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"). The four-field approach to anthropology is reflected in many undergraduate textbooks 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.
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 writing an ethnography describing 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.
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 increasing conflicts between the increasingly non-scientific cultural/social anthropology sub-field and the other more scientific sub-fields. See the articles on Boasian anthropology and the American Anthropological Association.
- (Kottak, C)
- Layton, Robert (1998) An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.