, (August 15, 1871 in Grafton, New South Wales, - January 1, 1937) in London was an Australian anatomist and a famous proponent of the hyperdiffusionist view of prehistory. ... The diffusion of ideas or artifacts from one culture to another is a well-attested and uncontroversial concept of cultural anthropology. ... Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) was an American lawyer and amateur scholar best known for his work on cultural evolution and Native Americans. ... Cultural evolution is the structural change of a society and its values over time. ... Unilineal evolution also reffered to as the classical social evolution(ism) is a 19th century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. ...


20th century anthropologists largely reject the notion that all human societies must pass through the same stages in the same order. Some 20th century ethnologists, like Julian Steward, have instead argued that such similarities reflected similar adaptations to similar environments (see cultural evolution). Others, like Claude Lévi-Strauss, have argued that apparent patterns of development reflect fundamental similarities in the structure of human thought (see structuralism). (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999... This article or section contains information that has not been verified and thus might not be reliable. ... Cultural evolution is the structural change of a society and its values over time. ... Claude Lévi-Strauss Claude Lévi-Strauss (IPA pronunciation ); born November 28, 1908) is a Jewish-French anthropologist who developed structuralism as a method of understanding human society and culture. ... Structuralism is best known as a theory in the humanities. ...


In the 20th century most socio-cultural anthropologists turned to the study of ethnography, in which an anthropologist actually lives among another society for a considerable period of time, simultaneously participating in and observing the social and cultural life of the group. Bronislaw Malinowski (who conducted fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands and taught in England) developed this method, and Franz Boas (who conducted fieldwork in Baffin Island and taught in the United States) promoted it. Boas´s students drew on his conception of culture and cultural relativism to develop cultural anthropology in the United States. Simultaneously, Malinowski and A.R. Radcliffe Brown´s students were developing social anthropology in the United Kingdom. Whereas cultural anthropology focused on symbols and values, social anthropology focused on social groups and institutions. Today socio-cultural anthropologists attend to all these elements. Ethnography (from the Greek ethnos = people and graphein = writing) refers to the genre of writing that presents varying degrees of qualitative and quantitative descriptions of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork. ... Participant observation is a major research strategy which aims to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals (such as a religious, occupational, or deviant group) and their practices through an intensive involvement with people in their natural environment. ... For the Olympic champion athlete see Bronislaw Malinowski (athlete). ... Fieldwork refers to scientific activity conducted in the field, outside the laboratory, of subject matter in an as-found state, by anthropologists, geologists, botanists, archaeologists or others who study the natural or human world. ... The Trobriand Islands are a 170 mi² archipelago of coral atolls off the eastern coast of New Guinea. ... Franz Boas Franz Boas (July 9, 1858 – December 21, 1942[1]) was one of the pioneers of modern anthropology and is often called the Father of American Anthropology. Born in Germany, Boas worked for most of his life in North America. ... Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada. ... Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual humans beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture. ... Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown (January 17, 1881–October 24, 1955) was a British social anthropologist who developed the theory of Structural Functionalism, a framework that describes basic concepts relating to the social structure of primitive civilizations. ... Cultural anthropology, also called social anthropology or socio-cultural anthropology, is one of four commonly recognized fields of anthropology, the holistic study of humanity. ...


Although 19th century ethnologists saw "diffusion" and "independent invention" as mutually exclusive and competing theories, most ethnographers quickly reached a consensus that both processes occur, and that both can plausibly account for cross-cultural similarities. But these ethnographers pointed out the superficiality of many such similarities, and that even traits that spread through diffusion often changed their meaning and functions as they moved from one society to another. Accordingly, these anthropologists showed less interest in comparing cultures, generalizing about human nature, or discovering universal laws of cultural development, than in understanding particular cultures in those cultures' own terms. Such ethnographers and their students promoted the idea of "cultural relativism", the view that one can only understand another person's beliefs and behaviors in the context of the culture in which he or she lived. Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual humans beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture. ...


In the early 20th century socio-cultural anthropology developed in different forms in Europe and in the United States. European "social anthropologists" focused on observed social behaviors and on "social structure", that is, on relationships among social roles (e.g. husband and wife, or parent and child) and social institutions (e.g. religion, economy, and politics). American "cultural anthropologists" focused on the ways people expressed their view of themselves and their world, especially in symbolic forms (such as art and myths). These two approaches frequently converged (kinship, for example, and leadership function both as symbolic systems and as social institutions), and generally complemented one another. Today almost all socio-cultural anthropologists refer to the work of both sets of predecessors, and have an equal interest in what people do and in what people say. World map showing Europe A satellite composite image of Europe Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of the Earth. ... Interpersonal relationships are social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. ... A function is part of an answer to a question about why some object or process occurred in a system that evolved or was designed with some goal. ... Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of two or more individuals. ... Political anthropology concerns the structure of political systems, looked at from the basis of the structure of societies. ... This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ... // For the Derek Sherinian album, see Mythology (Derek Sherinian album). ... Kinship is the most basic principle of organizing individuals into social groups, roles, and categories. ... Look up Leadership in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Contemporary theory and methods

Today ethnography continues to dominate socio-cultural anthropology. Nevertheless, many contemporary socio-cultural anthropologists have rejected earlier models of ethnography that treated local cultures as bounded and isolated. These anthropologists continue to concern themselves with the distinct ways people in different locales experience and understand their lives, but they often argue that one cannot understand these particular ways of life solely in the local context; one must analyze them (they say) in the context of regional or even global political and economic relations. Notable proponents of this approach include Arjun Appadurai, James Clifford, George Marcus, Sidney Mintz, Michael Taussig and Eric Wolf. Ethnography (from the Greek ethnos = people and graphein = writing) refers to the genre of writing that presents varying degrees of qualitative and quantitative descriptions of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork. ... Personal life (or everyday life or human existence) is an individual humans personal, private career (including, but not the same as, their employment career), and is a common notion in modern existence -- although more so in more prosperous parts of the world, such as Western Europe and North America... Born in Bombay,India in 1949 and educated in the United States, Arjun Appadurai is a contemporary social-cultural anthropologist whose work centers on the ethnographic landscapes of modernity and globalization. ... Sidney Wilfred Mintz (born November 16, 1922 in Dover, New Jersey) is an anthropologist best known for his studies of Latin America and the Caribbean. ... Please wikify (format) this article or section as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style. ... Eric Wolf (1923-1999) was an anthropologist best known for his studies of Latin America and his advocacy of Marxist perspectives within anthropology. ...


A growing trend in anthropological research and analysis is the use of multi-sited ethnography, discussed in George Marcus's article "Ethnography In/Of the World System: the Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography" [1]. Looking at culture as embedded in macro-constructions of a global social order, multi-sited ethnography uses traditional methodology in various locations both spatially and temporally. Through this methodology greater insight can be gained when examining the impact of world-systems on local and global communities. Also emerging in multi-sited ethnography are greater interdisciplinary approaches to fieldwork, bringing in methods from cultural studies, media studies, science and technology studies, and others. In multi-sited ethnography research tracks a subject across spatial and temporal boundaries. For example, a multi-sited ethnography may follow a "thing," such as a particular commodity, as it transfers through the networks of global capitalism. Multi-sited ethnography may also follow ethnic groups in diaspora, stories or rumours that appear in multiple locations and in multiple time periods, metaphors that appear in multiple ethnographic locations, or the biographies of individual people or groups as they move through space and time. It may also follow conflicts that transcend boundaries. Multi-sited ethnographies, such as Nancy Scheper-Hughes's ethnography of the international black market for the trade of human organs [2]. In this research she follows organs as they transfer through various legal and illegal networks of capitalism, as well as the rumours and urban legends that circulate in impoverished communities about child kidnapping and organ theft.


Sociocultural anthropologists have increasingly turned their investigative eye on to "Western" culture. For example, Philippe Bourgois won the Margaret Mead Award in 1997 for In Search of Respect, a study of the entrepreneurs in a Harlem crack-den. Also growing more popular are ethnographies of professional communities, such as laboratory researchers, Wall Street investors, law firms, or IT computer employees [3]. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Western World. ... Philippe Bourgois is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. ... Margaret Mead Award is an award in the field of anthropology presented by the Society for Applied Anthropology solely from 1979 to 1983 and jointly with the American Anthropological Society afterwards. ...


Interestingly, the title a college gives it introductory anthropology course can be used as a measure of that department's anthropological focus. Some departments are inspired by the branching developments in social anthropology, often with a British or European influence, and may title an introductory course accordingly. Departments influenced by American thinking, which takes a more holistic approach, frequently title their introductory course "cultural anthropology." Cultural anthropology, also called social anthropology or socio-cultural anthropology, is one of four commonly recognized fields of anthropology, the holistic study of humanity. ...


See also

I do not think I could have written the book on nationalism which I did write, were I not capable of crying, with the help of a little alcohol, over folk songs . ... Dual inheritance theory, (or DIT), in sharp contrast to the notion that culture overrides biology, posits that humans are products of the interaction between biological evolution and cultural evolution. ... Human behavioral ecology (HBE) or human evolutionary ecology applies the principles of evolutionary theory and optimization to the study of human behavioral and cultural diversity. ... In anthropology, the hunter-gatherer way of life is that led by certain societies of the Neolithic Era based on the exploitation of wild plants and animals. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Symbolic anthropology (or more broadly, symbolic and interpretive anthropology) is a diverse set of approaches within cultural anthropology that view culture as a symbolic system that arises primarily from human interpretations of the world. ... Community studies is an academic discipine, drawing on sociology and anthropology, and particularly the social research methodology ethnography (participant observation). ... Neuroanthropology is the study of culture and the brain. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Sociological inquiry. ...

External links

  • http://www.movinganthropology.org - The Moving Anthropology Student Network/Moving Anthropology Social Network connects young Anthropologists and anthropology students from european and other countries

  Results from FactBites:
 
Encyclopedia: Cultural anthropology (2370 words)
Cultural anthropology, also called social anthropology or socio-cultural anthropology, forms one of four commonly-recognized fields of anthropology, the holistic study of humanity.
Such ethnographers and their students promoted the idea of "cultural relativism", the view that one can only understand another person's beliefs and behaviors in the context of the culture in which he or she lived.
Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual humans beliefs and activities make sense in terms of his or her own culture.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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