Thursday, May 7, 2015

Conversations with Anthropologists―What is anthropology?

People who study anthropology may have answered this question time and again―What is anthropology? Dr. Gerhard Hoffstaedter, a lecturer in anthropology in the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland, had talked to different anthropologists and asked their definitions towards the subject in the first lecture of his open online course “World101x Anthropology of Current World Issues”.

Dr. Hoffstaedter, in the opening of the video, says, “The best way to start defining anthropology is perhaps by what it's not. We are not, unfortunately, Indiana Jones-like figures finding treasures in cowboy hats with whips attached… We're also not generally concerned with dinosaurs and leave that for the paleontologists. Nor do we study insects. That's for the entomologists. Social or cultural anthropology is about people: the environments they inhabit and the things they get up to.”

Other anthropologists also give inspiring definitions towards anthropology. Daniel Goldstein, a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Rutgers University, defines anthropology in this way, “It's not about lab work, at least not the kind of anthropology that I do. It's not about quantification, numbers and formulas and things. It's about going out into the world and talking to people and meeting them as equals and getting to understand their lives and their worlds through the perspective of people living those lives. That was fascinating to me when I was 19, and it still is today.”

Sarah Kendzior, a coloumnist of Al Jazeera, talks about anthropology in this way, which is indeed very true, “You can go in with your own research question, and you'll often end up, as an anthropologist, in a completely different direction because you're following the lead of the people you're talking to. You're finding out what matters to them, what's important to them.”

Watch the video to see how other anthropologists define anthropology. (You may view the subtitle by adjusting the setting of the video.)

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