Major event that led to the emergence of the discipline of anthropology? The history of the field of anthropology This article focuses mostly on the historical figures who laid the groundwork for modern anthropology in the 18th and 19th centuries. Since its inception as a New Latin intellectual word during the Renaissance, the phrase “the study (or science) of man” has been synonymous with the concept of anthropology.
Over the course of history, both the topics discussed and the language used have developed. They were not quite as complicated as they are now thanks to the development of anthropology.
You may find a presentation of modern social and cultural anthropology, as it has developed in the United Kingdom, France, and North America since roughly the year 1900, on the pages that are associated to the Anthropology heading.
The historian of anthropology Marvin Harris begins his book The Rise of Anthropological Theory by defining anthropology as “the study of culture.” As the conventional understanding of history in “history of anthropology” would appear to indicate, he is not suggesting that history be renamed anthropology, that there is no distinction between history and prehistory, or that anthropology does not include present social processes.
When he talks about “culture,” he is referring to it in the same sense that the founding fathers of cultural anthropology did: as “the natural history of civilisation,” as Herbert Spencer put it, or as the “universal history of humanity,” which was the goal of the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.
Both natural history and societal or social history contain aspects of life from the past as well as from the present, although natural history focuses more on the aspects of life from the past than societal or social history does.
It discusses both written history and prehistoric history, although it focuses more on the overall development of society than it does on particular non-repeatable historical occurrences.
According to Harris, anthropologists of the 19th century developed their theories based on the premise that the development of civilisation adhered to some type of principles.
He bemoans the lack of that perspective in the twentieth century, which he attributes to the denial that certain laws are discernible or that modern systems have any effect on ancient. He also bemoans the fact that people in the twentieth century denied that modern systems have any effect on ancient.
He came up with the term “ideographic” in order to refer to them. On the other hand, the beliefs held throughout the nineteenth century are nomothetic, which means that they adhere to a set of principles. “reaffirm the methodological primacy of the hunt for historical laws in the study of man,” is what he hopes to accomplish with his work.
The broad range of subjects that may be studied in Anthropology can often be broken down into four distinct sub-disciplines. A specialised area of study that is under the umbrella of a larger topic or discipline is referred to as a subdiscipline.
Archaeology, linguistic anthropology, biological or physical anthropology, and cultural or social anthropology are the four subfields of study that anthropologists concentrate on. Although there is some degree of overlap across subfields, and researchers do not necessarily consider them to be separate fields, each often employs a unique set of strategies and procedures.
The field of study known as cultural anthropology, which is often referred to as social anthropology, examines the learnt behaviours of groups of people in relation to their respective contexts. Ethnography is the research approach that forms the basis for the work of cultural anthropologists. This method studies individual cultures and practises via the use of participant observation and fieldwork.
The field of anthropology is Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey’s focus as a National Geographic Fellow. She spent her time as a PhD student documenting the unique and almost extinct practises of the Micronesian navigators known as palu, who don’t rely on charts or equipment.
The songs and rituals of the Satawalese, a small ethnic group that is indigenous to a single coral atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia, were some of the traditions that she researched and learned about.
Ethnologists are a subset of cultural anthropologists that focus on the study of and comparison between various civilizations. Ethnologists study how certain practises evolve differently in various cultures and then attempt to determine why these variations occur.
Explorer-in-residence programme of National Geographic Wade Davis specialises in the study of ethnobotany. He was in Latin America for about three years, during which time he collected and researched several herbs that are used by different indigenous communities in their everyday life.
His research investigates how various cultures comprehend and make use of plants for a variety of purposes, including as food, medicine, and in religious rituals.
The field of research known as linguistic anthropology examines how the effect of language manifests itself in social life.
Linguistic anthropologists believe that language gives humans the intellectual skills they need to think and act in the world. Linguistic anthropologists study how societies and their social networks, cultural beliefs, and understanding of both themselves and their environments are influenced by language.
Linguistic anthropologists pay close attention to what people say as they go about their daily social activities in order to gain a better understanding of how individuals use language for social and cultural purposes.
Participant observation and other approaches, such as video recording and interviews with participants, were used to compile this material.
Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky is conducting research on the ways in which members of the Aboriginal Pormpuraaw community in Australia communicate with one another. Boroditsky discovered that nearly all aspects of daily life, including activities and conversations, were framed in terms of the four cardinal directions.
When meeting someone for the first time in Pormpuraaw, for instance, one might ask them, “Where are you going?” “That’s a long way to the south-southwest,” is one possible response. Someone might give a warning to another, saying something like “There is a snake near your north-west foot.”
This language enables the Pormpuraaw to locate themselves and navigate through landscapes with extreme precision, but it renders communication nearly impossible for those who do not have a complete understanding of the cardinal directions.
Linguistic anthropologists may be tasked with documenting endangered native languages in their respective regions. The Enduring Voices Project at National Geographic aims to prevent language extinction by embarking on expeditions that create textual, visual, and auditory records of threatened languages.
Additionally, the project offers assistance to native communities in their efforts to resurrect and preserve their traditional languages. Enduring Voices has documented the Chipaya language of Bolivia, the Yshyr Chamacoco language of Paraguay, and the Matugar Panau language of Papua New Guinea, among many others.
The study of how humans and their living and extinct ancestors evolved through time is the focus of biological anthropology, which is also often referred to as physical anthropology.
The study of human evolution within the framework of human culture and behaviour is the domain of biological anthropology. In practise, this means that biological anthropologists investigate the ways in which social and cultural practises have been linked to changes in our skeletal or genetic make-up at various points in time.
Some biological anthropologists focus their research on primates like monkeys and apes in order to get a better understanding of how humans evolved from earlier living forms. It is generally agreed that primates are our closest surviving cousins.
An understanding of human evolution may be gained by biological anthropologists via an examination of the parallels and divergences that exist between humans and the “big apes.”
Over the course of more than four decades, primatologist Jane Goodall has conducted research on free-living chimpanzees in Tanzania. Goodall made her discoveries on the similarities between chimpanzees and humans by spending lengthy amounts of time with other primates and by living with them herself.
The fact that chimpanzees make use of simple implements like sticks was one of the most important findings made by Jane Goodall.
The development of tools is often regarded as a significant turning point in the history of humankind. Biological anthropologists believe that our ancient ancestors’ preoccupation with toolmaking is responsible for the development of the human hand, which now has a longer thumb and stronger gripping muscles.
The skeletal remains of our human predecessors are studied by other biological anthropologists so that they may determine how our species has evolved through time to a variety of diverse physical conditions and social systems. This subject of study is often referred to as paleoanthropology or human palaeontology.
National Geographic Explorer Zeresenay Alemseged investigates hominid fossils discovered at the Busidima-Dikika anthropological site in Ethiopia. The site is located in Ethiopia.
The research conducted by Alemseged attempts to provide evidence that there was a significant variety of early hominid species between three and four million years ago. Paleoanthropologists are concerned with the question of why some hominid species have been around for thousands of years while others have not.
The study of human history via the use of material remains is referred to as archaeology. These remnants might be anything that individuals made, altered, or made use of throughout their lifetimes.
Archaeologists painstakingly unearth and investigate the artefacts in question in order to draw conclusions about the lives and endeavours of individuals and civilizations at various points in time throughout history.
Archaeologists will often centre their research on a particular era of human history. Archaeologists often examine prehistoric civilizations, which are defined as those that existed prior to the development of written language. Interpreting the artefacts that were left behind by ancient cultures is the only method to piece together a prehistoric society’s way of life, therefore these studies are very essential for that reason.
For instance, macaw eggshells, skeletal remains, and ceramic imagery found at archaeological sites in the Southwest of the United States all point to the significant role macaws played for prehistoric peoples in that region as exotic trade items and objects of worship. These discoveries were made at archaeological sites.
The most vibrant hub of new anthropology was Victorian Britain. With its enticing promise that, after the acknowledgement of natural selection, “light would be cast on the genesis of man and his history,” Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859, 488) was a huge stimulant.
While Darwin’s ideas contributed authority and excitement to their disputes, anthropologists and ethnologists relied on an older tradition, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment’s secular universal histories. These depicted a movement from savagery to barbarism to civilisation, all of which were timed by the growth of reason.
Technological advancement resulted from advances in knowledge. Hunting gave way to pastoralism, which was followed by agriculture, trade and markets, and eventually industrialisation.
Herbert Spencer (1862), a philosopher, resurrected this school of thinking, but with a biological slant. Spencer was inspired greatly by the evolutionary theory of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744–1829), a French scientist who maintained that all organisms had an inbuilt desire to develop.
They get more complicated and efficient as they go higher. Lamarck’s thesis was scorned by leading scientists. “Heaven forfend me from Lamarck’s folly of a ‘tendency to progression,’ ‘adaptations from the sluggish willing of creatures,’ &c,” Darwin said in a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker in January 1844. (Darwin 1844).
Spencer, on the other hand, embraced Lamarck’s idea and applied it to the evolution of human civilisation. Societies functioned similarly to live organisms. The development of all kinds of life was marked by progress—or, as Spencer put it, “evolution.” The advancement, or evolution, of biological creatures, natural species, and human cultures was explained by the same rules.
Rival schools had heated disputes, notably regarding race and, as a result, slavery, which became a hot topic when the Civil War erupted in the United States. The Anthropological Society of London, whose members were predisposed to legitimise slavery, maintained that human races had different beginnings and varied fundamentally in aptitude and character.
The members of the mainstream London Ethnological Society, descendants of the antislavery Aboriginal Protection Society, quickly embraced Darwin’s concept that all forms of life are genetically connected and that all humans come from the same ancestors.
Many ethnologists, however, were not rigors Darwinists. Natural selection, according to Darwin, was the mechanism of evolution. Local, transitory modifications were sparked by resource competition and environmental stresses. Advantageous mutations tend to proliferate throughout a population.
Mutations that cause harm are eventually bred out. The path of change within a population is unclear since obstacles and opportunities are unexpected, and mutations are random occurrences. “I believe in no set rule of growth, leading all the people of a nation to change suddenly, simultaneously, or to an equal degree,” Darwin said in The Origin of Species (1859, 314).
Darwin’s lesson, however, was not heeded. Spencer’s theory that developments—or advances—follow “a general formula, or rule of evolution” was favoured by the majority of British ethnologists (Marett 1911, 9).
Darwin, on the other hand, claimed that as humans developed, the power of natural selection weakened. Most human abilities, including empathy and care for others, were acquired from social animals, with some adjustments.
People, on the other hand, adapted to the environment by creating shelters and fires, cooking their food, defending themselves with weapons, and caring for the sick and crippled. Humans began to domesticate themselves long before they tamed plants and animals. For them, culture had become second nature.
The unique human gift, according to Edward Burnett Tylor, the pioneer of British ethnology, was a hereditary stock of language, skill, and knowledge. “Culture, or Civilisation,” he termed it, and described it as “that complex totality that encompasses knowledge, religion, art, morality, law, custom, and any other capacities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Tylor 1871, 1:1).
And, according to Tylor, all peoples have some kind of culture. Some are more basic, while others are more evolved, yet all civilizations follow the same progressive path.
Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803)’s radically distinct proto-Romantic or “counter-Enlightenment” thoughts spawned another intellectual lineage. Herder used the term Kultur to denote a separate, regional approach to understanding and interacting with the world.
A culture was a set of beliefs and ideals that were expressed through language, folktales, music, and crafts to the utmost extent possible. Each Volk borrowed spiritual characteristics from its culture.
Following Herder, German ethnologists largely rejected the Enlightenment idea of human culture as having a single evolutionary history, with a sequence of phases leading to the pinnacle of civilisation. A more relativist viewpoint was expressed. There was no cultural hierarchy.
No culture or civilisation can claim to be suitable for everyone in all places. Every Volk has its own culture. This idea encouraged nationalistic descriptions of Central European peoples’ ostensibly genuine folk customs.
In the 1870s, the anatomist Rudolf Virchow and the ethnologist Adolf Bastian founded the most famous German school of ethnology and anthropology in Berlin. Virchow was an outspoken opponent of Darwin’s synthesis, which he believed was premature, and he condemned Ernst Haeckel’s racial theory of human difference.
Human races had become essentially different species, according to Haeckel. Human races, Virchow responded, were insecure, with porous and fluctuating borders, and racial mixing was natural.
Biological qualities such as blood types, according to Virchow, cut beyond racial divisions, and he denied the assumption that race and culture were inextricably linked. Race and culture, on the other hand, differed from one another.
The Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory was founded by Virchow and Bastian in 1869. Bastian was the director of the Royal Museum of Völkerkunde and an ethnology professor at the University of Berlin.
He proposed a culture theory that was similar to Virchow’s approach to race: there were no pure cultures, just as there were no pure races. Contact between individuals, according to Bastian, led to marriages and the spread of ideas, methods, and institutions. Cultures, like races, were historically contingent, the shaky results of local trades and interactions.
Ethnology emerged at Germany’s universities in tandem with geography. Local cultures and ethnic types were moulded, if not dictated, by the natural environment, according to certain ethnologists and geographers.
A competing school, on the other hand, emphasised the significance of people migrations and the spread of ideas and practises. While migration and diffusion were the primary drivers of cultural change, Bastian proposed that ecological restrictions were significant in forming “geographical provinces,” places with unique physical features where diverse people interacted.
Bastian also pushed for a moderate cultural relativism based on humanity’s alleged mental oneness. Despite cultural differences, all human groups shared the Elementargedanken, or basic concepts.
The German ethnological tradition, with its concern for local historical processes and focus on migrations and the diffusion of techniques, customs, and myths in the early twentieth century, presented a direct challenge to the Anglo-American school’s evolutionism, which assumed that all societies went through the same stages of development.
Leading British anthropologists such as W. H. R. Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, and Charles G. Seligman were persuaded to adopt the diffusionist viewpoint. In the United States, Franz Boas, a student of Virchow and Bastian, successfully challenged the Bureau of American Ethnology’s adoption of Lewis H. Morgan’s evolutionist study programme.
Boas spent a year on Baffin Island in 1885, gathering information on Inuit migratory patterns. He began his research as an environmental determinist, but soon realised that “the phenomena such as customs, traditions, and migrations are just too intricate in their origins to allow us to understand their psychological roots without a detailed grasp of their history” (Stocking 1974, 60).
In 1886, he embarked on the first of a series of trips to British Columbia’s Kwakiutl and nearby peoples, with the goal of rebuilding the region’s cultural past. Boas and his local assistant collected texts (in the vernacular with literal translations) from informants recounting myths and describing rituals and customs.
His publications on Kwakiutl ethnography eventually ran to over 5,000 pages, filled with texts (in the vernacular with literal translations) that Boas and his local assistant collected from informants recounting myths and describing rituals and customs.
Boas was promoted to full professor at Columbia University in 1899. For many years, his seminar served as the primary training ground for professional anthropologists in the United States. Alfred L. Kroeber, Robert Lowie, Edward Sapir, Paul Radin, Melville Herskovits, Alexander Goldenweiser, and, in the 1920s, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead—virtually all of the following generation’s main figures—were among his pupils.
They were expected to integrate study in anatomy, language, folklore, material culture, and social structure, as well as identify historical relationships between local aboriginal peoples throughout North America. There were significant gaps in the ethnography of North American Indians. Furthermore, the Boasians were unhappy with the previous research, particularly those produced under Morgan’s evolutionist theory’s influence.
The Boasians had a philosophical goal as well. Boas developed a criticism of racial thinking after Virchow’s example. He believed that race, culture, and language were not inextricably linked. Following in the footsteps of Bastian, Boas and his pupils attacked the dominant “evolutionist” beliefs. Local histories defied uniform categorisation.
It was not true that the family, founded on marriage, appeared late in human evolution. After all, even the most primitive hunter-gatherer tribes had families. There was no reason to believe that patrilineal civilizations were always more evolved than matrilineal communities, and there was no evidence that patriliny always triumphed over matriliny.
“Totemism” was a weak construct: clans might exist without totems, totems may exist without clans, and clans could be exogamous or not. The Boasian criticism of evolutionist anthropology had been completed by 1920, following two decades of concerted study, and a new paradigm in American anthropology had been formed.
In 1931, Malinowski and the International African Institute began a Rockefeller family foundation-funded research fellowship programme. Over the following five years, seventeen of Malinowski’s pupils were awarded fellowships. They were required by their funding to go to Africa rather than Melanesia or Australia, the elder generation’s major stamping grounds.
However, African communities differed significantly from those in which Malinowski had conducted research. Ethnographers operating in Africa were presented with vast, scattered communities rather than small, confined populations. Furthermore, indirect control has had a significant impact on colonial African civilizations. African peoples were grouped into a series of limited and monocultural “tribes” by British colonial authorities, each administered by a chief according to customary rules. This was a fabrication, and enforcing it by administrative fiat required a great degree of ugly and occasionally brutal social engineering.
In any event, the world was changing, and Africa was changing right along with it. Marcel Mauss observed in 1930 that a logical, global, progressive civilisation was spreading unstoppably. “A new global civilisation” was emerging as a result of the spread of science and new technologies like as the cinema, radio, and telephone, which “penetrates all kinds of music, all dialects, all words, all news, despite all frontiers.”
We’re only getting started [with this approach].” (Author’s translation of Mauss 1930, 105–6) Despite this, Malinowski’s pupils prefered to characterise ostensibly conventional “tribes,” but Malinowski did envision studies of “the changing native,” and some study on migrant labour and town sociology was conducted.
Malinowski made sweeping analogies between “primitive” Melanesians and “civilised” Europeans, but he did so cynically with both labels. African cultures, on the other hand, were not only distinct from the tiny aboriginal populations of Melanesia, Polynesia, and Australia, but they were also very diversified.
Radcliffe-Brown claimed that a comparative sociology of “tribal” cultures was necessary, based on his natural science notion of anthropology. Types and subtypes of tribal communities and institutions should be contrasted and categorised.
E. E. Evans-Pritchard and Meyer Fortes were appointed to the Oxford chair in social anthropology in 1936, and Radcliffe-Brown joined them. They set out to create a comparative sociology of African “tribes” as a group. African Political Systems (1940), edited by Fortes and Evans-Pritchard, recognised two categories of African polity: states and “stateless communities.” There were differences among these stateless communities.
A few fringe hunter-gatherer cultures were nothing more than extended family units, similar to Radcliffe-description Brown’s of Australian bands. A larger class of stateless societies, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands of people, were structured into corporate, segmentary clans and lineages that governed their affairs without the intervention of strong heads.
“All legal and political connections” in such civilizations, according to Fortes, “take place in the framework of the lineage system” (1953, 26). The Nuer of southern Sudan, researched by Evans-Pritchard, and the Tallensi of northern Ghana, studied by Fortes, are two prime examples.
Anthropology sprang from nineteenth-century Europe’s New Imperialism. European explorers came into touch with a variety of cultures and communities in the Americas and Asia during this period. As a social science, anthropology grew more specialised and professionalised in the twentieth century.
Answer: Social sciences sprang from the moral philosophy of the period and were affected by the era of revolutions, such as the industrial and French revolutions.
Because most students’ scholarly and research interests are easily identifiable as being centred in one of the four conventionally recognised subfields of anthropology – archaeology, linguistic anthropology, physical anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology – the Department develops guidelines for study within those subfields.
Since the mid-twentieth century, social science has referred to a broader range of disciplines that study society and culture, not only sociology. The moral philosophy of the period inspired social science, which was influenced by revolutions such as the industrial revolution.