ANTH 111 Exam 1 Study Guide
1. In what ways is anthropology a holistic discipline? How does this holism distinguish it from other social sciences? What is the “four-field approach” and what does it contribute to the study of human life?
Anthropology is a holistic discipline—that is, it is a discipline that views culture as consisting of learned and shared beliefs and symbols andlearned and shared ways of behaving. Anthropology is holistic because it is greater than the sum of its parts. With cultures, we can see that we cannot study one or two aspects of a culture, but have to study all aspects as a whole to completely understand. For example, if a researcher studied intertribal warfare in a Papua New Guinea tribe by only studying the practice of warfare, he wouldn’t gain a full comprehension of the reason behind the practices or the effects, and so on. He would have to study other aspects—politics to see how the leader gather forces to wage war through feeding people in large feasts, marriage systems showing that a man with more wives has more power, the role of supernatural powers in warfare as particular designs are believed to increase the power of a weapon. As such, anthropology distinguishes itself from other social sciences through holism. Holism distinguishes anthropology from other social sciences because it involves both biological and sociocultural aspects of humanity, has a time frame starting from the earliest humans to the present, and studies all varieties of people (and even primates) in all places. In other social sciences, one aspect can be studied without having to study other aspects and still receive ample information for full comprehension. When studying political science, for example, a researcher can stay within the topics of political science and still understand the techniques of a politician. However, as with the previously stated example involving warfare in Papua New Guinea, fields of anthropology would have to be connected—such as cultural and archaeological fields to examine the behavioral aspects and history of the culture—in order to veer away from ethnocentric judgments. In anthropology, a “four-field approach” is used to gain complete understandingwhen studying humanity. These four fields include cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology. This approach contributes to the study of human life because, when examining these four fields collectively about an aspect in humanity, we get a greater, in-depth explanation explaining human diversity in different ways. For instance, we can see why the European Union (EU), a selective union important in deciding global affairs, has had futile attempts in defining their union as “Europe” and to provide internal homogeneity. Biological anthropology shows that population of Europe has been formed from thousands of years of immigration from diverse origins. Archaeological data (through objects such as