Anthropology: Scope, Aim, Branches and Research Method in Anthropology

Scope of Anthropology

  • The Scope of Anthropology is universal.
  • It attempts to understand humankind in its totality.
  • It not only describes and studies but also synthesizes the biological, cultural, and social aspects of humankind in space and time in a holistic way. In fact, “wholism” is the hallmark of Anthropology.
  • Anthropology was established in the halls of the academy in 1884 at Oxford University. Later, it acquired a position at Clarke University. Subsequently, it honored a place in several universities in different countries. E.B. Tylor, a British Anthropologist is considered the “Father of Modern Anthropology”.

Also read: What is Anthropology? Relation of Anthropology with Sociology and Psychology

Aims of Anthropology

  • Aims of Anthropology:- The aim of Anthropology is inextricably intertwined with the holistic threads of different aspects of humankind. They tried to understand:
    1. Meaning, nature, origin, and destiny of human beings
    2. Difference between man and other animal species.
    3. How did mankind arrive at the present stage of biological, intellectual, and cultural development?
    4. What makes us human?
    5. How humans maintain biological, cultural, and social unity despite biological, social, and cultural diversity?
    6. How human behavior is governed by certain universal, general, and specific regularities in all places at all times?
  • All these aims visualize the totality of humankind in a comparative holistic way.

What are the four branches of Anthropology?

  • As indicated earlier, the interests and subject-matter of anthropology are wide-ranging. General anthropology investigates the basics of human biology, society, cultures and considers their interrelationships.
  • Anthropology has apportioned its subject matter among 4 principle branches viz.

Six research methods in Anthropology

  • All these branches while dealing with all aspect of human life in a compact way utilize the following 6 research methods:
    1. Holistic approach – makes anthropology a “whole science”- studies all aspects of humankind.  
    2. Comparative approach – systematic comparison of human biology, of culture and of society in space and time
    3. Systems and process –  to show how the internal dynamics of biological, cultural, and social systems and their interactional process among all these systems.
    4. Emic (viewpoint of people) and etic (viewpoint of scientists) method – to gain a non-judgemental picture (unbiased) of the biological, cultural, and social life of humankind. Emic means understanding culture from the cultural group perspective, whereas, Etic means understanding culture from outsiders perspective.
    5. Case study approach (illustration) – in-depth studies of specific individuals, groups, communities, events, or even the whole societies in specific instances.
    6. Fieldwork work perspective – helps to gain direct evidence
  • Thus, all branches utilize these perspectives in order to provide complete information on each and every aspect of humankind.

Conclude:

The scope of Anthropology is so vast that it studies any and every aspect of humans.  Everything under sun is grist to the mill of Anthropology. Kenneth E. Boulding depicted  this in one of his limericks as follows:

“The cast scope of man is what Anthropologist scan,

The net that they take is as big as the lake,

So let the fish escape if it can”.

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