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Encyclopedia > Social anthropology

Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how currently living human beings behave in social groups. Anthropology (from Greek: ἀνθρωπος, anthropos, human being; and λόγος, logos, knowledge) is the study of humanity. ...


Substantive focus and practice

Practioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long term, intensive field studies (including participant observation methods), the social organization of a particular people: customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on. 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. ... 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. ... A social animal is a loosely defined term for an organism that is highly interactive with other members of its species to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Face-to-face trading interactions on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. ... For other uses, see Politics (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Law (disambiguation). ... In economics, consumption refers to the final use of goods and services to provide utility. ... Kinship and descent is one of the major concepts of cultural anthropology. ... Sociology of gender is a prominent subfield of sociology. ... A family posing for a group photo socializes together. ...

Social anthropology also explores the role of meanings, ambiguities and contradictions of social life, patterns of sociality, violence and conflict, and the underlying logics of social behaviour. Social anthropologists are trained in the interpretation of narrative, ritual and symbolic behaviour not merely as text, but with communication examined in relation to action, practice, and the historical context in which it is embedded. Social anthropologists address the diversity of positions and perspectives to be found within any social group. Social relation can refer to a multitude of social interactions, regulated by social norms, between two or more people, with each having a social position and performing a social role. ... In biology, psychology and sociology social behavior is behavior directed towards, or taking place between, members of the same species. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value, which is prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. ... In sociology, a group is usually defined as a collection consisting of a number of people who share certain aspects, interact with one another, accept rights and obligations as members of the group and share a common identity. ...

Social anthropology is distinguished from subjects such as economics or political science by its holistic range and the attention it gives to the diversity of culture and society across the world, and the capacity this gives the discipline to re-examine Euro-American assumptions. It is differentiated from sociology both in its main methods (based on long-term participant observation and linguistic competence),[citation needed] its commitment to the relevance and illumination provided by micro studies, and its extension beyond strictly social phenomena to culture, art, individuality, and cognition.[citation needed] While some social anthropologists use quantitative methods (particularly those whose research touches on topics such as local economies, demography, or health and illness), social anthropologists generally emphasize qualitative analysis of long-term fieldwork, rather than the more quantitative methods used by most economists or sociologists.[citation needed] Face-to-face trading interactions on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political Science is the field concerning the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behaviour. ... Holism (from holon, a Greek word meaning entity) is the idea that the properties of a system cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its components alone. ... Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge [1]) is the systematic and scientific study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social action, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous... Map of countries by population Population growth showing projections for later this century Demography is the statistical study of human populations. ...


Specialisations within social anthropology shift as its objects of study are transformed and as new intellectual paradigms appear; ethnomusicology and medical anthropology afford examples of current, well-defined specialisms. Ethnomusicology (from the Greek ethnos = nation and mousike = music), formerly comparative musicology, is the study of music in its cultural context, cultural musicology. ... Medical anthropology is a branch of anthropology concerned with the application of anthropological and social science theory and method to better understand health, illness and healing. ...

More recent and currently emergent areas within social anthropology include the relation between cultural diversity and new findings in cognitive development; social and ethical understandings of novel technologies; emergent forms of 'the family' and other new socialities modeled on kinship; the ongoing social fall-out of the demise of state socialism; the politics of resurgent religiosity; analysis of audit cultures and accountability. // Although there is no general theory of cognitive development, one of the most historically influential theories was developed by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist (1896–1980). ... Kinship is the most basic principle of organizing individuals into social groups, roles, and categories. ... State socialism, broadly speaking, is any variety of socialism which relies on ownership of the means of production by the state. ... Religiosity is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief. ...

The subject has been enlivened by, and has contributed to, approaches from other disciplines, such as philosophy (ethics, phenomenology, logic), the history of science, psychoanalysis, and linguistics. For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ... This article is about the philosophical movement. ... Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... Today psychoanalysis comprises several interlocking theories concerning the functioning of the mind. ... For the journal, see Linguistics (journal). ...

Ethical considerations

The subject has both ethical and reflexive dimensions. Practitioners have developed an awareness of the sense in which scholars create their objects of study and the ways in which anthropologists themselves may contribute to processes of change in the societies they study. // The concept of reflexivity In general, reflexivity is an act of self-reference where examination or action bends back on, refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination. ...


Social anthropology has historical roots in a number of 19th-century disciplines, including ethnology, folklore studies, and Classics, among others. (See History of anthropology.) Its immediate precursor took shape in the work of Edward Burnett Tylor and James George Frazer in the late 19th century and underwent major changes in both method and theory during the period 1890-1920 with a new emphasis on original fieldwork, long-term holistic study of social behavior in natural settings, and the introduction of French and German social theory. Ethnology (from the Greek ethnos, meaning people) is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyses the origins, distribution, technology, religion, language, and social structure of the racial or national divisions of humanity. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... For other uses, see Classics (disambiguation). ... The anthropologist Eric Wolf once characterized anthropology as the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the social sciences. ... Edward Burnett Tylor. ... Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854 - May 7, 1941), a social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion, was born in Glasgow, Scotland. ...

Departments of Social Anthropology exist in universities around the world. The field of social anthropology has expanded in ways not anticipated by the founders of the field, as for example in the subfield of structure and dynamics. Structure and dynamics is the name of a subfield in the social sciences, used particularly in social anthropology and sociology, which connotes that while structure is an important concept in social theory, contemporary social theory has long since moved beyond structural functionalism, which was identified with Radcliffe-Brown and Parsons. ...


Modern social anthropology was founded in Britain following World War I. Influences include both the methodological revolution pioneered by Bronislaw Malinowski’s process-oriented fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands of Melanesia between 1915 and 1918 and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown's theoretical program for systematic comparison that was based on a conception of rigorous fieldwork and the structure-functionalist conception of Durkheim’s sociology.[1] Other intellectual founders include W. H. R. Rivers and A. C. Haddon, whose orientation reflected the contemporary Volkerpsychologie of Wilhelm Wundt and Adolf Bastian, and Sir E. B. Tylor, who defined anthropology as a positivistic science following Auguste Comte. Edmund Leach (1962) defined social anthropology as a kind of comparative micro-sociology based on intensive fieldwork studies. There was never a settled theoretical orthodoxy on the nature of science and society but always a tension between several views that were seriously opposed. “The Great War ” redirects here. ... For the Olympic champion athlete see Bronislaw Malinowski (athlete). ... Field work is a general descriptive term for the collection of raw data in the natural and social sciences, such as archaeology, biology, ecology, environmental science, geology,geography geophysics, paleontology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology. ... The Trobriand Islands are a 170 mi² archipelago of coral atolls off the eastern coast of New Guinea. ... Map showing Melanesia. ... 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. ... The article is about functionalism in sociology; for other uses, see functionalism. ... David Émile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 - November 15, 1917) is known as the founder of modern sociology. ... Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge [1]) is the systematic and scientific study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social action, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous... Photograph of W.H.R. Rivers William Halse Rivers Rivers (March 12, 1864 - 4 June 1922) was an English anthropologist and psychiatrist, best known for his work with shell-shocked soldiers during World War I. Rivers most famous patient was the poet Siegfried Sassoon. ... Alfred Cort Haddon (May 24, 1855-April 20, 1940) was an influential British anthropologist. ... Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (August 16, 1832-August 31, 1920) was a German psychologist, physiologist, and professor who is, along with William James, regarded as the father of psychology. ... Adolf Bastian (Bremen, Germany 26 June, 1826 - Port of Spain, Tribindad, 2 February 1905) was a nineteenth century polymath best remembered for his contributions the the development of ethnography and the development of anthropology as a discipline. ... Edward Burnett Tylor. ... Auguste Comte (full name: Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte; January 17, 1798 - September 5, 1857) was a French thinker who coined the term sociology. ... Sir Edmund Ronald Leach (November 7, 1910 – January 6, 1989) was a British anthropologist. ...


Following World War II, sociocultural anthropology as comprised by the fields of ethnography and ethnology diverged into an American school of cultural anthropology while social anthropology diversified in Europe by challenging the principles of structure-functionalism, absorbing ideas from Claude Levi-Strauss’s structuralism and from Max Gluckman’s Manchester school, and embracing the study of conflict, change, urban anthropology, and networks. Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Claude L vi-Strauss (born November 28, 1908) is a French anthropologist who became one of the twentieth centurys greatest intellectuals by developing structuralism as a method of understanding human society and culture Biography Claude L vi-Strauss was born in Brussels and studied law and philosophy at the... Structuralism as a term refers to various theories across the humanities, social sciences and economics many of which share the assumption that structural relationships between concepts vary between different cultures/languages and that these relationships can be usefully exposed and explored. ... Max Gluckman, born 26 January 1911 in Johannesburg of Russian Jewish parents, died 1975, was a South African social anthropologist. ... The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, founded by Max Gluckman in 1947 became known among anthropologists and other social scientists as the Manchester School. ...

1980s to present

A European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) was founded in 1989 as a society of scholarship at a meeting of founder members from fourteen European countries, supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. The Association seeks to advance anthropology in Europe by organizing biennial conferences and by editing its academic journal, Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale. You may want one of: European Aviation Safety Agency English Academy of Southern Africa, discussed in the article South African English European Architecture Students Assembly This is a disambiguation page — a list of pages that otherwise might share the same title. ...

Anthropologists associated with social anthropology

Andre Beteille is an Indian sociologist and writer. ... Dame Mary Douglas, DBE, (born March 25, 1921 - died 16 May 2007) was a British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism. ... Sir Edward Evan (E. E.) Evans-Pritchard (September 21, 1902 – September 11, 1973) was a British anthropologist instrumental in the development of social anthropology in that country. ... Sir Raymond William Firth (born March 25, 1901 in Auckland; died February 22, 2002 in London) was an ethnologist from New Zealand. ... Rosemary, Lady Firth (1912 – 9 July 2001) was a British social anthropologist, and wife of Sir Raymond Firth. ... Meyer Fortes (1906-1983) was a South African-born anthropologist, best known for his work among the Tallensi and Ashanti in Ghana. ... 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 . ... Adam Kuper is a British anthropologist most closely linked to the school of social anthropology. ... Sir Edmund Ronald Leach (November 7, 1910 – January 6, 1989) was a British anthropologist. ... Murray J. Leaf is an American social and cultural anthropologist. ... Alan Macfarlane is Professor of Anthropological Science at the University of Cambridge. ... For the Olympic champion athlete see Bronislaw Malinowski (athlete). ... David Henry Peter Maybury-Lewis (born in Hyderabad, Pakistan 1929-) is a distinguished anthropologist, prominent ethnologist of lowland South America, indefatigable activist for indigenous peoples human rights and professor emeritus of Harvard University. ... Siegfried Frederick Nadel (24 April 1903–14 January 1956), known as Fred Nadel, was an Austrian-born British anthropologist, specialising in African ethnology. ... 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. ... Pioneering British woman ethnographer, Audrey Richards received her PhD in 1931 from the London School of Economics under Malinowski. ... Victor Witter Turner (May 28, 1920 – December 18, 1983) was a Scottish anthropologist. ... (Ann) Marilyn Strathern, née Evans (born 6 March 1941) is a British anthropologist, currently William Wyse Professor of Anthropology at Cambridge University and Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge. ...


  • Bronislaw Malinowski (1915) The Trobriand Islands
  • (1922) Argonauts of the Western Pacific
  • (1929) The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia
  • (1935) Coral Gardens and Their Magic: A Study of the Methods of Tilling the Soil and of Agricultural Rites in the Trobriand Islands
  • Edmund Leach (1954) Political systems of Highland Burma. London: G. Bell.
  • (1982) Social Anthropology
  • Thomas H. Eriksen (1985) Social Anthropology, pp. 926-929 in The Social Science Encyclopedia
  • Adam Kuper (1996) Anthropology and Anthropologists: The Modern British School

The Trobriand Islands are a 170 mi² archipelago of coral atolls off the eastern coast of New Guinea. ...


  1. ^ Barth, Fredrik, et al. (2005) One Discipline, Four Ways: British, German, French, and American anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  2. ^ http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/179372 After dinner talk on the history of social anthropology: Beteille speaks of his childhood and natural inclination to anthropology, his training, fieldwork in Delhi and the influence of his supervisor, M.N. Srinivas. His work on equality and inequality in human societies and publications on such, esp the caste system. He reflects on and analyses the work of Dumont, as well as Marxism, Hinduism and Islam. He cites those who have influenced him and his work, and closes with an overview of his current interests in Nationalism and tribal identities in India, as well as his lectures on backward classes.
  3. ^ http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/131558 interview by Alan Macfarlane, in which Mary Douglas talks about her life and work in Africa and elsewhere.
  4. ^ http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/447 Rosemary Firth interview by Alan Macfarlane: about her arrival in anthropology and fieldwork in Malaya with Raymond Firth, and about the position of a woman anthropologist.
  5. ^ http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/131552 Eight lectures for first year Cambridge University students in February 2006. Introducing some of the major approaches to the anthropology of politics and economics.
  6. ^ http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/131557 James Woodburn Interview and film of James Woodburn by Alan Macfarlane: about his life and work in anthropology and visual anthropology in Africa and Britain

Fredrik Barth (b. ...


  • Benchmark Statement Anthropology (UK)

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