Anthropology /ænθrɵˈpɒlədʒi/ is the "science of humanity." It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos (ἄνθρωπος), "man", understood to mean humankind or humanity, and -logia (-λογία), "discourse" or "study." The essence of anthropology has been, since its tradition, cross-cultural comparison, and cultural relativism has become the canon of anthropological inquiry.

Anthropologists study topics including the origin and evolution of Homo sapiens, the organization of human social and cultural relations, human physical traits, human behavior, the variations among different groups of humans, how the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens has influenced its social organization and culture, and so forth.

Anthropology originated in the colonial encounter between Western people and colonized non-Western people, as Europeans tried to understand the origins of observable cultural diversity. Today anthropology is a global discipline, and anthropologists study all types of societies.

In the United States, where anthropology was first defined as a discipline, the field is traditionally divided into four sub-fields: cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology. In Europe, the discipline originated as ethnology and was originally defined as the study of social organization in non-state societies, later redefined as social anthropology. Socio-cultural anthropology is considered anthropology proper in most of Europe, and in the parts of the world that were influenced by the European tradition.

Sociocultural anthropology has been heavily influenced by structuralist and postmodern theories, as well as a shift toward the analysis of modern societies. During the 1970s and 1990s, there was an epistemological shift away from the positivist traditions that had largely informed the discipline. During this shift, enduring questions about the nature and production of knowledge came to occupy a central place in cultural and social anthropology. In contrast, archaeology and biological anthropology remained largely positivist. Due to this difference in epistemology, anthropology as a discipline has lacked cohesion over the last several decades.

Read more about Anthropology:  Etymology, Subfields, Basic Trends, Anthropological Organizations, Post–World War II, Controversies About Its History

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Famous quotes containing the word anthropology:

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