- Social anthropology
Social anthropology is the branch of
anthropologythat studies how currently living human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long term, intensive field studies (including participant observationmethods), the social organizationof a particular people: customs, economic and political organization, lawand conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on.
Social anthropology also explores the role of meanings, ambiguities and contradictions of social life, patterns of sociality, violence and conflict, and the underlying logics of social behaviour. Social anthropologists are trained in the interpretation of
narrative, ritualand symbolic behaviour not merely as "text", but with communication examined in relation to action, practice, and the historical context in which it is embedded. Social anthropologists address the diversity of positions and perspectives to be found within any social group.
Substantive focus and practice
Social anthropology is distinguished from subjects such as
economicsor political scienceby its holisticrange and the attention it gives to the diversity of culture and society across the world, and the capacity this gives the discipline to re-examine Euro-American assumptions. It is differentiated from sociologyboth in its main methods (based on long-term participant observation and linguistic competence),Fact|date=June 2007 its commitment to the relevance and illumination provided by micro studies, and its extension beyond strictly social phenomena to culture, art, individuality, and cognition.Fact|date=June 2007 While some social anthropologists use quantitative methods (particularly those whose research touches on topics such as local economies, demography, or health and illness), social anthropologists generally emphasize qualitative analysis of long-term fieldwork, rather than the more quantitative methods used by most economists or sociologists.Fact|date=June 2007
Specialisations within social anthropology shift as its objects of study are transformed and as new intellectual paradigms appear;
ethnomusicologyand medical anthropologyafford examples of current, well-defined specialisms.
More recent and currently emergent areas within social anthropology include the relation between cultural diversity and new findings in cognitive development; social and ethical understandings of novel technologies; emergent forms of 'the family' and other new socialities modeled on
kinship; the ongoing social fall-out of the demise of state socialism; the politics of resurgent religiosity; analysis of audit cultures and accountability.
The subject has been enlivened by, and has contributed to, approaches from other disciplines, such as
philosophy( ethics, phenomenology, logic), the history of science, psychoanalysis, and linguistics.
The subject has both ethical and reflexive dimensions. Practitioners have developed an awareness of the sense in which scholars create their objects of study and the ways in which anthropologists themselves may contribute to processes of change in the societies they study.
Social anthropology has historical roots in a number of 19th-century disciplines, including
ethnology, folklorestudies, and Classics, among others. (See History of anthropology.) Its immediate precursor took shape in the work of Edward Burnett Tylorand James George Frazerin the late 19th century and underwent major changes in both method and theory during the period 1890-1920 with a new emphasis on original fieldwork, long-term holistic study of social behavior in natural settings, and the introduction of French and German social theory.
Departments of Social Anthropology exist in universities around the world. The field of social anthropology has expanded in ways not anticipated by the founders of the field, as for example in the subfield of structure and dynamics.
Modern social anthropology was founded in Britain at
The London School of Economics and Political Sciencefollowing World War I. Influences include both the methodological revolution pioneered by Bronisław Malinowski's process-oriented fieldwork in the Trobriand Islandsof Melanesiabetween 1915 and 1918 and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown's theoretical program for systematic comparison that was based on a conception of rigorous fieldwork and the structure-functionalist conception of Durkheim’s sociology. [Barth, Fredrik, et al. (2005) " [http://books.google.com/books?id=g1sV8lOlhVsC One Discipline, Four Ways: British, German, French, and American anthropology] ". Chicago: University of Chicago Press.] Other intellectual founders include W. H. R. Riversand A. C. Haddon, whose orientation reflected the contemporary Volkerpsychologie of Wilhelm Wundtand Adolf Bastian, and Sir E. B. Tylor, who defined anthropology as a positivistic science following Auguste Comte. Edmund Leach(1962) defined social anthropology as a kind of comparative micro-sociology based on intensive fieldwork studies. There was never a settled theoretical orthodoxy on the nature of science and society but always a tension between several views that were seriously opposed.
World War II, sociocultural anthropology as comprised by the fields of ethnography and ethnology diverged into an American school of cultural anthropologywhile social anthropology diversified in Europe by challenging the principles of structure-functionalism, absorbing ideas from Claude Levi-Strauss’s structuralism and from Max Gluckman’s Manchester school, and embracing the study of conflict, change, urban anthropology, and networks.Facts|subst:DATE|date=July 2008
1980s to present
A European Association of Social Anthropologists (
EASA) was founded in 1989 as a society of scholarship at a meeting of founder members from fourteen European countries, supported by the [http://www.wennergren.org/ Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.] The Association seeks to advance anthropology in Europe by organizing biennial conferences and by editing its academic journal, "Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale".
Anthropologists associated with social anthropology
Andre Beteille[http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/179372 After dinner talk on the history of social anthropology: Beteille speaks of his childhood and natural inclination to anthropology, his training, fieldwork in Delhi and the influence of his supervisor, M.N. Srinivas. His work on equality and inequality in human societies and publications on such, esp the caste system. He reflects on and analyses the work of Dumont, as well as Marxism, Hinduism and Islam. He cites those who have influenced him and his work, and closes with an overview of his current interests in Nationalism and tribal identities in India, as well as his lectures on backward classes.]
Mary Douglas[http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/131558 interview by Alan Macfarlane, in which Mary Douglas talks about her life and work in Africa and elsewhere.]
Robert L. Carneiro
E. E. Evans-Pritchard
Rosemary Firth[http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/447 Rosemary Firth interview by Alan Macfarlane: about her arrival in anthropology and fieldwork in Malaya with Raymond Firth, and about the position of a woman anthropologist.]
Alan Macfarlane[http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/131552 Eight lectures for first year Cambridge University students in February 2006. Introducing some of the major approaches to the anthropology of politics and economics.]
Siegfried Frederick Nadel
* Sarah Rahman
Douglas R. White
James Woodburn[http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/131557 James Woodburn Interview and film of James Woodburn by Alan Macfarlane: about his life and work in anthropology and visual anthropology in Africa and Britain]
* Bronislaw Malinowski (1915) "The
*(1922) "Argonauts of the Western Pacific"
* (1929) "The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia"
*(1935) "Coral Gardens and Their Magic: A Study of the Methods of Tilling the Soil and of Agricultural Rites in the Trobriand Islands"
* Edmund Leach (1954) Political systems of Highland Burma. London: G. Bell.
* (1982) "Social Anthropology"
* Thomas H. Eriksen (1985) "Social Anthropology", pp. 926-929 in "The Social Science Encyclopedia" cite book|title=|isbn=0710200080|oclc=11623683
* Adam Kuper (1996) "Anthropology and Anthropologists: The Modern British School" cite book|title=|isbn=0415118956|oclc=32509209
* [http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/benchmark/honours/anthropology.asp Benchmark Statement Anthropology (UK)]
* [http://www.movinganthropology.org - The Moving Anthropology Student Network (MASN)] - website offers tutorials, information on the subject, discussion-forums and a large link-collection for all interested scholars of social anthropology
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