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  • Anthropology portal

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Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans and is in contrast to social anthropology which perceives cultural variation as a subset of the anthropological constant.

A variety of methods are part of anthropological methodology, including participant observation (often called fieldwork because it involves the anthropologist spending an extended period of time at the research location), interviews, and surveys.<ref>"In his earlier work, like many anthropologists of this generation, Levi-Strauss draws attention to the necessary and urgent task of maintaining and extending the empirical foundations of anthropology in the practice of fieldwork.": In Christopher Johnson, Claude Levi-Strauss: the formative years, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p.31</ref>

One of the earliest articulations of the anthropological meaning of the term "culture" came from Sir Edward Tylor who writes on the first page of his 1897 book: "Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."<ref>Tylor, Edward. 1920 [1871]. Primitive Culture. Vol 1. New York: J.P. Putnam’s Sons.</ref> The term "civilization" later gave way to definitions by V. Gordon Childe, with culture forming an umbrella term and civilization becoming a particular kind of culture.<ref>Sherratt, Andrew V. "Gordon Childe: Archaeology and Intellectual History", Past and Present, No. 125.</ref>

The anthropological concept of "culture" reflects in part a reaction against earlier Western discourses based on an opposition between "culture" and "nature", according to which some human beings lived in a "state of nature".{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} Anthropologists have argued that culture is "human nature", and that all people have a capacity to classify experiences, encode classifications symbolically (i.e. in language), and teach such abstractions to others.

Since humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, people living in different places or different circumstances develop different cultures. Anthropologists have also pointed out that through culture people can adapt to their environment in non-genetic ways, so people living in different environments will often have different cultures. Much of anthropological theory has originated in an appreciation of and interest in the tension between the local (particular cultures) and the global (a universal human nature, or the web of connections between people in distinct places/circumstances).<ref>Giulio Angioni (2011). Fare dire sentire: l'identico e il diverso nelle culture. Nuoro: il Maestrale</ref>

The rise of cultural anthropology occurred within the context of the late 19th century, when questions regarding which cultures were "primitive" and which were "civilized" occupied the minds of not only Marx and Freud, but many others. Colonialism and its processes increasingly brought European thinkers in contact, directly or indirectly with "primitive others."<ref>Rosaldo, Renato. Culture and Truth. 1993. Beach Press.</ref> The relative status of various humans, some of whom had modern advanced technologies that included engines and telegraphs, while others lacked anything but face-to-face communication techniques and still lived a Paleolithic lifestyle, was of interest to the first generation of cultural anthropologists.

Parallel with the rise of cultural anthropology in the United States, social anthropology, in which sociality is the central concept and which focuses on the study of social statuses and roles, groups, institutions, and the relations among them—developed as an academic discipline in Britain and in France.<ref>Dianteill, Erwan, "Cultural Anthropology or Social Anthropology? A Transatlantic Dispute", L’Année sociologique 1/2012 (Vol. 62), p. 93-122.</ref> An umbrella term socio-cultural anthropology makes reference to both cultural and social anthropology traditions.<ref>Campbell, D.T. (1983) The two distinct routes beyond kin selection to ultrasociality: Implications for the Humanities and Social Sciences. In: The Nature of Prosocial Development: Theories and Strategies D. Bridgeman (ed.), pp. 11-39, Academic Press, New York</ref>


Cultural anthropology sections
Intro  Theoretical foundations   Foundational thinkers   Methods  See also  References  External links  

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