Anthropology
Anthropology
may be dissected into four main perspectives, firstly physical or biological
anthropology, which is an area of study concerned with human evolution and human
adaptation. Its main components are human paleontology, the study of our fossil
records, and human genetics, which examines the ways in which human beings
differ from each other. Also adopted are aspects of human ecology, ethnology,
demography, nutrition, and environmental physiology. From the physical
anthropologist we learn the capabilities for bearing culture that distinguish us
from other species. Secondly archaeology, which follows from physical
anthropology, reassembles the evolution of culture by examining the physical
remains of past societies. Its difference from physical anthropology being its
concern with culture rather than the biological aspects off the human species.

Archaeologists must assess and analyse their subject culture from accidental
remains, which can only provide an incomplete picture. Thirdly, Anthropological
linguistics is a field within anthropology which focuses upon the relationship
between language and cultural behaviour. Anthropological linguists ask questions
about language and communication to aid the appraisement of society rather than
a descriptive or linguistic assessment. For example Freil and Pfeiffer (1977)
cite an assessment of the Inuit language where there are twelve unrelated words
for wind and twenty-two for snow, showing the difference in significance by
comparison with our own society. The deduction being that wind and snow are more
significant to the Inuit so they scrutinise them more rigorously and can clearly
define them accordingly. This kind of linguistic analysis facilitates a better
understanding of a foreign culture to help place it into context to allow
contrast. Fourthly, social anthropology is the study of human social life or
society, concerned with examining social behavior and social relationships. As
the focus of social anthropology is on patterns of social connection, it is
commonly contrasted with the branch of anthropology that examines culture, that
is, learnt and inherited beliefs and standards of behavior and in particular the
meanings, values and codes of conduct. Cultural anthropology (the study of
culture in its social context) is associated particularly with American
anthropology (specifically, in the United States), and social anthropology with

European, especially British studies, which have tended to be more sociological,
that is, they are more concerned with understanding society. However, culture
and society are interdependent, and today the single term "sociocultural
anthropology" is sometimes used. The social anthropologist uses a number of
cultural ethnographic studies to construct an ethnological study. A social
anthropological definition of culture is given by J.P.Spenley in \'The

Ethnographic Interview\' (1979), culture is "the acquired knowledge that
people use to interpret, experience and generate social behaviour". By this
interpretation culture is not the physical characteristics of any society but
the reasoning behind those characteristics, it is a body of implicit and
explicit knowledge shared by a group of people. It is used by people
individually as a map to determine their behaviour in any given situation.

Spendley\'s definition does not divert from the significance of behaviour,
customs, objects or emotions, these are essential tools for the anthropologist
which allow the interpretation of culture to facilitate the tracking down of
cultural meaning. Ethnographic study is a search to uncover this meaning which
is the root cause of cultural differences and can therefore be seen as the
definition of any culture. There has been considerable theoretical debate by
anthropologists over the most useful attributes that a technical concept of
culture should stress. For example, in 1952 Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn,

American anthropologists, published a list of 160 different definitions of
culture. A brief table of this list next page, shows the diversity of the
anthropological concept of culture. TABLE: Diverse Definitions of Culture:

Topical: Culture consists of everything on a list of topics, or categories, such
as social organization, religion, or economy Historical: Culture is social
heritage, or tradition, that is passed on to future generations Behavioral:

Culture is shared, learned human behavior, a way of life Normative: Culture is
ideals, values, or rules for living Functional: Culture is the way humans solve
problems of adapting to the environment or living together Mental: Culture is a
complex of ideas, or learned habits, that inhibit impulses and distinguish
people from animals Structural: Culture consists of patterned and interrelated
ideas, symbols, or behaviors Symbolic: Culture is based on arbitrarily assigned
meanings that are shared by a society. (John H. Bodley, An Anthropological

Perspective 1994) We tend not to be aware of our cultural meaning expressed
through our cultural norms, we tend to accept as correct our cultural
definitions unless confronted by cultural difference, as Anthony P. Cohen is
quoted in Small Places, Big Issues, "People become aware of their culture
when they stand at its boundaries: when they