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Anthropology (from Greek anthropos "human" + logos "study") studies certain aspects of humans and human societies. It is controversial how to define anthropology and how to distinguish it from various other fields that also study humans and human societies, such as history, psychology, sociology, political science, population genetics, and so on.


Views on what anthropology is differ between countries. For example, in North America, archaeology is considered a sub-field of anthropology, while in Europe archaeology is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines.

In the United States, contemporary anthropology is typically divided into four sub-fields: cultural anthropology (also called "social anthropology"), archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and physical anthropology (also called "biological anthropology").[1] The four-field approach to anthropology is reflected in many undergraduate textbooks[2] as well as anthropology programs (e.g. Michigan, Berkeley, Penn, etc.). At universities in the United Kingdom, and much of Europe, these "sub-fields" are frequently housed in separate departments and are seen as distinct disciplines.[3]

One characteristic of (some fields) of anthropology has been an unusual emphasis on the importance of "fieldwork", such as by traveling to an exotic people or group, staying for an extended period, and creating a writing on one's observations and impressions. This risks becoming anecdotal evidence of dubious value and risks being influenced by the writer's own agendas and biases. However, this may appeal to individuals disliking rigorous quantitative methods and wishing to push an agenda.

Much of the research regarding race was previously done within anthropology and especially within physical anthropology, as discussed in the article on physical anthropology. In particular American anthropology has been characterized by increasing influence from Boasian anthropology and race denialism as well as political correctness and genetics denialism more generally. There have also been rising conflicts between the increasingly non-scientific cultural/social anthropology sub-field and the other more scientific sub-fields.

Cultural anthropology

The social and cultural sub-field has been heavily influenced by structuralist and post-modern theories, as well as a shift toward the analysis of modern societies (an arena more typically in the remit of sociologists). During the 1970s and 1980s there was an epistemological shift away from the positivist traditions that had largely informed the discipline.[4] During this shift, enduring questions about the nature and production of knowledge came to occupy a central place in cultural and social anthropology. In contrast, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology remained largely positivist. Due to this difference in epistemology, anthropology as a discipline has lacked cohesion over the last several decades. This has even led to departments diverging, for example in the 1998–9 academic year at Stanford University, where the "scientists" and "non-scientists" divided into two departments: anthropological sciences and cultural & social anthropology;[5] these departments later reunified in the 2008–9 academic year.[6]

See also


  2. (Kottak, C)
  3. Layton, Robert (1998) An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Geertz, Behar, Clifford & James
  5. Stanford University Bulletin 1998-1999 pg. 213,
  6. Stanford University Bulletin 2007-2008 pg. 269