Medical Anthropology 2M03
Four Fields of Anthropology
Holism: A Unique Perspective
The various elements of humankind must be understood together.
Any single discipline provides limited insight.
Four fields are utilized to understand the fabric of humankind:
Cultural, Archaeology, Biology, & Linguistic Anthropology. [GOOD
1) Biological/Physical anthropology – (The study of biological variation
& the evaluation of humankind & our closest relative.) Ex. Carbon 14 is
an unstable isotope that decreases in the bones with age and we can
measure it. Interested in:
A) Paleoanthropology – The study of biological change overtime
through skeletal material and artifacts. The study of old humans
Paleo – Old Anthropos – Human kind Logos – The study of.
B) Paleopathology – The study of ancient diseases through the study of
bone and fossils. Ex, Harris lines most likely from growth stop due
C) Forensic Anthropology – The identification of skeletal remains for
2) Archaeology – Utilize a dual approach. Interested in artifacts, but
also in bones. The study that interprets the past.
A) Pre-historical archaeology
B) Historical archaeology
C) Bio archaeology – The archaeological study of human remains. Why
To address health ex, release demons or inter cranial pressure. How
successful is trepanation? In Egypt 6000 years ago 80% In Victorian
England 25% Can study coprolite – fossilized poop.
3) Linguistic Anthropology – The study of the evolution & structure of
past & current languages & how language is used in social contexts.
When did people begin to speak? FOX P2 Gene is the speak gene-
without it we cant speak or comprehend language. Neanderthals had
this gene, some people can be born without it. 4) Sociocultural Anthropology – The study & interpretation of cultural
similarities & diversity; attempt to understand humans [sociologically,
psychologically, politically, etc.]
Cultural Field Methods Ex. Margaret Mead in Samoa
- An ethnography is an account of a “culture”
-Participant observation is a technique of learning another culture –
begin to understand a society.
- Ethnology involves comparing societies. Cultural universals – features
that are found in all societies. Ex. Story telling/Oral history,
Religion/Supernatural beliefs (except Izande?), + Social Structures.
Boas was the Father of American Anthropology. Educated the first
generation of Anthropologists in America. Margaret Mead was one of
George Murdock – Human Relations Area Fies (HRAF) is a compilation
of everything we know about every society we’ve encountered and their
culture. Shows all the similarities and differences between all of said
How might cultural anthropology help address sickness? Ethnography
was descriptive. Ethnology was analytical. Look at living
conditions + proximity etcetera shows how they could get sick.
Cultural Epidemiology – The study of patterns of morbidity, mortality,
the incidence of disease in a population, and how culture shapes disease
HIV/Aids is shaped by a variety of biocultural + social factors.
How does one get aids? Rucombe? [Having dirty sex], ex. Being
promiscuous, or a cheater.
Do condoms prevent HIV/Aids? Yes; however,