Introduction To Anthropology


The purpose of the article, Introduction to anthropology, is to provide a superficial description of anthropology so one can understand its concept.

Anthropology is derived from two Greek words-

‘Anthropos which means human being or mankind and

logos’ means study or science.

Anthropology is the science of human beings. It is the holistic study of man or the study of man in totality. Here, complete or holistic study means the study of man in his all aspects i.e. biological and cultural aspect of man.

Anthropology (Photo: stock unlimited)

In total, man has two things-

  1. Body or biological aspect
  2. culture

Culture is a man-made part of the environment. It can be divided into two parts-

  1. Material culture
  2. Non-material culture

Material culture is that part of a culture that can be seen by the eyes. For eg. chair, table, pen etc.

Non-material culture includes those things which cannot be seen through our eyes. It can only be felt. For eg. education, feelings, belief, rituals etc.

So in short, Anthropology is that subject that on one side deals with the biological part of man i.e. its body and on another side it explains the cultural part of man. Thus Anthropology can be divided into two parts-

  1. Socio-Cultural Anthropology
  2. Physical/ Biological Anthropology

Anthropology especially focuses on the study of traditional or folk societies.

(Society of the whole world can be divided into two types-

  1. Traditional/ Simple / Rural
  2. Complex/ Modern/ Urban

NOTE- Division is completely based on technology.

Simple societies can be divided into two categories-

  1. Tribal
  2. Non-tribal/ Peasant

NOTE- Technical name for simple society is Folk society).

Anthropology includes the study of-

  • The origin of humans
  • The evolutionary development of humans
  • Human physical, bio-chemical and cultural variations
  • The material possessions and cultural heritage of humans

Features of Anthropology

  1. It has a broad scope that includes people as their subject matter in different aspects. People may be living or dead, primitive or civilised.
  2. It has unique approaches i.e. Holistic and Relativistic. Holistic means complete study of man. Relativistic means it does not make value judgement i.e. declaring that ‘this belief or practice is good or bad”
  3. It is comparative in nature i.e. comparison is made between present and past, modern and traditional etc.
  4. Its emphasis on insiders views i.e. the focus is mainly on those who were experiencing that practice or belief. This is known as the Emic perspective.
  5. It has Microfocus i.e. small sealed in its social organisation, economic and political structure and tends to be homogeneous in its overall character.
  6. It includes extended fieldwork, group discussion, participant observation, in-depth and key informant interviews as their main methods of research.   

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