What is Anthropology?

Meaning of Anthropology

Anthropology is a science dedicated to the in-depth study of the human being . It is a term of Greek origin, formed by “ anthropos ” ( man ) and “ logos ” ( knowledge ).

Reflection on societies, man and his social behavior has been known since classical antiquity through the thought of the great philosophers. The Greek Herodotus stands out, considered the father of history and anthropology .


However, it was only with the Enlightenment Movement in the 18th century that Anthropology developed as a social science, through the improvement of human methods and classifications.

In this period, the report of the travellers, missionaries and merchants on the habits of the natives of the new discovered lands and the debates on the human condition , were very important for the development of anthropological studies .

Studying human beings and cultural diversity implies the integration of different disciplines that seek to reflect on all human dimensions.

Historically, these dimensions occur in the division of anthropology into two main areas:

Physical or Biological Anthropology

It studies the genetic and biological aspects of man. It is also called bioanthropology , and is dedicated to understanding the mechanisms of adaptation and evolution of man.

Among its objects of study are the genetic characteristics that differentiate people and allow them to survive in certain environments.

For example, when studying the conditions of the digestive system different from other humans, the resistance of the skin to the sun in regions of higher incidence, among other genetic problems.

Forensic anthropology uses the knowledge of biological anthropology to elaborate its sides of identification of corpses and studies on crimes, to be used by criminal law.

Social anthropology

Analyzes the behavior of man in society , social and political organization, social relations and social institutions.

Social anthropology differs from sociology in the object of research: while sociology is dedicated to understanding social movements and structures in a macro way, social anthropology focuses on the relationship that man establishes with these phenomena in a search more centered on being, on a “ look inside ”.

The North American division of anthropology does not use the concept of social anthropology, but the so-called Cultural Anthropology.

Cultural anthropology investigates the cultural issues that involve man, being his customs, myths, values, beliefs, rituals, religion, language, among other aspects, fundamental in the formation of the concept of anthropological culture.

The concepts worked by social anthropology are culture and otherness.

Within the scope of cultural anthropology there are still studies of linguistics and ethnography as fields of specialization.

Ethnography is the research method of anthropology and corresponds to the so-called participant observation. The anthropologist, or who in this role may also be called an ethnographer, closely follows the group he is studying, living like them, within the community.

Based on this fieldwork, the anthropologist carries out his analyzes in his field diary, so that he can then gather his practical insight into the theories seen in the literature review and then develop the ethnographic work.

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