Anthropology is the study of people: how they behave, socialize, communicate, and understand the world. Etymologically, the word combines the Greek terms anthropolos (“human”) and logos (“thought” or “reason”) (Britannica), literally meaning the study of humankind. Often confused with archaeology, which studies human society in the past (and is considered a branch of anthropology in the USA), anthropologists are interested in contemporary human society and culture.
The distinct anthropological approach to the study of people is ripe with possibilities; by helping us see the familiar in the strange, and the strange in the familiar, anthropology furthers our understanding of ourselves and of others.
This perspective is made possible by the ethnographic method that distinguishes anthropology from other social science disciplines. In contrast with psychologists who focus on individuals and their character and behavior and sociologists who examine broader social systems, anthropologists are interested in the interactions between smaller groups of people. These interactions are studied via extensive fieldwork that involves spending long periods of time in intimate contact with the people understudy.
By seeking an in-depth understanding of what it means to be human, anthropology contributes to cross-cultural understanding, provides inspiration for social change, and helps build empathy across cultural divides.
- Social science
- Qualitative research
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Grosso, S. (2020). Possible in Anthropology. In: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-98390-5_50-1
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
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