We live in a beautiful world, full of wonders, so many of which we will never understand or witness ourselves. But through community, and our shared connections, we can create better understandings of our world, see places and things we never would have seen otherwise. Everything in our world is connected, by this or that, and it is all held together in a fragile globe of an ecosystem. It is through the enlightenment of education, as so many great teachers and philosophers have said, that make the human experience as we know it.
There is, however, a unifying idea, or realm of ideas that can help a person, or a group of persons to begin to better understand the world in which they take part daily, whether they realize it or not. It is the view of many prominent individuals and institutions that learning and education are some of the top moving forces in our world. Without one of these, or either, we would once again be stuck in the “Dark Ages”. We must realize that if only the top tier of people possess the knowledge of the world, then there is little that will change.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”Malcom X
The more we know about the world around us, the more we know about ourselves, and our place in it. The study of ourselves and our place in the world is called “Anthropology’, from the roots “Anthropos” or Man/Human and “Ology” or the study of. This is what we will be discussing today, Anthropology, its effects on your daily life, and its role in this world that so few people understand. As we understand more of this, we can use it to improve our day to day lives, from the person who cares little, to someone who is ever excited to learn more!
“Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in”Abraham Lincoln
When it comes down to it, everything that we do, or are involved in, is in some way tied to Anthropology. Many of you are Anthropologists and do not even realize it! Are you in marketing? HR? Sales? You are using Anthropology! Are you a student looking to raise money for a local cause? Interested in history? It is all Anthropology! Pretty cool right! So let’s dig deeper, and see just what I am talking about when it comes to our place in the world and Anthropology. I mean, that is what we are here for right?
So before we get too far into things, it is a good idea to make sure we all have the same understanding of what Anthropology is. Anthropology is the study of us, of you and I, of humankind. From the start of our evolution 7 million years ago, up until the types of music we like today. If it involves humans, it is anthropology. There are four main subfields of anthropology to better divide up this massive topic, a topic that there is so much to learn about!
- Biological Anthropology is the study of, you guessed it, biology. The morphology or shape of the create, its bones, and muscles. Fossils. This is the field where the scientists are sitting with their calipers in the lab measuring and taking data points from finds from the field.
- Cultural Anthropology is when an Anthropologist studies a living culture, everything about them that they can observe typically. From birthing rights to death ceremonies and everything in between, Cultural Anthropologists typically work within the culture that they are studying, for at least a period of time.
- Linguistic Anthropology is the study of language, how it formed, how it is used, and of the many different languages and sounds that we find our species making.
- Archaeology is the final subfield, and one of the largest. This is the study of ancient cultures and artifacts of the past. These are the individuals doing the excavations, and bringing the fossils in to be analyzed, and revealing more secrets about our ancient ancestors.
So, now that we know all of this, what do Anthropologists actually do? Well, as shown by the four subfields, it really depends on what the individual has an interest or skills in. They could choose any of the 4, or a combination of any, or they may add their own flavor of science into the mix to make their studies more suited for themselves. Anthropologists study human history, human activity, human dreams, hopes, and wants. Our mythology and religion, our cultures, the only way we can properly understand these phenomena and share them with other individuals in the world, we have to have an understanding of what we are, of who we are, and where we come from.
Anthropologists do their work by doing fieldwork, getting into the area or culture they are studying, making observations, taking notes, and seeing what they can find out. Getting down and dirty really, and getting involved. Research and data are critical to Anthropology, otherwise it would all be guesswork and not based on empirical, or hard evidence, which is worth little when dealing with a period of time where you only have artifacts and interpretations to make.
Through years of study, hard work, and dedication, anyone who is interested can become an Anthropologist in any field that they wish to, just be aware it involves a great deal of schooling, dedication, and hard work. But you can make it! It is one of the most fascinating, and intimate fields of science that we humans can be involved in.
Anthropology is a crucial study to understanding the world that we live in, the world that we are preparing, and the future of our next generations. It all ties together. Using Anthropological knowledge to work with, and apply it to modern-day needs and experiences is called “Applied Anthropology” one of the more minor subfields that we have yet to discuss.
Applied Anthropology is using what we have learned from any of the four subfields, and using it for everyday tasks is our modern world. For example, earlier I mentioned marketing. Well, let us take a second. What makes a good marketer? They need to know their product, and they need to know who their clients are and what they are trying to sell their items to. They need to have a basic understanding of whom they are talking to. Since of course, they cannot check each and every viewer, there are key points where those who study humans know we are all very similar. Marketers will capitalize on what they know about humans, which will sell or grab the attention of certain populations of people. Knowing how people work is a talent, one that can be learned by the study of Anthropology.
All fields of medicine, are trained Anthropologists, maybe not ones digging in trenches, but they had to master the biological side of humanity, and they must understand what will hurt or harm a person. They too must know how a person works, maybe not mentally, but physically. If you’re a psychologist, you’re also an Anthropologist, studying the human mind and how it was built, and functions. All of this is Anthropology. It is amazing when one sits back and realizes all of the things that actually fit under the massive umbrella of “What is Anthropology?”
Wow, so what have we learned? A great deal if you ask me! We have taken the term “Anthropology” out of the antiquated past that we all knew it from, took it out of the museums and dig sites, and showed that many things, professions, and careers in the “regular” daily world are actually Anthropologically related! From interpreters and translators to English teachers and psychologists, these fields all fall under the subfields of Anthropology. So many of you can call yourselves Anthropologists when you had no idea of the fact!
Now, of course, the next course of action for those who are truly interested in the field would be to pursue your interests in humans, learn and share what you can! There is a whole world out there to explore! Go out there, and never stop learning!
“The purpose of Anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences”Ruth Benedict.
- American Anthropology Associatioon. (n.d.). What is Anthropology?
- Sapiens.org. (n.d.). What is Anthropology
- UC Davis. (n.d.). What is Anthropology?