A Description of Anthropology

Topics: Anthropology, Culture, Sociology Pages: 2 (640 words) Published: October 19, 2009
The etymological root of the word Anthropology is from the Greek - anthropos -‘human being’ and ology - study of.

What does anthropology literally mean? The Oxford English dictionary states that Anthropology is ‘the study of humankind, especially the study of societies and cultures and human origins.’ Anthropology can be broken down into different disciplines, cultural, linguistic, biological and social.

Throughout the history of Anthropology as a recognized method of studying humankind, different anthropologists have given different definitions of ‘culture’, i.e., the English anthropologist, Edward Tylor (1832-1917) said “Culture is or civilization… is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man (sic.) as a member of society.”[sic] Polish born Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) defined culture thus: “Culture is a well organized unity divided into two fundamental aspects - a body of artifacts and a system of customs.”, and the American anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) said, “Culture is the learned behaviour of a society or a subgroup”. Ultimately, the essence of all three definitions is the same, that ‘culture’ is the result of the developing human behavioural patterns in any environment created by people living together.

In the long standing debate between those who advocate ‘nature’ (biology etc) as the primary source of human behaviour, and those who argue that ‘nurture’ (culture etc) is a more important influence on the way human beings conduct themselves, Anthropology stands firmly on the side of ‘nurture’. Most experts agree that human behaviour is influenced by both nature and nurture, however, there is consensus among Anthropologists that human behavioural patterns are determined by reacting to the environment in which they live, thus, nurture being the main influence. Putting it rather simplistically, anthropologists will argue that, whilst it is true that...
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