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Anthropology as a study discipline

What is Anthropology? What colleges / universities teaches in Anthropology as a subject. Here is an overview.

Anthropology is the organized study of social values and culture. In Anthropology we study language, beliefs, kinships, economic mechanisms, tools and techniques, traditions, values, social institutions, cravings for beauty and art, efforts for status. Anthropology defines impact of humans on humans, it emphasizes on human characteristics brought by humans themselves. Physical Anthropology is an exception to this; under Physical Anthropology discipline we study anatomy and biology – race, gender, adaptation. Physical Anthropology describes physical developments of humans over the centuries.
Anthropology is a science of humankind. It studies all facets of society and culture. With the exception of the Physical Anthropology discipline, Anthropology as a whole focuses on human characteristics generated and propagated by humans themselves. Anthropology has four sub streams of study, 1. Physical Anthropology,  2. Linguistics, 3. Ethnology, and 4. Applied Anthropology. Physical Anthropology is already defined above. Below we have a sneak peak on other three.

Linguistics- In this discipline of Anthropology we study the make up of languages and historic relationships. For details about languages click here. Link to Language and Linguistics folder.

Ethnology- In this discipline human culture better say the evolution of human culture in a historic and comparative relevance studied. 

Applied Anthropology – Under this branch of study we take in use Anthropology know-how to tackle modern human problems, like technological innovations, public health schemes, or economic development patterns. Applied Physical Anthropology a sub branch of Applied Anthropology is helpful in design of airplanes and warplanes.

Like many other areas of study Anthropology has a beginning too. Here we will have a look on development of Anthropology from ancient times to modern days when its one of the most sought after discipline in academia. 

Greek Historians Herodotous germinated the seed of Anthropology in 400 BC; he was the first thinker to write about the human nature and organization of human society. The thought of Herodotus later become central to Anthropology. In the book History he described the culture of Persian Empire. 

The Ibn Khaldun an Arab writer who lived in 14 century AD was another early thinker and writer to fuel the Anthropology. 

Both Herodotus and Khaldun generated significant objective, analytic, ethnographic descriptions of the diverse cultures in the Mediterranean. 

From 5th century AD to 15 century AD biblical scholars escalated the ideas that all human diversity were the gifts of God.
Early 15th century European explorers in the quest of wealth in new lands supplied information about diverse human cultures prevailing in Asia, Africa and Americas. The observations of these explorers were incomplete as they were ineligible to understand the languages of people living in different geographies.

With the shining of European era in 17th and 18th centuries scientific and rational philosophical thoughts were developed. Many of the thinkers produced numerous humanistic work on the nature of humankind some of the well renowned were Scottish David Hume, English John Locke, and French Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These thinkers based their work on philosophical thoughts and raised several questions of anthropological nature.

Newest interests in organized cultural studies created in the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of imperialism when European come into contact with other people in the world. Imperialist nations like Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, France, and England extended their political and economic control to regions in the Pacific, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Modern Anthropology brought into being in 19th century with the development and scientific acceptance of theories of biological and cultural evolution.

In India, Anthropology is at its best. With the formal start in 1784 from set up of Asiatic Society of Bengal Anthropology has grown manifold in past two centuries. Anthropologists like S C Roy, L P Vidyarthi, M N Srinivas etc. has done remarkable work in the Indian Chapter of Anthropology.

Indian Anthropological Association is the delegate body of the professional anthropologists in India. This association was envisaged way back in 1964 at Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh when All India Summer School was organized by the Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi by the then Head Late Prof. P. C. Biswas. In 1969 when it was registered under the Societies Registration Act with Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi as its National Headquarter.

In academic settings Anthropology taught from college level onwards. Some universities offer it through Faculty of Humanities and some through Faculty of Sciences and some through both. Student acquires degrees like Bachelor in Arts, Bachelor in Sciences and Postgraduate degrees etc in Anthropology. At undergraduate level both General and Honors courses are offered.


A person who studies anthropology called anthropologist. Both government and private agencies seek services of Expert Anthropologists. Here follows a list of some world renowned Anthropologists other than from India.

    *  Ruth Benedict
    * Wilhelm Bleek
    * Franz Boas
    * Pere Bosch-Gimpera
    * Paul Pierre Broca
    * Joseph Campbell
    * Napoléon Chagnon
    * Noam Chomsky
    * Raymond Dart
    * Eugene Dubois
    * Mircea Eliade
    * E. E. Evans-Pritchard
    * Dian Fossey
    * James Frazer
    * Clifford Geertz
    * Jane Goodall
    * Hilma Granqvist
    * Jakob Grimm
    * Grover Krantz
    * Charles H. Kraft
    * Alfred L. Kroeber
    * William Labov
    * George Lakoff
    * Louis Leakey
    * Mary Leakey
    * Richard Leakey
    * Claude Lévi-Strauss
    * Bronislaw Malinowski
    * Margaret Mead
    * James Mooney
    * Lewis H. Morgan
    * George Murdock
    * Raoul Naroll
    * Bronislav Pilsudski
    * Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown
    * Marshall Sahlins
    * Edward Sapir
    * Edward Burnett Tylor
    * Colin Turnbull
    * Karl Verner
    * Benjamin Whorf
    * Clark Wissler
    * Eric Wolf

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