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WEEK 1 WHAT IS ANTHROPOLOGY?
“Anthropology has humanity as its object of research, but unlike the other human sciences, it tries to
grasp its object through its most diverse manifestations" (Levi-Strauss 1983:49).
"Anthropologists are generally thought of as individuals who travel to little known corners of the world
to study exotic peoples, or who dig deep into the earth to uncover the fossil remains or the tools and
pots of people who lived long ago" (Ember & Ember 1988:2).
"Anthropology tries to account for the social, cultural variation in the world, but a crucial part of the
anthropological project is also trying to conceptualize and understand similarities” (Eriksen 1995:1).
"Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures" (Nanda & Warms 1998:2).
“Anthropology is the study of human nature, human society, and the human past” (Schultz & Lavenda
1998:3).
THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE: has three main attributes:
1) Holistic
Integrate all that’s known about human beings at the highest level the entire range. Ex) not just
economic, touches on economy, politics, culture, family, etc.
2) Comparative
Compares different societies
3) Evolutionary
Projects about past and present, how things develop.
WHAT IS CULTURE AND HOW IS IT USED IN ANTHROPOLOGY?
Tylor (1871)
…knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a
member of society.
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Linton (1940)
The sum total of knowledge, attitudes and habitual behaviour patterns shared and transmitted by the
members of a particular society.
Kroeber (1948)
The mass of learned and transmitted motor reactions, habits, techniques, ideas, and values and the
behaviour they induce.
Herskovits (1955)
The man-made part of the environment.
Robbins & Larkin (2007)
The system of meanings about the nature of experience that are shared by a people and passed on from
one generation to another.
FOUR MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF CULTURE
1. Learned
Not re-invented by each generation. Certain aspects are, however, changed. We don’t do things exactly
like our parents do. Ex) 1960’s
2. Shared
Cultural meanings are created and communicated with other people. It’s all about interactions.
3. Adaptive
We’re not born with instincts/knowledge of culture
4. Symbolic
Rituals and objects have meaning greater than just the act. Ex) the word tree has nothing to do with the
object. We have given it the meaning. Also; a flag.
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