Everything you need to Know about Cultural Anthropology
Anthropological fields such as cultural anthropology make it possible to understand the origins of humanity. They show different societies and cultures, their differences, and their similarities. Cultural anthropology plays an important role in this.
Although anthropology focuses only on culture, its specific studies focus on what makes a culture on a deeper and more insightful scale.
For the past two hundred years, men and women in the field have brought their discoveries to light. It could be based on their old research or their experience with different cultures. However, they led cultural anthropology to what it is today and brought new levels of thinking about humanity.
What is Cultural Anthropology?
Cultural Anthropology is the study of the culture of a people. It focuses on social, biological and environmental aspects. There are many branches of this study, but the four main branches are:
Archaeology is the study of human activity by examining material objects from the past.
Physical/biological anthropology, the study of human biology and evolution
Linguistic anthropology is devoted to understanding languages through cultural practices.
Cultural anthropology is the study of cultures between different societies.
The Origins of Anthropology
Anthropology has its roots in ancient Greek historical and philosophical writings about human nature and the organization of society.
Herodotus, a 4th-century Greek historian, was the first to write extensively about concepts that became central to anthropology. His work described various cultures of the Persian Empire conquered by the Greeks and noted that Greek culture dominated the West while Persian culture dominated the East. This division set the pace for which anthropological writing adapted.
Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab historian, wrote about many of the earlier ideas of anthropology. He focused on the environmental, sociological, psychological and economic factors of civilizations. In doing so, he understood the development and rise and fall of those civilizations.
Both Herodotus and Khaldun produced descriptions of the diverse cultures of the Mediterranean. However, both were known to often use second-hand information.
XV Century Anthropology
At the beginning of the 15th century, European explorers sought wealth in new lands. They vividly described their encounters with cultures on their travels through Asia, Africa, and the Americas. However, their observations were brief and systematic, and the explorers did not know or respect foreign languages.
The European Age of Enlightenment
In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was an increase in scientific and rational philosophical thought: the Enlightenment period.
Enlightenment thinkers wrote about the nature of humanity based on philosophical questions and reasoning. However, most writers had no first-hand experience with non-Western cultures.
In the Middle Ages, biblical scholars contemplated the origins of mankind and its cultural development. However, they treated their contemplations as matters of religious faith. As a result, they concluded the existence and diversity of humanity as the handiwork of God.
This is essential to any fieldwork in anthropology.
It is an attempt to record the behavior of a particular society and culture from an insider’s point of view in real time. In turn, this strengthens the interpretations of the information gleaned from the interviews.
This method allows more flexibility than other research methods.
First, researchers keep an open mind. Second, it provides opportunities to pursue different ideas and theories if something new emerges. Thirdly, this method develops a relationship of trust with society. In addition to gathering an inside perspective, it can provide an excellent description of the culture.
The Importance of Anthropology
Anthropology brings an understanding of the origin of humanity and tells the history of humanity and global cultures and communities. They unite cultures in search of similarities and differences. What a culture considers normal; another may see this as odd.
Furthermore, anthropology combines many disciplines into one study.
Biology studies the human body. History studies the past events and culture of mankind. Literature focuses on the writing of others. Each offers its own level of understanding.
Anthropology manages to combine those disciplines and understandings to further explain the meaning of humanity. Each branch contributes something to our learning about humanity.
For example, linguistic anthropology focused on languages and their development over time. Through this discipline, we see how languages relate to each other and how people communicate over time.
Furthermore, he introduced the connection between languages and how cultures use and manipulate words.