This edition: Essence of Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of human beings, but to phrase the definition in these simple terms is to diminish the grand scope of this discipline overall. Anthropology delves deeply into every aspect of humankind, from its beginnings millions of years ago to the present day. Its subject matter ranges from the exotic to the ordinary, from faraway tribes to the structure of the human foot. This lesson explains the four fields of anthropology, defines the concept of holism, and describes how anthropologists approach their subject matter from a holistic and comparative cross-cultural perspective in order to reach the broadest, most inclusive conclusions possible on their subject of interest. Each field – cultural, physical (biological), linguistic anthropology, and archaeology – is described, and situational material is included to illustrate how each field functions and interconnects with the others. Subfields to the four major fields, such as forensics and paleoanthropology, are introduced and discussed, and the concept that humans are biocultural beings because of the simultaneous adaptations of our biology with culture is illustrated. The lesson also introduces the student to the way anthropologists carry out their analyses through rigorous fieldwork and participant observation in order to create the ethnographies that describe humans cross-culturally. Applied anthropology, sometimes referred to as the fifth subfield of anthropology, is introduced.