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Anthropology has been understood as an ‘eclectic discipline with regards of methods’ according to Bernard and Gravlee’s (p.8) statement, the increasing reach that anthropology has on human sciences after anthropologists decided to develop an exponentially growing range of social research methods and procedures due to anthropology’s capability of adapting to almost any context and situation has allowed this science to explain the origins of several human manifestations and collective thoughts such as religion, politics, economy and it even dwells into the most biological aspect of science by explaining the steps of evolution.
But one of the vastest concepts that anthropology develops is culture in all its complexity, in fact, anthropology has adapted and dive into the studies of different cultures that it also developed an approach known as “cultural anthropology” that studies through an holistic focus the human being in which “the everything” (all elements implied into the full context of the phenomenon) brings an explanation on the behavior of all the elements that come together to form the tissue that culture itself is.
Although anthropology might not be considered as a “rocket science” like math or physics it uses several methods for measuring and colleting data that allows an approximation of the phenomenon that’s being studied. Ethnography is one of these methods with which anthropology relies on to study societies and civilizations, this is how researchers learn the way of living of a concrete society or social group by using tools such as the participant observation or the interview to document and file all data.
Ethnography accosts the phenomenon or the study objective looking forward to interpret and comprehend a reality that interacts with a wider context. Its purpose is more focused on obtaining knowledge and theoretical approaches rather than solving practical issues. All information obtained is taken into consideration, to understand how the subjects act, talk and think its important to consider verbal and non-verbal information, this also leads to the comprehension of their understanding of the world and the events, the “happening” (technically is the performance what researchers pretend to understand). An ethnographic study gathers only the global or collective vision of the social context that’s being studied.
Once we know how anthropology approaches to culture(s) and human manifestations and we know (at lease) one of it methods we might approximate to a definition for culture, but defining culture isn’t an easy matter since a lot of authors and researchers have taken a specific theorical position based on their studies, research and experiences (might also be attached to personal biases) but there’s a lot of convergent factors among all these concepts and definitions proposed by all these authors.
One of the first ones on setting a definition of culture was Tylor (1871) his definition sets the bases for what we know as “folklore” (the knowledge of the folk) which includes all manifestations that results from the cultural movement such as: beliefs system(s) or religion(s), artistic expressions, morals, laws, social orders, and other habits and capabilities acquired by men as part of their society.
Franz Boas (1938) and Malinowski (1941) proposed very similar aspects on the conception of culture by explaining culture as a social manifestation that starts as an individual idea or philosophy that later resonates with others to become a movement with codes previously agreed and accepted by all peers to coexist and maintain practices that keep this movement or human manifestation alive. They also mention the capability that culture(s) have in order to shape shift, modify and adapt in order to survive (referring to Tylor’s prior theory which happens to surpass and not conflict with the evolution theory).
We might understand culture (as aforementioned) as a human manifestation that involves several philosophies and activities, and since it also evolves and adapts, should we consider or comprehend culture as a “being” itself? Since it, somehow, needs to be fed and maintained to stay alive; otherwise, it would stagnate, mummify and by consequence disappear.
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