What Is Anthropology?

One of the most significant facts about us may finally be that we all begin with the natural equipment to live a thousand kinds of life but end in the end having lived only one.

- Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg continues his exploration of the idea of culture by considering its use in the discipline of anthropology. In 1871 the anthropologist Edward Tylor published Primitive Culture, an enormously influential work which for the first time placed culture at the centre of the study of humanity. His definition of culture as the 'capabilities and habits acquired by man' ensured that later generations saw culture as common to all humans, and not simply as the preserve of writers and philosophers.

Listen to Culture and the Anthropologists on The Value of Culture podcast

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Ask me what we do and I say anthropologists study living people. But don’t all social sciences study people? The answer is yes, but anthropologists do it via culture.

The other social sciences, such as psychology, engineering and ergonomics, specialise in singular aspects of people’s lives, making culture a kind of variable on the side.

This kind of reduction is academic and problematic. It is far removed from the everyday experience of being a human who creates, and is created by, a complex sociocultural, political and historical world. And that’s why we need anthropologists...

Continue reading Kirrilly Thompson's article: What does an anthropologist actually do?

Further Reading

Anthropology itself began to develop as a separate discipline in the mid-nineteenth century, as Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (Darwin 1859) became widely accepted among scientists. Early anthropologists attempted to apply evolutionary theory within the human species, focusing on physical differences between different human sub-species or racial groups (see Eriksen 2001) and the perceived intellectual differences that followed...

Continue reading the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article: The Philosophy of Anthropology by Edward Dutton

Related Topics

Culture | Globalization | Sociology

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