ANTA01 Lecture 1: Anthropological Perspectives on the Human Condition

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ANTA01- Lecture 1 – Anthropological Perspectives on the Human Condition
What is anthropology?
-Study of human species, immediate ancestors and relatives
-Relevant questions: Where did we come from? How did we become what we are? Why
is there so much variation in our biology? Why is there so much variation in our
behaviour? Why is there so much variation in our cultures & societies?
Key characteristics of Anthropological Research
-Holistic – integrating all that is known about human beings & their activities at the
highest and most inclusive level which is done in a four field approach
-Most anthropologists observe actual measurable data about people and their ancestors
(field based)
-Takes an evolutionary viewpoint
-Anthropology is comparative – hard to understand one biological traits in an area without
comparing it to others
-HOLISM means all, entire, or whole; comes from Aristotle; all the components
interpenetrate each other
-Holism in anthropology – tries to integrate all that is known about human beings and
their activities
4 Fields in Anthropology
1. Biological Anthropology
2. Archeology
a. Looks at cultural remains
3. Anthropological linguistics
a. Study of human language
4. Social and cultural anthropology
a. Study of human culture
Biological Anthropology
-Paleontology: study of non-living primates
-Primatology: study of living primates
-Human biology & variation: examining humans as organisms that adapt to different
-Seeks to answer certain questions such as: What is our place in nature? What are our
origins? How are humans around the world like, and unlike, each other?
Archeological Anthropology
-Reconstructs, describes, and interprets human behaviour
-Paleoecology: reconstruction of past ecosystems
Linguistic Anthropology
-Descriptive Linguistics: specific sounds
-Comparative Linguistics: comparing general trends in languages
-Historical Linguistics: changes within a certain language (comparing our English today to
old English)
-Interested in a language’s structure, meaning, and histories
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Social & Cultural Anthropology
-Largest subfield
-Try to understand how we use culture because we use it to adapt and transform the
world we live in
-Humans are biocultural organisms; use culture extremely much more than other animals
in an extreme degree
-Study of human cultural diversity
-2 intellectual traditions
-Social Anthropology: European tradition
-Cultural Anthropology: American tradition considered more with local cultural realities,
specifically first nations and American Indians
Types of Social & Cultural Anthropology
-Economic anthropology
-Anthropology of development
-Symbolic anthropology
-Political anthropology
-Medical anthropology
-Urban anthropology
-Museum anthropology
-Social & biological beings
-Scientific concept that we use to understand human condition & diversity
What do anthropologists do?
-Research the full range of human diversity
-Examine human and biological adaptations to the environment
-Cultural adaptations to the environment: what are certain people doing? What is their
way of life? How do they go about this? How have their kinships changed to deal with
that certain lifestyle?
oPastoral nomadism: have to move around where resources are for their animals
-Take their info through ethnography: acting as an observer and how people behave in
different lifestyles, which is based on fieldwork
-Ethnology: using ethnography and comparing
-Use very diverse methods
-People who study primates use methods derived from animal research (ethology) which
is very biological (what the prof does)
Applied Anthropology
-A way many anthropologists are actually employed
-“anthropology put to use” – anthropological research done to solve practical problems
-Where they might work: health and medicine, human rights, education, environmental
issues, etc.
-Examples: Barak Obama’s mother
Biocultural approach
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