What is Social Anthropology?

Social anthropology is very alike to cultural anthropology with the difference that it includes customs, economic and political organization, gender relations, socialization, and religion. Some of the specializations on social anthropology are medicine anthropology and musicology.

History of the science

” Social anthropology has historical roots in a number of 19th-century disciplines, including ethnology, folklore studies, and Classics, among others. (See History of anthropology.) Its immediate precursor took shape in the work of Edward Burnett Tylor and James George Frazer in 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. Bronislaw Malinowski, one of the most important influences on British social anthropology, emphasized long-term fieldwork in which anthropologists work in the vernacular and immerse themselves in the daily practices of local people. This development was bolstered by Franz Boas’s introduction of cultural relativism arguing that cultures are based on different ideas about the world and can therefore only be properly understood in terms of their own standards and values.

Museums such as the British Museum weren’t the only site of anthropological studies: with the New Imperialism period, starting in the 1870s, zoos became unattended “laboratories”, especially the so-called “ethnological exhibitions” or “Negro villages”. Thus, “savages” from the colonies were displayed, often nudes, in cages, in what has been called “human zoos”. For example, in 1906, Congolese pygmy Ota Benga was put by anthropologist Madison Grant in a cage in the Bronx Zoo, labelled “the missing link” between an orangutan and the “white race” — Grant, a renowned eugenicist, was also the author of The Passing of the Great Race (1916). Such exhibitions were attempts to illustrate and prove in the same movement the validity of scientific racism, which the first formulation may be found in Arthur de Gobineau’s An Essay on the Inequality of Human Races (1853–55). In 1931, the Colonial Exhibition in Paris still displayed Kanaks from New Caledonia in the “indigenous village”; it received 24 million visitors in six months, thus demonstrating the popularity of such “human zoos”.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_anthropology

Leave a Reply