Anthropology is a discipline of the social sciences, also called “sciences of the spirit” or humanities. They differ from natural sciences by their object and method of study, as well as by their notion of reality.
The natural sciences are based on the scientific method to produce knowledge of the reality that they consider the object to know, explain and unveil their becoming through laws; in which experimentation and verification is the main resource they use to demonstrate their research hypotheses.
On the contrary, the object of study of anthropology is social subjects that in space and time carry out practices that build symbolic worlds that will be understood and interpreted by anthropological disciplines, such as social anthropology, linguistics, archeology, etc.
Although it was born as a colonial human discipline that studied the peoples named by the West as “primitive”, today it is interested in all types of society, because of this it is a complete and complex human discipline.
For anthropology, the reality is a social construction manufactured by historical subjects, it is never always objective subjective, so there are many realities elaborated by subjects, groups, and classes. So ontologically, anthropology is an interpretive discipline because it thinks that the world to be known is the one represented by the subjects.
Epistemologically, anthropology seeks the meanings of social practices only by understanding the subject that investigates it. And, the subject is contemporary and establish a social relationship so that the knowledge should bear it from intersubjectivity between an asymmetric and non-unequal situation.
Methodologically, the anthropologist requires fieldwork, get involved in the place where social practices happen, stay long or short seasons where study subjects live to understand the meanings assigned to their lives; the knowledge always emerges from the empirical reality it experiences in the research place, which is why it is an inductive discipline that mainly uses qualitative social research techniques such as in-depth interviews.
Fieldwork remains its distinction, whether located or multisituated, it is more a heuristic resource and less a technique, so “being there” is a necessary condition for the production of anthropological knowledge. What does the anthropologist do? Forge ethnographies? Ethnography is a method, approach, and writing (Guber, 2011). Ethnography is an effort of thought.
What Does Anthropology Study?
It is a developmental process of the human species, as well as the life and health conditions of past and current populations through osteological and somatological studies, information that complements when considering social, cultural and behavioral aspects. It takes into account the variability derived from the genetic load and the interaction with the environment.
Archeology is also an anthropological subdiscipline that studies extinct societies through their material remains, however the evolution of this also raises the study of contemporary societies for their materiality.
It should be noted that due to the interest of the Mexican State in the pre-Hispanic past to consolidate its national project, it dedicated many economic resources to archaeological exploration.
Anthropology is much more than archeology; In Mexico, the degrees in ethnohistory, linguistics and social anthropology are also taught, all of them anthropological sciences. For example, social anthropology is taught in about thirty institutions of higher education concentrated mainly in the central and southeastern Mexico, one of them located in Puebla. It is highly demanded by students and studies according to the curriculum of the ENAH:
The most common research topics have to do with ecological adaptations, sociocultural changes, norms and values, religious beliefs, worldview, mythology, magic, art, and so on. But all this information would be meaningless if it were not related to one purpose: study human diversity, explain similarities and differences, change and continuity in the different socio-cultural systems.
So, anthropology is a social discipline that studies man holistically in its diversity. It is interested in power, religion, kinship, myths, migration, crafts and other practices, beliefs of subjects, groups, and societies established in a specific space and time.
Thus, and in a simple way, We affirm that anthropology studies the sociocultural dimension of everything produced by situated subjects, that is why it is an integral and arduous discipline that differs from others because of its epistemological conception and technical procedures that it has traditionally used, although not today few human sciences have resorted to their methodology of canon.
In sum, the native anthropology of the humanities and/or social sciences emerges as the discipline of human diversity. It contributes ethnographically to the understanding of the plurality of social practices, carried out by all kinds of historically determined subjects.
Anthropology is one of the social sciences that most favors the understanding of human expression on the planet, in its linguistic, religious, political, economic, aesthetic, cosmogonic, etc.
Branches of Anthropology
We can also distinguish other branches, which are part of the Current Anthropology, for example:
- Philosophical Anthropology. It is a branch of philosophy, mainly of German orientation, which deals with ontological uncertainties. The centrality of this study lies in the inquiry into the existence of man, in relation to his past, present, and future.
- Economic Anthropology. They are points of view of the human being in relation to the social processes and effects of capitalist economic activity. The modern market is the main framework that has been globalized and conditions the human being pressuring him from the social externality.
- Forensic Anthropology. It specializes in aspects of human bone, in relation to biological and historical science, understanding the condition of the skeleton according to the marks and causes of his death. It works in conjunction with criminology specialists and forensic doctors.
- Genetic Anthropology. It is notable for the technical study of human evolution, compared to the rest of the species, pointing out molecular studies.