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What Is Anthropology?
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Overview
• Anthropology confronts basic questions
of human existence and survival.
– How we originated.
– How we have changed.
– How we are changing still.
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Anthropology is holistic
• Interested in the whole of the human
condition
– Past, present, and future
– Biology
– Society
– Language
– Culture
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Four subfields
• Cultural anthropology – examines
cultural diversity of the present and
recent past.
• Archaeology – reconstructs behavior
by studying material remains
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Four subfields
• Biological anthropology – study of
human fossils, genetics, and bodily
growth and nonhuman primates
• Linguistic anthropology – considers
how speech varies with social factors
and over time and space
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Human Adaptability
• Society – organized life in groups
• Culture – traditions, customs and
innovations that govern behavior and
beliefs
– Distinctly human
– Transmitted through learning
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Adaptation, Variation, and Change
• Adaptation – process by which
organisms cope with environmental
forces and stresses
• Humans adapt using biological and
cultural means
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Adaptation, Variation, and Change
• Rate of change accelerated during the
past 10,000 years
– Foraging sole basis of human subsistence
for millions of years
– Only took few thousand years for food
production – cultivation of plants and
domestication (stockbreeding) of animals
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Adaptation, Variation, and Change
• First civilizations arose between 6000
and 5000 B.P. (Before the Present)
– More recently, spread of industrial
production profoundly affected human life
– Today’s global economy and
communications link all contemporary
people, directly or indirectly, in modern
world system
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Table 1.1 Forms of Cultural and Biological
Adaptation (to High Altitude)
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General Anthropology
• Academic discipline of anthropology
includes:
– Sociocultural (cultural anthropology)
– Archaeological
– Biological
– Linguistic
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Four-field Approach
• Developed in U.S.
– Early American anthropologists studying
native peoples of North America combined
studies of customs, social life, language,
and physical traits
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General Anthropology
• Sound conclusions about “human
nature” cannot be derived from studying
a single nation, society, or cultural
tradition
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Cultural Forces Shape
Human Biology
• Biocultural – inclusion and combination
(to solve a common problem) of
biological and cultural perspectives and
approaches
– Culture key environmental force in
determining how human bodies grow
and develop
– Cultural standards of attractiveness and
propriety influence participation and
achievement in sports
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Cultural Anthropology
• Describes, analyzes, interprets, and
explains social and cultural similarities
and differences
– Ethnography – Fieldwork in a particular
culture; provides account of that
community, society, or culture
– Ethnology – cross cultural comparison;
the comparative study of ethnographic
data, of society and of culture
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Table 1.2 Ethnography and Ethnology – Two
Dimensions of Cultural Anthropology
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Archeological Anthropology
• Study of human behavior and cultural
patterns and process through material
remains
–
–
–
–
Artifacts (e.g., potsherds, jewelry, and tools)
Garbage
Burials
Remains of structures
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Archeological Anthropology
• Archaeologists use paleoecological
studies to establish ecological and
subsistence parameters within which
given groups lived
– Archaeological record provides unique
opportunity to look at changes in social
complexity over time
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Archeological Anthropology
• Archaeologists also study the cultures
of historical and living people
– Historical archaeology combines
archaeological data and textual data to
reconstruct historically known groups
– Rathje’s garbology shows what people
report may contrast with real behavior
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Biological Anthropology
• Study of human biological variation in
time and space
• Includes evolution, genetics, growth and
development, and primatology
• Draws on biology, zoology, geology,
anatomy, physiology, medicine, public
health, osteology, and archaeology
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Biological Anthropology
• Special interests:
– Paleoanthropology – human evolution as
revealed by the fossil record
– Human genetics
– Human growth and development
– Human biological plasticity– Body’s
ability to change
– Primatology – study of biology, evolution,
behavior, and social life of primates
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Linguistic Anthropology
• Study of language in its social and
cultural context across space and time
– Historical linguists – reconstruct ancient
languages and study linguistic variation
through time
– Sociolinguistics – investigates
relationships between social and linguistic
variation [anthropological linguistics:] to
discover varied perceptions and patterns of
thought and practice in different cultures
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Anthropology and
Other Academic Fields
• Anthropology is a science
– Systematic field of study or body of
knowledge that aims, through experiment,
observation, and deduction, to produce
reliable explanations of phenomena with
reference to the material and physical
world
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Anthropology and
Other Academic Fields
• Anthropology is an art
– Encompasses study of and cross-cultural
comparison of languages, texts,
philosophies, arts, music, performances,
and other forms of creative expression
– Form of knowledge is often
intersubjective
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Anthropology and Other
Academic Fields
• Cultural Anthropology and Sociology
– Share an interest in social relations,
organization, and behavior
– Originally, sociologists focused on
industrial West
• Anthropology and Psychology
– Malinowski contended that cultural context
molds individual psychology
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Science, Explanation,
and Hypothesis Testing
• Scientists strive to improve understanding
by testing hypotheses that suggest
explanations of things and events
– Explains how and why the thing to be
understood (the explicandum) is related to
other things in some known way
– Associations – observed relationships
between two or more measured variables
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Science, Explanation,
and Hypothesis Testing
A theory is more general
– Explanatory framework, containing a series
of statements, that helps us understand
why (something exists or happens in a
particular way)
– Theories suggest patterns, connections,
and relationships that may be confirmed by
new research
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Science, Explanation,
and Hypothesis Testing
– Associations usually state probabilistically
with two or more variables that tend to be
related in a predictable way, but there are
exceptions
– Theories cannot be proved; we evaluate
them through the method of falsification
– Theories that are not disproved are
accepted because the available evidence
seems to support them
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