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Anthropology refers to a branch of science that deals with the study of origin of humankind, its biological characteristics, certain beliefs, and social customs as well as humans’ physical and cultural development. As a matter of fact, anthropology is the study of the past and present of our humankind (Kottak, 2010).
There are four major subfields of anthropology, which are biological or physical anthropology, socio-cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. This essay, therefore, discusses these four major subfields of anthropology in details and in terms of their subject matter.
Biological or Physical Anthropology
It is a branch of anthropology that deals with the physical and biological development of human species. The adaptation of human beings in the diverse nature of environments in different regions is one of the most significant fields in this branch of anthropology. Biological or physical anthropology is, therefore, concerned with the processes human beings adapted to the environment they lived in as well as their behavior development and growth parameters (Kottak, 2010).
There are several sub branches of physical and biological anthropology which deal with these studies. To begin with, paleoanthropologist touches the study of the origin of humankind, while anthropometrics studies and examines the measurements of the human body. Human genetic is relatively the latest sub branch in biological or physical anthropology which deals with the study of the molecular nature of human beings (Kottak, 2010).
The study of other primates is also covered in this branch of anthropology and commonly referred to as primatology. It provides a comparative knowledge of physiology, anatomy, and histology of human beings and other closely related primates, in order to check the relationship between humans and other primates (Kottak, 2010).
This branch of anthropology called socio-cultural anthropology is the study of the culture variations in human communities all over the world (Kottak, 2010). This subfield is related to the collection of data from the human communities and exploring the impact of political and economic processes on their local cultures.
A great variety of methods are used in collection of the data in this field of anthropology. Some of the common data collection methods include interviews, surveys, and participant observation. As a result, anthropologists in this subfield often spend much of their time in different communities during a research process.
Due to the complexity of civilization and culture, all the relevant information related to these two issues must be taken into consideration in every data collection process. After the collection of data from the society is finished, it is then analyzed.
Usually, the examination and exploitation of data focus on finding the similarities and differences that exist between different communities (Kottak, 2010). The main emphases of these similarities include class, gender, sexuality, race, and nationality, among others. Therefore, the socio-cultural research in this branch of anthropology centers on participant observation.
This observation is basically focused on the first-hand information or data. As such, the researcher who wants to obtain relevant information must become a part of the situation or the community and get the necessary experience (Kottak, 2010). Some of the topics or areas of this field of anthropology include health, work, ecology, and environment, education, agriculture and development as well as the social changes in community or society.
Archeology studies human society through extensive analysis of environmental and cultural data from the past. The information is primarily obtained from the architectural works and artifacts of the past created by earlier primitive or ancient societies. Some of the data or evidences used include animal bones, stone tools, pottery, and remains of other architectural works and buildings.
Since anthropology is majorly based on the comparative study of human beings in different fields of life, archeology studies establish the relationship between the concept and practices of the present and the past (Kottak, 2010). Researches and studies in this field of anthropology indicate that the progress in the culture and tradition of society have ultimate impact on previous history and progress in human life.
This branch of anthropology deals with the relationships between different human languages and their influence on human social life (Kottak, 2010). Linguistic anthropology also concentrates on the efforts that have been done in order to document endangered languages. Languages play an important role in the development of social identity in human history.
As such, this field shows many ways to identify the real potential of languages in the development of a society. Other areas of interest that fall under this category include the investigation of social identities, ideologies, socialization, and social space (Kottak, 2010).
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To sum everything up, it is worth noting that anthropology, therefore, covers a wide range of humanity issues. In a nutshell, the different subfields under anthropology help us in finding the answer to some big questions about the origin of humankind, its biological characteristics, beliefs, and social customs. Anthropology, therefore, enhances our understanding of different culture traditions at the grass root level.
Kottak, C. P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology. Boston: McGraw Hill