2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Peoples
Anthropology (from the Greek word ἄνθρωπος, "human" or "person") consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). It is holistic in two senses: it is concerned with all humans at all times and with all dimensions of humanity. In principle, it is concerned with all institutions of all societies. Anthropology is distinguished from other social-science disciplines by its emphasis on cultural relativity, in-depth examination of context, and cross-cultural comparisons. Some anthropologists have utilized anthropological knowledge to frame cultural critiques. This has been particularly prominent in America, from the popular attacks on Victorianism by Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict through contemporary attacks on post-colonialism under the heading of postmodernism. Anthropology is methodologically diverse using both qualitative methods and quantitative methods. Ethnographies—intensive case studies based on field research—have historically had a central place in the literature of the discipline.
Historical and institutional context
The anthropologist Eric Wolf once described anthropology as "the most scientific of the humanities, and the most humanistic of the sciences." Contemporary anthropologists claim a number of earlier thinkers as their forebears, and the discipline has several sources; Claude Lévi-Strauss, for example, claimed Montaigne and Rousseau as important influences. Anthropology can best be understood as an outgrowth of the Age of Enlightenment, a period when Europeans attempted systematically to study human behaviour. The traditions of jurisprudence, history, philology, and sociology then evolved into something more closely resembling the modern views of these disciplines and informed the development of the social sciences, of which anthropology was a part. At the same time, the romantic reaction to the Enlightenment produced thinkers, such as Johann Gottfried Herder and later Wilhelm Dilthey, whose work formed the basis for the "culture concept," which is central to the discipline.
Institutionally, anthropology emerged from the development of natural history (expounded by authors such as Buffon) that occurred during the European colonization of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Programs of ethnographic study have their origins in this era as the study of the "human primitives" overseen by colonial administrations. There was a tendency in late 18th century Enlightenment thought to understand human society as natural phenomena that behaved in accordance with certain principles and that could be observed empirically. In some ways, studying the language, culture, physiology, and artifacts of European colonies was not unlike studying the flora and fauna of those places. Some critics point to the fact that the material culture of "civilized" nations such as China have historically been displayed in fine-art museums alongside European art, while artifacts from African and Native North American cultures were displayed in Natural History Museums, alongside dinosaur bones and nature dioramas. The British Museum or the Parisian Musée de l'Homme are examples of such museums—the Musée de l'Homme held the " Hottentot Venus" remains until the 1970s. Saartje Baartman, a Namaqua woman, was examined by anatomist Georges Cuvier. This being said, curatorial practice has changed dramatically in recent years, and it would be inaccurate to see anthropology as merely an extension of colonial rule and European chauvinism, since its relationship to imperialism was and is complex.
Anthropology grew increasingly distinct from natural history, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it had begun to crystallize into its modern form; by 1935, for example, it was possible for T. K. Penniman to write a history of the discipline entitled "A Hundred Years of Anthropology." Early anthropology was dominated by proponents of unilinealism, who argued that all societies passed through a single evolutionary process, from the most primitive to the most advanced. Non-European societies were thus seen as evolutionary "living fossils," which could be studied in order to understand the European past. Scholars wrote histories of prehistoric migrations that were sometimes valuable but often also fanciful. It was during this time that Europeans, such as Paul Rivet, first accurately traced Polynesian migrations across the Pacific Ocean—though some of them believed those emigrations had originated in Egypt. Finally, concepts of race were developed with a view to better understanding the nature of the biological variation within the Human species, and tools such as Anthropometry were devised as a means of measuring and categorizing this variation, not just within the genus Homo, but in fossil Hominids and primates as well. Racialistic concepts were advocated by a few and gave rise to theories of Scientific racism.
Anténor Firmin wrote De l'égalité des races humaines (1885) as a direct rebuttal to Count Arthur de Gobineau’s polemical four-volume work Essai sur l'inegalite des Races Humaines (1853–1855), which asserted the superiority of the Aryan race and the inferiority of blacks and other people of color. Firmin’s work argued the opposite, that "all men are endowed with the same qualities and the same faults, without distinction of colour or anatomical form. The races are equal" (pp. 450). Firmin grew up in Haiti, and was admitted to the Societé d’ Anthropologie de Paris in 1884 while serving as a diplomat. His persuasive critique and rigorous analysis of many of that society’s leading scholars made him an early pioneer in the so-called vindicationist struggle in anthropology. Many scholars also associate his work with the very first ideas of Pan-Africanism. Many modern anthropologists no longer refer to races as biological realities and may instead refer to the idea of clines.
In the twentieth century, academic disciplines began to organize around three main domains. The domain of the sciences seeks to derive natural laws through reproducible and falsifiable experiments; that of the humanities reflects an attempt to study different national traditions, in the form of history and the arts, as an attempt to provide people in emerging nation-states with a sense of coherence; the social sciences emerged at this time as an attempt to develop scientific methods to address social phenomena and provide a universal basis for social knowledge. Anthropology does not easily fit into one of these categories, and different branches of anthropology draw on one or more of these domains.
Drawing on the methods of the natural sciences and developing new techniques involving not only structured interviews, but unstructured participant observation, and drawing on the new theory of evolution through natural selection, the branches of anthropology proposed the scientific study of a new object: humankind, conceived of as a whole. Crucial to this study is the concept of culture, which anthropologists defined both as a universal capacity and a propensity for social learning, thinking, and acting (which they saw as a product of human evolution and something that distinguishes Homo sapiens—and perhaps all species of genus Homo—from other species), and as a particular adaptation to local conditions, which takes the form of highly variable beliefs and practices. Thus, culture not only transcends the opposition between nature and nurture, but absorbs the peculiarly European distinction among politics, religion, kinship, and the economy as autonomous domains. Anthropology thus transcends the divisions between the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to explore the biological, linguistic, material, and symbolic dimensions of humankind in all forms.
Anthropology in the United States
Jacksonian America and polygenism
Late eighteenth century ethnology established the scientific foundation for the field, which began to mature when Andrew Jackson was President of the United States (1829-1837). Jackson was responsible for implementing the Indian Removal Act, the coerced and forced removal of an estimated 100,000 American Indians during the 1830s to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma; for insuring that the franchise was extended to all white men, irrespective of financial means while denying virtually all black men the right to vote; and, for suppressing abolitionists’ efforts to end slavery while vigorously defending that institution. Finally, he was responsible for appointing Chief Justice Roger B. Taney who would decide, in Scott v. Sandford (1857), that Negroes were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race. . . and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” As a result of this decision, black people, whether free or enslaved, could never become citizens of the United States.
It was in this context that the so-called American School of Anthropology thrived as the champion of polygenism or the doctrine of multiple origins—sparking a debate between those influenced by the Bible who believed in the unity of humanity and those who argued from a scientific standpoint for the plurality of origins and the antiquity of distinct types. Like the monogenists, these theories were not monolithic and often used words like races, species, hybrid, and mongrel interchangeably. A scientific consensus began to emerge during this period “that there exists a Genus Homo, embracing many primordial types of ‘species.’” Charles Caldwell, Samuel George Morton, Samuel A. Cartwright, George Gliddon, Josiah C. Nott, and Louis Agassiz, and even South Carolina Governor James Henry Hammond were all influential proponents of this school. While some were disinterested scientists, others were passionate advocates who used science to promote slavery in a period of increasing sectional strife. All were complicit in establishing the putative science that justified slavery, informed the Dred Scott decision, underpinned miscegenation laws, and eventually fueled Jim Crow. Samuel G. Morton, for example, claimed to be just a scientist but he did not hesitate to provide evidence of Negro inferiority to John C. Calhoun, the prominent pro-slavery Secretary of State to help him negotiate the annexation of Texas as a slave state.
Types of Mankind, 1854
The high-water mark of polygenitic theories was Josiah Nott and Gliddon’s voluminous eight-hundred page tome entitled Types of Mankind, published in 1854. Reproducing the work of Louis Agassiz and Samuel Morton, the authors spread the virulent and explicitly racist views to a wider, more popular audience. The first printing sold out quickly and by the end of the century it had undergone nine editions. Although many Southerners felt that all the justification for slavery they needed was found in the Bible, others used the new science to defend slavery and the repression of American Indians. Abolitionists, however, felt they had to take this science on on its own terms. And for the first time, African American intellectuals waded into the contentious debate. In the immediate wake of Types of Mankind and during the pitched political battles that led to Civil War, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the statesman and persuasive abolitionist, directly attacked the leading theorists of the American School of Anthropology. In an 1854 address, entitled “The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered,” Douglass argued that "by making the enslaved a character fit only for slavery, [slaveowners] excuse themselves for refusing to make the slave a freeman.... For let it be once granted that the human race are of multitudinous origin, naturally different in their moral, physical, and intellectual capacities... a chance is left for slavery, as a necessary institution.... There is no doubt that Messrs. Nott, Glidden, Morton, Smith and Agassiz were duly consulted by our slavery propagating statesmen" (p. 287).
Cultural anthropology in the United States was influenced greatly by the ready availability of Native American societies as ethnographic subjects. The field was pioneered by staff of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, men such as John Wesley Powell and Frank Hamilton Cushing. Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881), a lawyer from Rochester, New York, became an advocate for and ethnological scholar of the Iroquois. His comparative analyses of religion, government, material culture, and especially kinship patterns proved to be influential contributions to the field of anthropology. Like other scholars of his day (such as Edward Tylor), Morgan argued that human societies could be classified into categories of cultural evolution on a scale of progression that ranged from savagery, to barbarism, to civilization. Generally, Morgan used technology (such as bowmaking or pottery) as an indicator of position on this scale.
Franz Boas established academic anthropology in the United States in opposition to this sort of evolutionary perspective. Boasian anthropology was politically active and suspicious of research dictated by the U.S. government and wealthy patrons. It was rigorously empirical and skeptical of overgeneralizations and attempts to establish universal laws. Boas studied immigrant children to demonstrate that biological race was not immutable, and that human conduct and behaviour resulted from nurture, rather than nature.
Influenced by the German tradition, Boas argued that the world was full of distinct cultures, rather than societies whose evolution could be measured by how much or how little "civilization" they had. He believed that each culture has to be studied in its particularity, and argued that cross-cultural generalizations, like those made in the natural sciences, were not possible. In doing so, he fought discrimination against immigrants, African Americans, and Native North Americans. Many American anthropologists adopted his agenda for social reform, and theories of race continue to be popular targets for anthropologists today. The so-called "Four Field Approach" has its origins in Boasian Anthropology, dividing the discipline in the four crucial and interrelated fields of sociocultural, biological, linguistic, and prehistoric anthropology.
Boas used his positions at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History to train and develop multiple generations of students. His first generation of students included Alfred Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Edward Sapir and Ruth Benedict, all of whom produced richly detailed studies of indigenous North American cultures. They provided a wealth of details used to attack the theory of a single evolutionary process. Kroeber and Sapir's focus on Native American languages helped establish linguistics as a truly general science and free it from its historical focus on Indo-European languages.
The publication of Alfred Kroeber's textbook, Anthropology, marked a turning point in American anthropology. After three decades of amassing material, Boasians felt a growing urge to generalize. This was most obvious in the 'Culture and Personality' studies carried out by younger Boasians such as Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. Influenced by psychoanalytic psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, these authors sought to understand the way that individual personalities were shaped by the wider cultural and social forces in which they grew up. Though such works as Coming of Age in Samoa and The Chrysanthemum and the Sword remain popular with the American public, Mead and Benedict never had the impact on the discipline of anthropology that some expected. Boas had planned for Ruth Benedict to succeed him as chair of Columbia's anthropology department, but she was sidelined by Ralph Linton, and Mead was limited to her offices at the AMNH.
Anthropology in Britain
Whereas Boas picked his opponents to pieces through attention to detail, modern anthropology in Britain was formed by rejecting historical reconstruction in the name of a science of society that focused on analyzing how societies held together in the present.
The two most important scholars in this tradition were Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown and Bronislaw Malinowski, both of whom released seminal works in 1922. Radcliffe-Brown's initial fieldwork, in the Andaman Islands, was carried out in the old style of historical reconstruction. After reading the work of French sociologists Émile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, Radcliffe-Brown published an account of his research (entitled simply The Andaman Islanders) that paid close attention to the meaning and purpose of rituals and myths. Over time, he developed an approach known as structural-functionalism, which focused on how institutions in societies worked to balance out or create an equilibrium in the social system to keep it functioning harmoniously. Malinowski, in contrast, advocated an unhyphenated functionalism, which examined how society functioned to meet individual needs. He is better known, however, for his detailed ethnography and advances in methodology. His classic ethnography, Argonauts of the Western Pacific, advocated getting "the native's point of view" and an approach to fieldwork that became standard in the field.
Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown's influence stemmed from the fact that they, like Boas, actively trained students and aggressively built up institutions that furthered their programmatic ambitions. This was particularly the case with Radcliffe-Brown, who spread his agenda for "Social Anthropology" by teaching at universities across the Commonwealth. From the late 1930s until the postwar period appeared a string of monographs and edited volumes that cemented the paradigm of British Social Anthropology. Famous ethnographies include The Nuer, by Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard, and The Dynamics of Clanship Among the Tallensi, by Meyer Fortes; well-known edited volumes include African Systems of Kinship and Marriage and African Political Systems. Contemporary social anthropology is international and has branched in many directions.
Anthropology in France
Anthropology in France has a less clear genealogy than the British and American traditions. Most commentators consider Marcel Mauss to be the founder of the French anthropological tradition. Mauss was a member of Durkheim's Année Sociologique group, and while Durkheim and others examined the state of modern societies, Mauss and his collaborators (such as Henri Hubert and Robert Hertz) drew on ethnography and philology to analyze societies which were not as 'differentiated' as European nation states. In particular, Mauss's Essay on the Gift was to prove of enduring relevance in anthropological studies of exchange and reciprocity.
Throughout the interwar years, French interest in anthropology often dovetailed with wider cultural movements such as surrealism and primitivism which drew on ethnography for inspiration. Marcel Griaule and Michel Leiris are examples of people who combined anthropology with the French avant-garde. During this time most of what is known as ethnologie was restricted to museums, such as the Musée de l'Homme founded by Paul Rivet, and anthropology had a close relationship with studies of folklore.
Above all, however, it was Claude Lévi-Strauss who helped institutionalize anthropology in France. In addition to the enormous influence his structuralism exerted across multiple disciplines, Lévi-Strauss established ties with American and British anthropologists. At the same time he established centers and laboratories within France to provide an institutional context within anthropology while training influential students such as Maurice Godelier and Françoise Héritier who would prove influential in the world of French anthropology. Much of the distinct character of France's anthropology today is a result of the fact that most anthropology is carried out in nationally funded research laboratories ( CNRS) rather than academic departments in universities.
Other influential writers in the 1970s include Pierre Clastres, who explains in his books on the Guayaki tribe in Paraguay that "primitive societies" actively oppose the institution of the state. Therefore, these stateless societies are not less evolved than societies with states, but took the active choice of conjuring the institution of authority as a separate function from society. The leader is only a spokeperson for the group when it has to deal with other groups ("international relations") but has no inside authority, and may be violently removed if he attempts to abuse this position.
Anthropology after World War II
Before WWII British 'social anthropology' and American 'cultural anthropology' were still distinct traditions. It was after the war that the two would blend to create a 'sociocultural' anthropology.
In the 1950s and mid-1960s anthropology tended increasingly to model itself after the natural sciences. Some anthropologists, such as Lloyd Fallers and Clifford Geertz, focused on processes of modernization by which newly independent states could develop. Others, such as Julian Steward and Leslie White, focused on how societies evolve and fit their ecological niche —— an approach popularized by Marvin Harris. Economic anthropology as influenced by Karl Polanyi and practiced by Marshall Sahlins and George Dalton focused on how traditional economics ignored cultural and social factors. In England, British Social Anthropology's paradigm began to fragment as Max Gluckman and Peter Worsley experimented with Marxism and authors such as Rodney Needham and Edmund Leach incorporated Lévi-Strauss's structuralism into their work.
Structuralism also influenced a number of developments in 1960s and 1970s, including cognitive anthropology and componential analysis. Authors such as David Schneider, Clifford Geertz, and Marshall Sahlins developed a more fleshed-out concept of culture as a web of meaning or signification, which proved very popular within and beyond the discipline. In keeping with the times, much of anthropology became politicized through the Algerian War of Independence and opposition to the Vietnam War; Marxism became a more and more popular theoretical approach in the discipline. By the 1970s the authors of volumes such as Reinventing Anthropology worried about anthropology's relevance.
In the 1980s issues of power, such as those examined in Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History, were central to the discipline. Books like Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter pondered anthropology's ties to colonial inequality, while the immense popularity of theorists such as Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault moved issues of power and hegemony into the spotlight. Gender and sexuality became a popular topic, as did the relationship between history and anthropology, influenced by Marshall Sahlins (again), who drew on Lévi-Strauss and Fernand Braudel to examine the relationship between social structure and individual agency.
In the late 1980s and 1990s authors such as George Marcus and James Clifford pondered ethnographic authority, particularly how and why anthropological knowledge was possible and authoritative. Ethnographies became more reflexive, explicitly addressing the author's methodology and cultural positioning, and their influence on his or her ethnographic analysis. This was part of a more general trend of postmodernism that was popular contemporaneously. Currently anthropologists have begun to pay attention to globalization, medicine and biotechnology, indigenous rights, and the anthropology of industrialized societies.
Politics of anthropology
American cultural anthropology developed during the first four decades of the 20th century under the powerful influence of Franz Boas and his students and their struggle against racial determinism and the ethnocentrism of 19th century cultural evolutionism. With the additional impact of the Great Depression and World War II, American anthropology developed a pronounced liberal-left tone by the 1950s. However, the discipline's deep involvement with nonwestern cultures put it in a vulnerable position during the campus upheavals of the late 1960s and in the subsequent "culture wars." The "politics of anthropology" has become a pervasive concern since then. Whatever the realities, the notion of anthropology as somehow complicit in morally unacceptable projects has become a significant topic both within the discipline and in "cultural studies" and "post-colonialism," etc. A few of the central elements in this discourse are the following:
- The claim that the discipline grew out of colonialism, perhaps was in league with it, and derived some of its key notions from it, consciously or not. (See, for example, Gough, Pels and Salemink, but cf. Lewis 2004). It is often assumed that an example of this exploitative relationship can be seen in the relationship between British anthropologists and colonial forces in Africa, yet this assumption has not been supported by much evidence. (See Asad et al; cf. Desai.)
- The idea that social and political problems must arise because anthropologists usually have more power than the people they study; it is a form of colonialist theft in which the anthropologist gains power at the expense of subjects (Rabinow, Dwyer, McGrane). Anthropologists, they argue, can gain yet more power by exploiting knowledge and artifacts of the people they study while the people they study gain nothing, or even lose, in the exchange (for example, Deloria). Little critical writing has been published in response to these wide-ranging claims, themselves the product of the political concerns and atmosphere of their own times. (See Trencher for a critique.)
- It is claimed the discipline was ahistorical, and dealt with its "objects" (sic) "out of time," to their detriment (Fabian). It is often claimed that anthropologists regularly "exoticized 'the Other,'" or, with equal assurance, that they inappropriately universalized "Others" and "human nature." (For references and a response see Lewis 1998.)
- Other more explicitly political concerns have to do with anthropologists’ entanglements with government intelligence agencies, on the one hand, and anti-war politics on the other. Franz Boas publicly objected to US participation in World War I, and after the war he published a brief expose and condemnation of the participation of several American archeologists in espionage in Mexico under their cover as scientists. But by the 1940s, many of Boas' anthropologist contemporaries were active in the allied war effort against the "Axis" (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan). Many served in the armed forces but others worked in intelligence (for example, Office of Strategic Services [OSS} and the Office of War Information). David H. Price's work on American anthropology during the Cold War provides detailed accounts of the pursuit and dismissal of several anthropologists for their vocal left-wing sympathies. On the other hand, attempts to accuse anthropologists of complicity with the CIA and government intelligence activities during the Vietnam War years have turned up surprisingly little. (Anthropologists did not participate in the stillborn Project Camelot, for example. See Lewis 2005) On the contrary, many anthropologists (students and teachers) were active in the antiwar movement and a great many resolutions condemning the war in all its aspects were passed overwhelmingly at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). In the decades since the Vietnam war the tone of cultural and social anthropology, at least, has been increasingly politicized, with the dominant liberal tone of earlier generations replaced with one more radical, a mix of, and varying degrees of, Marxist, feminist, post-colonial, post-modern, Saidian, Foucaultian, identity-based, and more.
Professional anthropological bodies often object to the use of anthropology for the benefit of the state. Their codes of ethics or statements may proscribe anthropologists from giving secret briefings. The British Association for Social Anthropology has called certain scholarships ethically dangerous. The AAA's current 'Statement of Professional Responsibility' clearly states that "in relation with their own government and with host governments... no secret research, no secret reports or debriefings of any kind should be agreed to or given."
More recently, there have been concerns expressed about bioprospecting, along with struggles for self-representation for native peoples and the repatriation of indigenous remains and material culture, with anthropologists often in the lead on these issues.
Other political controversies come from the emphasis in American anthropology on cultural relativism and its long-standing antipathy to the concept of race. The development of sociobiology in the late 1960s was opposed by cultural anthropologists such as Marshall Sahlins, who argued that these positions were reductive. While authors such John Randal Baker continued to develop the biological concept of race into the 1970s, the rise of genetics has proven to be central to developments on this front. As genetics continues to advance as a science some anthropologists such as Luca Cavalli-Sforza have continued to transform and advance notions of race through the use of recent developments in genetics, such as tracing past migrations of peoples through their mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA, and ancestry-informative markers.
Branches of anthropology
In North America, anthropology is traditionally divided into four sub-disciplines:
- Physical anthropology, or biological anthropology, which studies primate behaviour, human evolution, osteology, forensics, and population genetics;
- Cultural anthropology (called social anthropology and now often known as socio-cultural anthropology in the United Kingdom, and both terms are used in Canada with limited distinction), which studies social networks, diffusion, social behaviour, kinship patterns, law, politics, ideology, religion, beliefs, patterns in production and consumption, exchange, socialization, gender, and other expressions of culture, with strong emphasis on the importance of fieldwork or participant observation (that is, living among the social group being studied for an extended period of time);
- Linguistic anthropology, which studies variation in language across time and space, the social uses of language, and the relationship between language and culture, and
- Archaeology, which studies the material remains of human societies. Archaeology itself is normally treated as a separate (but related) field in the rest of the world, although closely related to the anthropological field of material culture, which deals with physical objects created or used within a living or past group as a means of understanding its cultural values.
Anthropological fields and subfields
- Biological anthropology (also physical anthropology)
- Forensic anthropology
- Medical anthropology
- Cultural anthropology (also social anthropology)
- Anthropology of art
- Anthropology of law
- Anthropology of media
- Anthropology of religion
- Applied anthropology
- Cross-cultural studies
- Cyber anthropology
- Development anthropology
- Dual inheritance theory
- Environmental anthropology
- Economic anthropology
- Ecological anthropology
- Feminist anthropology
- Human behavioural ecology
- Medical anthropology
- Psychological anthropology
- Political anthropology
- Public anthropology
- Symbolic anthropology
- Urban anthropology
- Visual anthropology
- Linguistic anthropology
- Synchronic linguistics (or descriptive linguistics)
- Diachronic linguistics (or historical linguistics)
- Historical archaeology