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CH 1-2 Anthro.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Maggie Cummings

also try, occasionally, to resist the isolation imposed by the arrangement of classroom furniture or the timetables set by clocks, bells, and whistles. The ways in which specific societies order behav- iour through the arrangement of space and time is but one small area examined by sociocultural anthro- pology, but it serves as an example of how, from an anthropological perspective, we cannot take anything about even our own beliefs and behaviour for granted, let alone the behaviour and beliefs of those whose backgrounds and histories differ from our own. This book is about how sociocultural anthro- pology can help us see beyond our taken- for-granted world. We will be examining how sociocultural anthropology helps us understand others and, in the process, better understand ourselves. We will also be examining how knowledge of others and our- selves is relevant to careers in social and economic development, public policy and planning, educa- tion, medicine, and conflict resolution. What Makes Sociocultural Anthropology Unique? The term ―anthropology‖ comes from two Greek words: anthropos, meaning ―human beings,‖ and logia, meaning―the study of‖or―the knowledge of.‖This study of, or knowledge of, human beings includes everything that humans do currently or have done in the past. It also includes collecting evidence of how and when we became human and comparing humans to other organisms in the world. If asked to describe a typical anthropologist,you might envision an intrepid explorer, like Indiana Jones, searching 4 CHAPTER 1 NEL © Ursula Alter/iStockphoto for priceless artifacts or painstakingly excavating ancient fossils. But it would be more realistic to imagine a sociocultural anthropologist equipped with a notebook and a voice recorder rather than a shovel or a trowel.The kind of knowledge about human beings that sociocultural anthropologists are interested is acquired by spending time with people, talking to them, observing what they do, and trying to understand their lives—as anthropologist Bron- islaw Malinowski aptly put it—―from the native‘s point of view‖ (see section 1.2). In North America, anthropology is divided into four different approaches to the study of humans. Although these four subdisciplines address some of the same questions about what it means to be human, they focus on different aspects of the anthropological question (hence the differences among the tools—notebooks versus shovels—used by different kinds of anthropologists). The sub- disciplines are biological anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and sociocultural anthro- pology (known as cultural anthropology in the United States and social anthropology in Britain).To understand what makes sociocultural anthropology unique among the subdisciplines (and among the social
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