Social Anthropology

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cultural anthropology
knowledge about those aspects of humanity which are not natural, but which are related to that which is acquired
culture
abilities, notions, and forms of behavior persons have acquired as members of society
structural-functionalism
all societies operate according to the same general principles
transactionalism
the logic of human action is the same everywhere
materialist approaches
culture and society are determined by ecological and/or technological factors
ethnocentrism
evaluating other people from one's own vantage-point and describing them in one's own terms
participant observation
a method used by anthropologists to learn about a people and their activities by observing at the same time as participating in their lives
fieldwork
carrying out practical investigations necessary to a particular study chosen by an anthropologists
indigenous people
a term adopted collectively by those, also called aboriginal or first nations, whose territories have become subsumed into nations built around them, and who are seeking various "rights" through international bodies like the United Nations
informants
the word used for members of the society under study by anthropologists
collaborators
a term used recently in anthropology to describe those with whom we work, who collaborate in our research, to replace the less equal-sounding term informant
translation
for anthropologist, this practice involves much more than finding an equivalent word in a different language; gaining an understanding behind the meaning of words and phrases, is an important part of anthropological work
ethnography
literally, writings about a particular "ethnic" group of people, the descriptive part of what anthropologists provide in their reports of fieldwork. The term is also used in other disciplines to describe research methods that resemble those of anthropologists
applied anthropology
using knowledge gained through the academic study of anthropology out in the public arena, usually to the benefit of people there
polytheism
a belief system that holds that there are multiple gods
monotheism
a belief system that holds that there is only one God
functionalism
a world used to describe theories that explain social behaviour in terms of the way it appears to respond to the needs of members, of that society, as advocated by Bronislaw Malinowski and his followers
structural functionalism
a theory of explanation of social behavior which examines the way that components of a particular society functioned to maintain the social structure. It was developed by Radcliffe-Brown and applied for a while by his followers
social structure
a way of describing the make-up of time features of a society in order to devise general theories that could be applied to specific cases, but also allow cross-cultural comparison
cultural relativism
a term devised by Franz Boas to explain that as cultures are based on different ideas about the world, they can only be properly understood in terms of their own standards and values. the phrase has been misunderstood to dent human universals, and to suggest that cultures cannot change.
social facts
the proper materials, which, "exist outside the individual and exercise constraint", to be collected by sociologists and anthropologists, as advocated by Emile Durkheim.
structuralism
a method, originally developed in linguistics, of analysing elements of social phenomena for their meaning in displaying the framework of society as a set of structural relations which express a universal human capacity to classify and construct such systems of thought
doubly marginal
suspended between one's own society and the society under investigation
symbol
a thing regarded as typifying, representing or recalling something else by possession of analogous qualities or by association in fact or in thought. Are particularly significant in the interpretation of rituals, but also as the visible features of invisible aspects of social organization
public symbols
are those shared by members of a particular social group, usually meaningful to all members of that group, though possibly in different ways
witchcraft
ideas about psychic powers thought to be held by certain people, and the associated practices held to harness them, or sometime to oppose them
sorcery
ideas about the use of medicines and other occult powers, usually for evil ends, and the ways in which these are passed on from one practitioner to another
wizardry
beliefs which people have about the capabilities and activities of others and the action which they take to avoid attacks or to counter them when they believe they have occurred
spirit possession
an engagement with the spirit world distinguished from others as largely involuntary , though some interpret possession as invited-either way, a spirit is thought to express itself through a human being, causing the latter to engage in extraordinary behavior
shaman
a person thought to have the power to communicate with the spirit world, perhaps by traveling there or receiving a spirit into his or her body, and also sometimes to influence and control the activities of those spirits
diviner
a person thought to have powers to explain the past, anticipate the future and to advise about related decisions, such as causes of illness, marriage partners and travel plans
spirit mediumship
an engagement with the spirit world where communication is thought to be voluntary so that the medium makes deliberate efforts to call spirits into the presence of gathered company, although he/she may have limited control
syncretism
the coexistence of cosmological systems which can still be identified as distinct, although in practice may become quite intermingled
cosmology
broad ideas and explanations that people have about the world in which they live and heir place in that world
animism
the attribution of souls or a spiritual existence to animals, plants and other natural objects, such as mountains and rocks, thought by early anthropologists to be an early stage of religion, a theory now shown to have no supporting evidence
totemism
a term used by Emile Durkheim to describe what he thought was the earliest form of religion, which brought together the worship of ancestors with the notion of a totem to represent the clan to which they belonged
mythology
a term used by anthropologists to describe the study of myths, bodies of stories held by a people about themselves and their origins, described by Malinowski as a codification of belief, which acted as a charter for ritual, justifying rites, ceremonies and social and moral rules
soteriology
a term used to refer to ideas about salvation in any particular system of cosmology, notably in the religious traditions that are based on written scriptures, where they form part of a broad moral system
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