Ways of Living, Ways of Seeing: An introduction to Social Anthropology
1. What is the etymological root of the word ‘Anthropology’? What does the word ‘Anthropology’ literally mean?
The etymological root of the word ‘Anthropology’ is an amalgam of two Greek words, ‘anthropos’ and ‘logos’, which can be translated as ‘human’ and ‘reason’. Thus anthropology means ‘reason about humans’ or ‘knowledge about humans’. The literal definition of Anthropology is the comparative study of cultural and social life. Its distinctive character is the analysis of a full range of human societies in time and space. Anthropologists are interested both in the elements that unite all Homo sapiens, and in the extraordinary diversity of human behaviour. It has a worldwide focus in that it does not separate out one region, or one kind of society, as being more significant than others. Anthropologists strive to maintain objectivity and value freedom in their work. They aim to keep personal beliefs and background out of their research and avoid ethnocentric judgements.
2. How do Anthropologists define culture?
The word culture originates from the Latin ‘colere’, which means to cultivate. Cultural anthropology thus means ‘knowledge about cultivated humans’; that is, knowledge about those aspects of humanity which are not natural, but which are related to that which is acquired.
The term "culture" was originally adapted for anthropological use by Adolf Bastian. Since then, the definition of culture has varied dramatically from one anthropologist to the next. Edward B. Tylor’s definition of ‘culture’ has often been perceived as the classical annotation. "Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." (Tylor 1958 : 1)
However, there have been numerous endeavours at narrowing down Tylor’s definition...