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I.1.3.1 Branch of Anthropology, their scope and relevance: (a) Social- cultural Anthropology.

Socio-cultural anthropology is also known as social anthropology or cultural anthropology. It is a the  discipline which concerns itself with the comparative study of culture and society. Socio- cultural anthropology, concerns itself with the cultural diversity of humans and their societies in time and space. It originated as a result and in response to colonialism to a large extent. It helps in understanding  lifestyle and society in a critical and analytical manner.

The field is associated with the study of economy, polity, religion, marriage, family, kinship of primitive as well as other cultural groups.

History and Development

  • The beginnings of socio-cultural anthropology cab be traced to the Greek scholar, Herodotus who provides us with a detailed account of ancient conventions, practices, natural habitats, political scenario etc. of various cultures and their conflicts in his book, The Historica. He is recognised as the “father of anthropology”.
  • The systematic study of the Anthropology began with the formation of colonies by the Europeans and their studies of these cultures.
  • The development of social anthropology started by Sir Edward B. Tylor with his unilineal evolution theory based on Darwin’s natural selection. Tylor postulated that religion evolved from animism to polytheism to monotheism.
  • Morgan gave evolutionary model of humans ie the stages of savagery, barbarism and civilization.
  • American, British and German school like Schimdt, W.J. Perry, Robert Lowie, Franz Boas, Clark Wissler, A.L. Kroeber, etc.of Diffusionists propounded that human beings were by nature generally uninventive. A culture having grown in a particular area spreads to other areas by diffusion, migration, infusion and borrowing.
  • Franz Boaz gave historical particularism and stated that humans and their societies are to be studied by conducting extensive fieldwork, by living with the group studied.  He emphasized cultural relativism.

The field includes

  • field research – fieldwork,
  • magico-religious concerns ,
  • linguistic, symbolic cognitive anthropology
  • concerns related to women, class and power structure, caste, employment, migration, urbanisation, marxism, feminism, post-modernism, post-colonialism, structuralism, post-structuralism
  • impact of globalisation, transnationalism, multiculturalism on cultures and diaspora studies
  • Gender studies , the role of women in society
  • newer sub-areas like studies of sexuality involving lesbian, gay and transgender
  • Concerns related to human rights
  • other domains like the corporate sector, public-health sector, cinema, social work etc.
  1. Brownislaw Malinowski
  2. A.R. Radcliffe-Brown
  3. Margaret Mead,
  4. Ruth Benedict,
  5. Cora du Bois,
  6. Ralph Linton,
  7. A. Kardiner,
  8. Julian H. Steward
  9. Leslie A. White
  10. V. Gordon Childe
  11. Claude Levi- Strauss.
  12. Emile Durkheim,
  13. Victor W. Turner,
  14. Mary Douglas
  15. Clifford Geertz
  16. Jacques Derrida
  17. Michel Foucault
  18. Jacques Lacan
  19. Simone de Beauvoir
  20. Jean-Paul Sartre

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