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Anthropology and Culture: Anthropology Basics

Areas of Anthropology

According to the American Anthropological Association, anthropologists in the United States have been traditionally concentrated in one of four areas:

  • Sociocultural anthropology-  Sociocultural anthropologists examine social patterns and practices across cultures, with a special interest in how people live in particular places and how they organize, govern, and create meaning.

  • Biological/physical anthropology-  Biological anthropologists seek to understand how humans adapt to diverse environments, how biological and cultural processes work together to shape growth, development and behavior, and what causes disease and early death. In addition, they are interested in human biological origins, evolution and variation.

  • Archaeology-  Archaeologists study past peoples and cultures, from the deepest prehistory to the recent past, through the analysis of material remains, ranging from artifacts and evidence of past environments to architecture and landscapes.

  • Linguistics or Linguistic Anthropology-   Linguistic anthropology is the comparative study of ways in which language reflects and influences social life.

(Source: American Anthropological Association-What is Anthropology?)

Doing Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology is a social science that explores how people understand - and act in - the world. But what, exactly, is it that Cultural Anthropologists do? How do they approach their research?

In this short film, three members of MIT's Anthropology Department, Stefan Helmreich, Erica James, and Heather Paxson, talk about their current work and the process of doing fieldwork.

For Starters