This essay has a total of 1436 words and 9 pages.
Anthropology may be dissected into four main perspectives, firstly physical or biological anthropology, which is an area of study concerned with human evolution and human adaptation. Its main components are human paleontology, the study of our fossil records, and human genetics, which examines the ways in which human beings differ from each other. Also adopted are aspects of human ecology, ethnology, demography, nutrition, and environmental physiology. From the physical anthropologist we learn the capabilities for bearing culture that distinguish us from other species.
Secondly archaeology, which follows from physical anthropology, reassembles the evolution of culture by examining the physical remains of past societies. Its difference from physical anthropology being its concern with culture rather than the biological aspects off the human species. Archaeologists must assess and analyse their subject culture from accidental remains, which can only provide an incomplete picture.
Thirdly, Anthropological linguistics is a field within anthropology which focuses upon the relationship between language and cultural behaviour. Anthropological linguists ask questions about language and communication to aid the appraisement of society rather than a descriptive or linguistic assessment. For example Freil and Pfeiffer (1977) cite an assessment of the Inuit language where there are twelve unrelated words for wind and twenty-two for snow, showing the difference in significance by comparison with our own society. The deduction being that wind and snow are more significant to the Inuit so they scrutinise them more rigorously and can clearly define them accordingly. This kind of linguistic analysis facilitates a better understanding of a foreign culture to help place it into context to allow contrast.
Fourthly, social anthropology is the study of human social life or society, concerned with examining social behavior and social relationships. As the focus of social anthropology is on patterns of social connection, it is commonly contrasted with the branch of anthropology that examines culture, that is, learnt and inherited beliefs and standards of behavior and in particular the meanings, values and codes of conduct. Cultural anthropology (the study of culture in its social context) is associated particularly with American anthropology (specifically, in the United States), and social anthropology with European, especially British studies, which have tended to be more sociological, that is, they are more concerned with understanding society. However, culture and society are interdependent, and today the single term "sociocultural anthropology" is sometimes used.
The social anthropologist uses a number of cultural ethnographic studies to construct an ethnological study. A social anthropological definition of culture is given by J.P.Spenley in 'The Ethnographic Interview' (1979), culture is "the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret, experience and generate social behaviour". By this interpretation culture is not the physical characteristics of any society but the reasoning behind those characteristics, it is a body of implicit and explicit knowledge shared by a group of people. It is used by people individually as a map to determine their behaviour in any given situation. Spendley's definition does not divert from the significance of behaviour, customs, objects or emotions, these are essential tools for the anthropologist which allow the interpretation of culture to facilitate the tracking down of cultural meaning. Ethnographic study is a search to uncover this meaning which is the root cause of cultural differences and can therefore be seen as the definition of any culture.
There has been considerable theoretical debate by anthropologists over the most useful attributes that a technical concept of culture should stress. For example, in 1952 Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, American anthropologists, published a list of 160 different definitions of culture. A brief table of this list next page, shows the diversity of the anthropological concept of culture.
TABLE: Diverse Definitions of Culture:
Culture consists of everything on a list of topics, or categories, such as social
organization, religion, or economy
Culture is social heritage, or tradition, that is passed on to future generations
Culture is shared, learned human behavior, a way of life
Culture is ideals, values, or rules for living
Culture is the way humans solve problems of adapting to the environment or living together
Culture is a complex of ideas, or learned habits, that inhibit impulses and distinguish people from animals
Culture consists of patterned and interrelated ideas, symbols, or behaviors
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