Ethnology or Cultural Anthropology

Ethnology or Cultural Anthropology, one of the four subdivisions of anthropology. The other subdivisions are physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Ethnology, typically practiced by socio-cultural anthropologists, is concerned with the study of cultures in their traditional forms and in their adaptations to changing conditions in the modern world. Ethnography, the observational branch of ethnology, describes each culture, including its language, the physical characteristics of its people, its material products, and its social customs. In describing a particular tribe, for example, ethnographers gather information about its location and geographical environment. They also investigate all aspects of its culture, including food, shelter, dress, transportation, and manufacture of the tribe; its customs regarding government, property, and division of labor; its patterns of production and exchange; its customs regarding birth, adulthood initiation rites, marriage, and death; its religious ideas relating to magic, supernatural beings, and the universe; and its artistic, mythological, and ceremonial interpretations of its natural and social environment.

Ethnologists are concerned with all aspects

Ethnologists are concerned with all aspects of culture in the contemporary world and attempt to present a perspective from which to understand modern society. They stress the observation and collection of actual data. In comparing the social organization of variant societies, ethnologists emphasize the interrelationship between the individual and the family, clan, tribe, and other groups (for example, social, political, religious) that may exist within a society. In making comparisons, ethnologists must differentiate between responses peculiar to the society and those that are general to humankind. This differentiation clarifies the role of learned behavior in the development of distinctive cultures. Some studies analyze relationships between social phenomena and ecological adaptations.

Family Unit

The family is the fundamental unit of social

The family is the fundamental unit of social structure, the only unit common to all groups of people. The family unit has specific functions with relation to its members and to the total society. It is the primary social institution, serving as the means of transferring culture from one generation to another. Division of labor between sexes is a strong influence in keeping the family together. The institution takes different forms among different peoples. Family systems ordinarily count descent through both father and mother, but many tribes consider a child as belonging to either the father`s or the mother`s family. This type of inheritance constitutes the unilateral family. The term "sib" in United States anthropological usage and the term "clan" in British usage denote the unilateral-descent groupthat is, matrilineal or patrilineal clans indicate lines of descent through the mother or father, respectively. The sib or clan has ceremonial, economic, and political functions in many societies.

Society and Culture

Society is never separable from the individuals

Society is never separable from the individuals of which it is composed. The experience and behavior of an individual are shaped from birth by preexisting customs. The interrelationship between behavior patterns and ideas, concepts, and attitudes has impelled some anthropologists to use a psychoanalytic approach, with emphasis on personality. The effect of personality on the total range of institutions within a culture may be studied in this way. The effect of the culture on the formation of personalities has also been studied.

Ethnologists often employ evidence derived

Ethnologists often employ evidence derived from other sciences in the study of various cultures. For example, the cultivation of the sweet potato as a food plant in Polynesia and eastern Melanesia suggests possible transpacific voyages, as botanists believe the plant originated in pre-Columbian Central or South America.

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