Anthropology, a uniquely holistic and comparative discipline, is the scientific and humanistic study of human species, of human biology and cultural diversity and its immediate ancestors. It is the extrapolation of human diversity (similarities and differences) in time and space. Anthropology explores the origin of and changes in human biology and culture. Anthropology emphasizes comparing human groups to understand the range of normal variation in human behavior and biology, and therefore considers what it is to be human.
Anthropology attempts to provide a general worldview; characterized by its holistic ideal, a belief that an understanding of human nature requires drawing together and relating information from all aspects of the human condition. The contribution of anthropology is in integrating the different concepts from many disciplines into a meaningful understanding of that most complex animal, Homo sapiens. In other words, Anthropology is devoted to the broad, “holistic” study of humankind, to the understanding and explanation of human beings in all of their diverse aspects at all times and places. Characteristics of Anthropology is
1. Anthropology is “Holistic”. ‘Holism’ refers to the study of the whole of the human condition: past, present, future; biology, sociology, language and culture. It is also the study of human’s immediate ancestors (person from whom one is descended).
2. Anthropology is also “Comparative” and “Cross-Cultural”. It is a comparative field that examines all societies- ancient and modern; simple and complex. It systematically compares data from different populations and time periods. However, the other social sciences tend to focus on a single society whereas the anthropology offers a unique cross-cultural perspective by constantly comparing the customs of one society with those of others.
People share society – organized life in groups – with other animals. Culture, however, is distinctively human. The word culture has many different meanings. For some it refers to an appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food. For a biologist, it is likely to be a colony of bacteria or other microorganisms growing in a nutrient medium in a laboratory Petri dish. However, for anthropologists and other behavioral scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns. Cultures are traditions and customs (usual practices), transmitted through learning, that guide and govern the beliefs and behavior of the people exposed to them.
A culture produces a degree of consistency in behavior and thoughts among the people who live in a particular society. Cultural traditions include customs and opinions, developed over the generations, about proper and improper behavior. The most critical element of cultural tradition is their transmission through learning rather than biological inheritance. Although culture itself is not itself biological, but it rests on certain features of human biology, such as, ‘the ability to learn quickly’, ‘think symbolically’, ‘use language’, ‘adapting environment’, ‘employing tools in organizing their lives’. Culture is the key aspect of human adaptability and success. Culture is a powerful human tool for survival, but it is a fragile phenomenon. It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds.