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What is Anthropology-January 8.docx

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Tracy Prowse

What is Anthropology? So… you’re an Anthropologist… -anthropologists do not dig up dinosaurs Looking at the word anthropology it can be broken down into two parts:  Anthropos=humankind  Logia=study of o Thus anthropology is the study of humankind and aspects of humankind and our closest relatives (primatology is included) Anthropology is the systematic study of humankind (past and present from earliest fossil evidence that we have) On a broad basis we can say a few things about anthropology:  Anthropology is historical o How did we come to be the way we are? o Reconstructions of early hominids (humans) o What actually makes us human o What forces in the past have shaped us?  Anthropology is comparative o What do all humans have in common? o How do we differ?  Look at a population and may decide to divide into groups  Differentiate based on sex (males vs. females), skin colour (what are some of the reasons for these differences languages, body size, shape of face, belief systems)  Anthropology is contextual o What circumstances, environments and beliefs (=context) shape human behaviour?  This is a key characteristic of anthropology  Looking at coffee growing in South America, want to understand the broader social, economic, political, religious aspects of the population  Anthropology is holistic o How can we understand the entire picture of the human condition, both biological and cultural? o Both past and present Anthropology is a very broad field, we actually divide it into areas of specialization. So the way that most anthropology departments/fields divide, is into 4-5 subfields. The Four Subfields of Anthropology 1. Physical anthropology (biological) 2. Archaeology 3. Cultural anthropology 4. Linguistics  tends to be smallest sub-fields Text p. 2 Broad discipline and then get more specific Cultural Anthropology Dr. Petra Rethmann -cultural anthropology by definition is the study of contemporary cultures and societies -this may mean looking at modern societies but can also look a little bit historically -Dr. Rethmann looks at the production of history this can have an impact and use as a political tool -how people are represented in film is also an area of research for her Culture-defined as transmitted, learned behaviour -it used to be that culture was something that used to distinguish humans; primatology however they looked at the great apes (esp. chimps and bonobos)chimps in particular have evidence of this transmitted learned behaviour (mothers digging out termites with digging tool, and offspring would copy) debate whether this is culture Traditional view of a cultural anthropologist (or ethnologist) -white male, observe peoples (tribes); record how they were different/similar and how they lived their lives -initially thought they could be an independent observer however mere presence has an impact on what you’re seeing Methodology has now been defined: participant observation (p. 7) -cultural anthropologists realize
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