An Invitation to Anthropology: The Structure, Evolution, and Cultural Identity of Human Societies

An Invitation to Anthropology: The Structure, Evolution, and Cultural Identity of Human Societies

An Invitation to Anthropology: The Structure, Evolution, and Cultural Identity of Human Societies

An Invitation to Anthropology: The Structure, Evolution, and Cultural Identity of Human Societies

Synopsis

Synthesizing British, French and American traditions, this stimulating and accessible text presents a comprehensive and fascinating introduction to social and cultural anthropology. It offers an original approach through integrating knowledge produced from a variety of perspectives, placing cultural and social anthropology in a wider context including macro-sociological concepts and reference to biological evolution. Written in a clear and concise style, it conveys to the student the complexities of a discipline focusing on the structure, evolution and cultural identity of human societies up to the present day.

The text consists of four major parts: the scope and method of anthropology, a conceptual and institutional overview, the evolution of the structure of human societies, and the cultural politics of race, ethnicity, nationalism and multiculturalism.

Excerpt

This is an introductory course to social anthropology, which has a long pedigree in the United Kingdom and in the United States (where it is called cultural anthropology). Social anthropology is part of a wider, more generalising endeavour called anthropology.

While in the past social anthropology had a clearly defined object of study - it dealt mostly with so called 'primitive' societies by means of fieldwork - at present the lines are much more blurred. If social anthro- pologists are no longer confined to the study of exotic societies, presently they have to compete with other social scientists, mostly sociologists, in these pursuits. In so far as they look at the past, and that happens now regularly, social anthropologists share the same reality as historians.

Since the 1970's the scope of social anthropology has been widening, taking on areas which lie within, the avowed general objective of anthro- pology: the study of humanity past and present. The shock of the end of the colonial order, in which social anthropology had tended to operate for the study of exotic peoples, forced a re-orientation of the subject matter. Social anthropologists began to take an interest not only in small-scale, simple, alien societies, but also in the world of modernity. A list of topics, taken by chance from a recent edited book, varies from anthropology and the contemporary world, to Aids, gender, tourism, ethnic cleansing, cultural imperialism, the future of ethnography, and a discussion on whether or not there should be an applied anthropology.

Social anthropologists are, then, present in all areas of cultural and social life, offering a special perspective which stems from their fieldwork experience; that is, from their first-hand knowledge of a community, whether a small village in the Amazon or the European Commission in Brussels. When they generalise, they join different theoretical traditions in sociology, psychology and biology.

This course consists of four modules: the scope and method of anthropology, a conceptual and institutional overview, the evolution and structure of human societies and the politics of cultural identity. There is also an 'Epilogue' dealing with important current issues.

Module 1 is about basic definitions, and concepts. It establishes the scientific framework within which social anthropology develops its activities.

Module 2 presents a conceptual and institutional overview as seen by social anthropology.

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