Introduction to Anthropology

Introduction to Anthropology

Anthropology studies human life, at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities. An introduction to anthropology encompasses human biology and evolution, archaeology, culture, and language. See also What is Anthropology.

The Anthropology sections of Living Anthropologically use anthropological studies to comment on contemporary issues and ideas. The chapters cross-reference current blog posts and other resources. They are best used as a complement to traditional anthropology courses and textbooks. My preferred four-field textbook is Anthropology: What Does It Mean to be Human?
For a glimpse into my current course, see Introduction 2017.

Part 1: Biological Anthropology: Human Nature, Race, Evolution

Explores biological anthropology, emphasizing biology and evolution as dynamic processes and anthropological documentation of human possibility. These sections are also available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook, Anthropology I: Human Nature, Race, Evolution in Biological Anthropology.

These sections begin with an overview about the place of anthropology in the Western idea of human nature. These ideas become increasingly entwined with ideas of evolution and race. These sections attempt to retell the story of evolution from an anthropological perspective, which also questions previous notions of biological race. There are also short summaries of insights from primatology, from the recent discoveries of interbreeding with archaic Homo species, and insights on the emergence of anatomically modern humans. These sections end with a plea to adopt a biocultural perspective on human nature and human evolution.

Part 2: Archaeology: Domesticaton, Agriculture, and Civilization

This section explores Archaeology from the domestication of plants and animals through the rise of states and empires. Several of these sections concentrate on countering the perspective of Jared Diamond, who has become a ubiquitous pseudo-archaeologist and supplanted real accounts of archaeology and history. Instead, the perspective here is to demonstrate the complexity of hunting and gathering as well as the complex processes known as domestication. This allows us to provide an accurate account of emphasizing how to understand the rise of powerful societies and eventual European colonialism.

The archaeology sections begin at the point when Homo sapiens have populated all the habitable continents. Although there are periods of separation, especially between Eurasia and the Americas, archaeology always emphasizes human connection, trade, and migration. These sections therefore include the creation of a global economy in the 15th century as well as the industrial globalization of the 19th century. These processes are crucial to understand the emergence of academic anthropology and the idea of culture. (For more on a perspective of interconnection and teaching Introduction to Anthropology, see The Discovery of Sidney Mintz: Anthropology’s Unfinished Revolution.

Part 3: Cultural Anthropology: Culture, Cultures, and Cultural Relativism

These sections explore the anthropological idea of culture. Academic anthropology began within a world already shaped by the colonial encounter. Anthropologists launched the idea of culture as a way to counter the racist and determinist justifications for that social order. These sections also trace how the concept of Culture was turned into the idea of plural cultures. We must now bid “Adieu Culture” (Trouillot, Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World).

For a preview see my Cultural Anthropology 2016 course.

Part 4: The Possibilities of Introduction to Anthropology

An Introduction to Anthropology documents human life through Biological Anthropology, Archaeology, and Cultural Anthropology. However, an Introduction to Anthropology is also about understanding the ways in which we can use anthropology to think about future possibilities.

These pages as an “Introduction to Anthropology” were the original launch for the blog and website. Please also see:

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