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Anthropology and its relationship with other academic fields

One of the main differences between anthropology and other fields that study people is holism, anthropology’s unique blend (mixture) of biology, social, cultural, linguistic, historical and contemporary perspectives. Paradoxically, while distinguishing anthropology, this breadth is what also links to many other disciplines. Anthropology is both scientific and humanistic:

A) Sciences: Anthropology is the science of human similarities and differences which aims to produce reliable explanation of phenomena with reference to the material and physical world, through experiment, observation, and deduction. Therefore, Anthropology provides a scientific basis for dealing with the crucial dilemma of the real world. Anthropology is related to both natural sciences (e.g., biology) and social sciences (e.g., sociology).



Initially sociologists focused on the industrial west; anthropologists on nonindustrial societies.Different methods on data collection and analysis emerged to deal with these different kinds of societies.

Political Science:


Political science developed to investigate particular domains of human behavior (not holistic).  Political scientists and economists have tended to work mainly in modern nations. In the small-scale societies where ethnography grew up, economics and politics usually don’t stand out as distinct activities amenable to separate analysis, as they do in a modern society.



Most psychologists do research in their own society. Anthropology contributes by providing cross-cultural data since statements about “human” psychology cannot be based solely on observations made in one society or in a single type of society.



Economics developed to investigate particular domains of human behavior (not holistic).

The findings of Economists are usually based on research in western nations – where profit maximization is the basic motive about decisions of economic transactions. But an anthropologist have clearly knows that motivations vary cross-culturally.

B) Humanities: Anthropology has strong links to the humanities. The humanities include English, comparative literature, classics, folklore, philosophy and the arts. These fields study languages, texts, philosophies, arts, music, performances, and other forms of creative expression. In particular, cultural and linguistic anthropology bring a comparative and nonelitist perspective to these forms of creative expression. Also, historians are closely related to anthropologists.

The Humanities:


Traditionally, the humanities focused on “high-brow” “fine-arts”, knowledge of which was basic to a “Cultured” person. Anthropology has extended the definition of “Cultured” beyond the elitist meaning of cultivated, sophisticated, college educated, proper and tasteful. For anthropologists, culture is not confined to elites or to any single social segment. Everyone acquires culture through enculturation. All creative expressions are of potential interest as cultural products and documents.



Historians increasingly interpret historical documents and accounts as texts requiring placement and interpretation within specific cultural contexts.  Enculturation is the social process by which culture is learned and transmitted across the generation.  Despite the traditional contrasts, interdisciplinary collaboration is a trademark of contemporary academic life, with ready borrowing of ideas and methods between disciplines. This is especially true for anthropology because of its breadth and topical diversity.

Original Author: Benny Full Bio

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