Social anthropology: Wikis

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners 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.

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.

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Substantive focus and practice

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), and in its commitment to the relevance and illumination provided by micro studies. It extends beyond strictly social phenomena to culture, art, individuality, and cognition. 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.

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Specialisations

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 specialties.

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; and analysis of audit cultures and accountability.

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.

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.

History

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.

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.

1920s-1940

Modern social anthropology was founded in Britain at the London School of Economics and Political Science following World War I. Influences include both the methodological revolution pioneered by Bronisław 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. Scholars have not settled a theoretical orthodoxy on the nature of science and society, and their tensions reflect views which are seriously opposed.

1940s-1980s

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 Lévi-Strauss's structuralism and from Max Gluckman’s Manchester school, and embracing the study of conflict, change, urban anthropology, and networks.

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.

Anthropologists associated with social anthropology

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Barth, Fredrik, et al. (2005) [http://books.google.com/books?id=g1sV8lOlhVsC 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, India and the influence of his supervisor, M.N. Srinivas. His work on equality and inequality in human societies and publications on such, especially 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
  7. ^ http://www.jstor.org/stable/684774

References

Further reading

  • 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 . ISBN 0710200080. OCLC 11623683.  
  • Adam Kuper (1996) Anthropology and Anthropologists: The Modern British School . ISBN 0415118956. OCLC 32509209.  

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to cultural anthropology article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

Etymology

From Latin cultura, from cultus, perfect passive participle of colere, till, cultivate, worship.
From Greek άνθρωπος (anthropos), man, human being + Greek λόγος, word, saying, speech, discourse.

Pronunciation

  • enPR: kŭl"chərəl "ănθrəpŏl'əjē, IPA: /ˌkʊltʃərəl ˌænθrəˈpɑlədʒi/

Noun

cultural anthropology (uncountable)

  1. (anthropology) One of four commonly recognized fields of anthropology.

Synonyms


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