What is Anthropology ?
Anthropology is the study of what makes us human. Anthropologists take a broad approach to understanding the many different aspects of the human experience, which we call holism. They consider the past, through archaeology, to see how human groups lived hundreds or thousands of years ago and what was important to them. They consider what makes up our biological bodies and genetics, as well as our bones, diet, and health.
Anthropology is a global discipline involving humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Anthropology builds upon knowledge from natural sciences, including the discoveries about the origin and evolution of Homo sapiens, human physical traits, human behavior, the variations among different groups of humans, how the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens has influenced its social organization and culture, and from social sciences, including the organization of human social and cultural relations, institutions, social conflicts, etc. Early anthropology originated in Classical Greece and Persia and studied and tried to understand observable cultural diversity. As such, anthropology has been central in the development of several new (late 20th century) interdisciplinary fields such as cognitive science, global studies, and various ethnic studies.
Archaeologists study human culture by analyzing the objects people have made. They carefully remove from the ground such things as pottery and tools, and they map the locations of houses, trash pits, and burials in order to learn about the daily lives of a people. They also analyze human bones and teeth to gain information on a people’s diet and the diseases they suffered. Archaeologists collect the remains of plants, animals, and soils from the places where people have lived in order to understand how people used and changed their natural environments. The time range for archaeological research begins with the earliest human ancestors millions of years ago and extends all the way up to the present day. Like other areas of anthropology, archaeologists are concerned with explaining differences and similarities in human societies across space and time.
Biological anthropologists seek to understand how humans adapt to different environments, what causes disease and early death, and how humans evolved from other animals. To do this, they study humans (living and dead), other primates such as monkeys and apes, and human ancestors (fossils). They are also interested in how biology and culture work together to shape our lives. They are interested in explaining the similarities and differences that are found among humans across the world. Through this work, biological anthropologists have shown that, while humans do vary in their biology and behavior, they are more similar to one another than different.
Sociocultural anthropologists explore how people in different places live and understand the world around them. They want to know what people think is important and the rules they make about how they should interact with one another. Even within one country or society, people may disagree about how they should speak, dress, eat, or treat others. Anthropologists want to listen to all voices and viewpoints in order to understand how societies vary and what they have in common. Sociocultural anthropologists often find that the best way to learn about diverse peoples and cultures is to spend time living among them. They try to understand the perspectives, practices, and social organization of other groups whose values and lifeways may be very different from their own. The knowledge they gain can enrich human understanding on a broader level.
Linguistic anthropologists study the many ways people communicate across the globe. They are interested in how language is linked to how we see the world and how we relate to each other. This can mean looking at how language works in all its different forms, and how it changes over time. It also means looking at what we believe about language and communication, and how we use language in our lives. This includes the ways we use language to build and share meaning, to form or change identities, and to make or change relations of power. For linguistic anthropologists, language and communication are keys to how we make society and culture.
Why study Anthropology ?
If you are interested in people – their history and the way they work – Anthropology might be the subject area for you. Reasons why it could be the perfect course include:
- You get to study the wonders of humankind Do you find people intriguing? By studying Anthropology you can compare humans with other species and explore what influences human behaviour.
- It’s a constantly evolving area The study of Anthropology is shaped by the past and present, and looks to the future. Changes to the way humans live occur every day, so there will forever be new discoveries. This makes it an exciting and fast-paced subject to study.
- There are opportunities to study abroad Many courses include the option to do a study year abroad. This allows you to experience a different culture, thus adding to your understanding of Anthropology across the world.
- There are many postgraduate options If you love studying and wish to continue after graduating,
- There are many job opportunities From public relations to charity work, there is an abundance of different professional roles that Anthropology graduates can pursue.
- You’ll gain lots of transferable skills Not only does Anthropology extensively inform and prepare you with a cultural understanding of the world that is important to the majority of professions, it also equips you with skills that can be applied in different environments. This includes communication, problem solving, presentation, coherent writing, effective reasoning – all which are highly valued by employers.
Anthropology graduates find jobs for a range of companies, including large multinationals such as Microsoft as well as universities and government agencies. Jobs related to an Anthropology degree include:
Anthropology Around the World
While anthropologists devote much of their attention to what human groups share across time and space, they also study how these groups are different. Just as there is diversity in the ways people physically adapt to their environment, build and organize societies, and communicate, there are also many ways to do anthropology. Unique approaches to anthropology developed in many countries around the world. For example, in some countries the four-field approach is not as strong as it is in others. Anthropologists from across the globe work together through international organizations to try and understand more about our lives as humans.
The World Council of Anthropology Associations is a network of international and national anthropology associations that aims to promote worldwide communication and cooperation in anthropology. To learn more about the work of the council, visit its website here: http://www.wcaanet.org/. You can also visit the list of member organizations to learn more about anthropology in different parts of the world: http://www.wcaanet.org/members.shtml