Anthropology is the study of humans and human behaviour and societies
in the past and present.
Social anthropology and cultural
anthropology study the norms and values of societies.
Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life.
Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological
development of humans.
Archaeology, which studies past human cultures through investigation
of physical evidence, is thought of as a branch of anthropology in the
United States, while in Europe, it is viewed as a discipline in its
own right or grouped under other related disciplines, such as history.
1 Origin and development of the term
1.1 Through the 19th century
1.2 20th and 21st centuries
3 Key topics by field: sociocultural
3.1 Art, media, music, dance and film
3.2 Economic, political economic, applied and development
3.2.2 Political economy
3.3 Kinship, feminism, gender and sexuality
3.4 Medical, nutritional, psychological, cognitive and transpersonal
3.5 Political and legal
3.6 Nature, science and technology
4 Key topics by field: archaeological and biological
5.1 List of major organizations
6.1 Cultural relativism
6.2 Military involvement
7 Post–World War II developments
7.1 Basic trends
7.2 Commonalities between fields
8 See also
11 Further reading
11.1 Dictionaries and encyclopedias
11.2 Fieldnotes and memoirs
11.4 Textbooks and key theoretical works
12 External links
Origin and development of the term
History of anthropology
The abstract noun anthropology is first attested in reference to
history.[n 1] Its present use first appeared in Renaissance Germany
in the works of
Magnus Hundt and Otto Casmann. Their New Latin
anthropologia derived from the combining forms of the Greek words
ánthrōpos (ἄνθρωπος, "human") and lógos (λόγος,
"study"). (Its adjectival form appeared in the works of
Aristotle.) It began to be used in English, possibly via French
Anthropologie, by the early 18th century.[n 2]
Through the 19th century
In 1647, the Bartholins, founders of the University of Copenhagen,
defined l'anthropologie as follows:
Anthropology, that is to say the science that treats of man, is
divided ordinarily and with reason into Anatomy, which considers the
body and the parts, and Psychology, which speaks of the soul.[n 3]
Sporadic use of the term for some of the subject matter occurred
subsequently, such as the use by
Étienne Serres in 1839 to describe
the natural history, or paleontology, of man, based on comparative
anatomy, and the creation of a chair in anthropology and ethnography
in 1850 at the National Museum of Natural
History (France) by Jean
Louis Armand de Quatrefages de Bréau. Various short-lived
organizations of anthropologists had already been formed. The
Société Ethnologique de Paris, the first to use Ethnology, was
formed in 1839. Its members were primarily anti-slavery activists.
When slavery was abolished in France in 1848 the Société was
Meanwhile, the Ethnological
Society of New York, currently the
American Ethnological Society, was founded on its model in 1842, as
well as the Ethnological
Society of London in 1843, a break-away group
of the Aborigines' Protection Society. These anthropologists of the
times were liberal, anti-slavery, and pro-human-rights activists. They
maintained international connections.
Anthropology and many other current fields are the intellectual
results of the comparative methods developed in the earlier 19th
century. Theorists in such diverse fields as anatomy, linguistics, and
Ethnology, making feature-by-feature comparisons of their subject
matters, were beginning to suspect that similarities between animals,
languages, and folkways were the result of processes or laws unknown
to them then. For them, the publication of Charles Darwin's On the
Origin of Species was the epiphany of everything they had begun to
suspect. Darwin himself arrived at his conclusions through comparison
of species he had seen in agronomy and in the wild.
Darwin and Wallace unveiled evolution in the late 1850s. There was an
immediate rush to bring it into the social sciences.
Paul Broca in
Paris was in the process of breaking away from the Société de
biologie to form the first of the explicitly anthropological
societies, the Société d'Anthropologie de Paris, meeting for the
first time in Paris in 1859.[n 4] When he read Darwin, he became
an immediate convert to Transformisme, as the French called
evolutionism. His definition now became "the study of the human
group, considered as a whole, in its details, and in relation to the
rest of nature".
Broca, being what today would be called a neurosurgeon, had taken an
interest in the pathology of speech. He wanted to localize the
difference between man and the other animals, which appeared to reside
in speech. He discovered the speech center of the human brain, today
Broca's area after him. His interest was mainly in Biological
anthropology, but a German philosopher specializing in psychology,
Theodor Waitz, took up the theme of general and social anthropology in
his six-volume work, entitled Die Anthropologie der Naturvölker,
1859–1864. The title was soon translated as "The
Primitive Peoples". The last two volumes were published posthumously.
Waitz defined anthropology as "the science of the nature of man". By
nature he meant matter animated by "the Divine breath"; i.e., he
was an animist. Following Broca's lead, Waitz points out that
anthropology is a new field, which would gather material from other
fields, but would differ from them in the use of comparative anatomy,
physiology, and psychology to differentiate man from "the animals
nearest to him". He stresses that the data of comparison must be
empirical, gathered by experimentation. The history of
civilization, as well as ethnology, are to be brought into the
comparison. It is to be presumed fundamentally that the species, man,
is a unity, and that "the same laws of thought are applicable to all
Waitz was influential among the British ethnologists. In 1863 the
Richard Francis Burton
Richard Francis Burton and the speech therapist James Hunt
broke away from the Ethnological
Society of London to form the
Society of London, which henceforward would follow the
path of the new anthropology rather than just ethnology. It was the
2nd society dedicated to general anthropology in existence.
Representatives from the French Société were present, though not
Broca. In his keynote address, printed in the first volume of its new
publication, The Anthropological Review, Hunt stressed the work of
Waitz, adopting his definitions as a standard.[n 5] Among the
first associates were the young Edward Burnett Tylor, inventor of
cultural anthropology, and his brother Alfred Tylor, a geologist.
Previously Edward had referred to himself as an ethnologist;
subsequently, an anthropologist.
Similar organizations in other countries followed: The Anthropological
Society of Madrid (1865), the
American Anthropological Association
American Anthropological Association in
1902, the Anthropological
Society of Vienna (1870), the Italian
Ethnology (1871), and many others
subsequently. The majority of these were evolutionist. One notable
exception was the Berlin
Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and
Prehistory (1869) founded by Rudolph Virchow, known for his
vituperative attacks on the evolutionists. Not religious himself, he
insisted that Darwin's conclusions lacked empirical foundation.
During the last three decades of the 19th century, a proliferation of
anthropological societies and associations occurred, most independent,
most publishing their own journals, and all international in
membership and association. The major theorists belonged to these
organizations. They supported the gradual osmosis of anthropology
curricula into the major institutions of higher learning. By 1898 the
American Association for the Advancement of
Science was able to report
that 48 educational institutions in 13 countries had some curriculum
in anthropology. None of the 75 faculty members were under a
department named anthropology.
20th and 21st centuries
This meagre statistic expanded in the 20th century to comprise
anthropology departments in the majority of the world's higher
educational institutions, many thousands in number.
diversified from a few major subdivisions to dozens more. Practical
Anthropology, the use of anthropological knowledge and technique to
solve specific problems, has arrived; for example, the presence of
buried victims might stimulate the use of a forensic archaeologist to
recreate the final scene. The organization has reached global level.
For example, the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA),
"a network of national, regional and international associations that
aims to promote worldwide communication and cooperation in
anthropology", currently contains members from about three dozen
Since the work of
Franz Boas and
Bronisław Malinowski in the late
19th and early 20th centuries, social anthropology in Great Britain
and cultural anthropology in the US have been distinguished from other
social sciences by its emphasis on cross-cultural comparisons,
long-term in-depth examination of context, and the importance it
places on participant-observation or experiential immersion in the
area of research. Cultural anthropology, in particular, has emphasized
cultural relativism, holism, and the use of findings to frame cultural
critiques. This has been particularly prominent in the United
States, from Boas' arguments against 19th-century racial ideology,
through Margaret Mead's advocacy for gender equality and sexual
liberation, to current criticisms of post-colonial oppression and
promotion of multiculturalism.
Ethnography is one of its primary
research designs as well as the text that is generated from
In Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, the British tradition
of social anthropology tends to dominate. In the United States,
anthropology has traditionally been divided into the four field
approach developed by
Franz Boas in the early 20th century: biological
or physical anthropology; social, cultural, or sociocultural
anthropology; and archaeology; plus anthropological linguistics. These
fields frequently overlap but tend to use different methodologies and
European countries with overseas colonies tended to practice more
ethnology (a term coined and defined by Adam F. Kollár in 1783). It
is sometimes referred to as sociocultural anthropology in the parts of
the world that were influenced by the European tradition.
Further information: American anthropology
Anthropology is a global discipline involving humanities, social
sciences and natural sciences.
Anthropology builds upon knowledge from
natural sciences, including the discoveries about the origin and
evolution of Homo sapiens, human physical traits, human behavior, the
variations among different groups of humans, how the evolutionary past
of Homo sapiens has influenced its social organization and culture,
and from social sciences, including the organization of human social
and cultural relations, institutions, social conflicts, etc.
Early anthropology originated in Classical Greece and Persia and
studied and tried to understand observable cultural diversity.
As such, anthropology has been central in the development of several
new (late 20th century) interdisciplinary fields such as cognitive
science, global studies, and various ethnic studies.
According to Clifford Geertz,
"anthropology is perhaps the last of the great nineteenth-century
conglomerate disciplines still for the most part organizationally
intact. Long after natural history, moral philosophy, philology, and
political economy have dissolved into their specialized successors, it
has remained a diffuse assemblage of ethnology, human biology,
comparative linguistics, and prehistory, held together mainly by the
vested interests, sunk costs, and administrative habits of academia,
and by a romantic image of comprehensive scholarship."
Sociocultural anthropology has been heavily influenced by
structuralist and postmodern theories, as well as a shift toward the
analysis of modern societies. During the 1970s and 1990s, there was an
epistemological shift away from the positivist traditions that had
largely informed the discipline.[page needed] During this
shift, enduring questions about the nature and production of knowledge
came to occupy a central place in cultural and social anthropology. In
contrast, archaeology and biological anthropology remained largely
positivist. Due to this difference in epistemology, the four
sub-fields of anthropology have lacked cohesion over the last several
Main articles: Cultural anthropology, Social anthropology, and
Sociocultural anthropology draws together the principle axes of
cultural anthropology and social anthropology. Cultural anthropology
is the comparative study of the manifold ways in which people make
sense of the world around them, while social anthropology is the study
of the relationships among individuals and groups. Cultural
anthropology is more related to philosophy, literature and the arts
(how one's culture affects the experience for self and group,
contributing to a more complete understanding of the people's
knowledge, customs, and institutions), while social anthropology is
more related to sociology and history. In that, it helps develop
an understanding of social structures, typically of others and other
populations (such as minorities, subgroups, dissidents, etc.). There
is no hard-and-fast distinction between them, and these categories
overlap to a considerable degree.
Inquiry in sociocultural anthropology is guided in part by cultural
relativism, the attempt to understand other societies in terms of
their own cultural symbols and values. Accepting other cultures in
their own terms moderates reductionism in cross-cultural
comparison. This project is often accommodated in the field of
Ethnography can refer to both a methodology and the
product of ethnographic research, i.e. an ethnographic monograph. As a
methodology, ethnography is based upon long-term fieldwork within a
community or other research site.
Participant observation is one of
the foundational methods of social and cultural anthropology.
Ethnology involves the systematic comparison of different cultures.
The process of participant-observation can be especially helpful to
understanding a culture from an emic (conceptual, vs. etic, or
technical) point of view.
The study of kinship and social organization is a central focus of
sociocultural anthropology, as kinship is a human universal.
Sociocultural anthropology also covers economic and political
organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and
exchange, material culture, technology, infrastructure, gender
relations, ethnicity, childrearing and socialization, religion, myth,
symbols, values, etiquette, worldview, sports, music, nutrition,
recreation, games, food, festivals, and language (which is also the
object of study in linguistic anthropology).
Comparison across cultures is a key element of method in sociocultural
anthropology, including the industrialized (and de-industrialized)
West. Cultures in the
Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS) of
world societies are:
See also: List of indigenous peoples
Main article: Biological anthropology
Forensic anthropologists can help identify skeletonized human remains,
such as these found lying in scrub in Western Australia, c.
Anthropology and Physical
Anthropology are synonymous terms
to describe anthropological research focused on the study of humans
and non-human primates in their biological, evolutionary, and
demographic dimensions. It examines the biological and social factors
that have affected the evolution of humans and other primates, and
that generate, maintain or change contemporary genetic and
Main article: Archaeology
Excavations at the 3800-year-old Edgewater Park Site, Iowa
Archaeology is the study of the human past through its material
remains. Artifacts, faunal remains, and human altered landscapes are
evidence of the cultural and material lives of past societies.
Archaeologists examine this material remains in order to deduce
patterns of past human behavior and cultural practices.
Ethnoarchaeology is a type of archaeology that studies the practices
and material remain of living human groups in order to gain a better
understanding of the evidence left behind by past human groups, who
are presumed to have lived in similar ways.
Rosetta Stone was an example of ancient communication
Main article: Linguistic anthropology
Linguistic anthropology (not to be confused with anthropological
linguistics) seeks to understand the processes of human
communications, verbal and non-verbal, variation in language across
time and space, the social uses of language, and the relationship
between language and culture. It is the branch of anthropology
that brings linguistic methods to bear on anthropological problems,
linking the analysis of linguistic forms and processes to the
interpretation of sociocultural processes. Linguistic anthropologists
often draw on related fields including sociolinguistics, pragmatics,
cognitive linguistics, semiotics, discourse analysis, and narrative
Key topics by field: sociocultural
Art, media, music, dance and film
Part of a series on the
Anthropology of art,
media, music, dance
Art of the Americas
Indigenous Australian art
Nanook of the North
The Ax Fight
Nǃai, the Story of a ǃKung Woman
Incidents of Travel in Chichen Itza
National Anthropological Archives
Centro Cultural Mexiquense
Anthropology at UBC
Museum of Anthropology, Cambridge
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
Robert Hull Fleming Museum
List of museums
List of ethnographic films
Margaret Mead Film Festival
Tribal art/Folk art
Robert J. Flaherty
Robert Hugh Layton
Social and cultural anthropology
Anthropology of art
One of the central problems in the anthropology of art concerns the
universality of 'art' as a cultural phenomenon. Several
anthropologists have noted that the Western categories of 'painting',
'sculpture', or 'literature', conceived as independent artistic
activities, do not exist, or exist in a significantly different form,
in most non-Western contexts. To surmount this difficulty,
anthropologists of art have focused on formal features in objects
which, without exclusively being 'artistic', have certain evident
'aesthetic' qualities. Boas' Primitive Art, Claude Lévi-Strauss' The
Way of the Masks (1982) or Geertz's 'Art as Cultural System' (1983)
are some examples in this trend to transform the anthropology of 'art'
into an anthropology of culturally specific 'aesthetics'.
Main article: Media anthropology
A Punu tribe mask. Gabon Central Africa
Media anthropology (also known as the anthropology of media or mass
media) emphasizes ethnographic studies as a means of understanding
producers, audiences, and other cultural and social aspects of mass
media. The types of ethnographic contexts explored range from contexts
of media production (e.g., ethnographies of newsrooms in newspapers,
journalists in the field, film production) to contexts of media
reception, following audiences in their everyday responses to media.
Other types include cyber anthropology, a relatively new area of
internet research, as well as ethnographies of other areas of research
which happen to involve media, such as development work, social
movements, or health education. This is in addition to many classic
ethnographic contexts, where media such as radio, the press, new
media, and television have started to make their presences felt since
the early 1990s.
Main article: Ethnomusicology
Ethnomusicology is an academic field encompassing various approaches
to the study of music (broadly defined), that emphasize its cultural,
social, material, cognitive, biological, and other dimensions or
contexts instead of or in addition to its isolated sound component or
any particular repertoire.
Main article: Visual anthropology
Visual anthropology is concerned, in part, with the study and
production of ethnographic photography, film and, since the mid-1990s,
new media. While the term is sometimes used interchangeably with
ethnographic film, visual anthropology also encompasses the
anthropological study of visual representation, including areas such
as performance, museums, art, and the production and reception of mass
media. Visual representations from all cultures, such as
sandpaintings, tattoos, sculptures and reliefs, cave paintings,
scrimshaw, jewelry, hieroglyphics, paintings, and photographs are
included in the focus of visual anthropology.
Economic, political economic, applied and development
Part of a series on
Economic, applied, and development
Singularization (commodity pathway)
Spheres of exchange
Aché people (hunter-gatherers)
Colonialism and development
The Anti-Politics Machine
Europe and the
People Without History
Jim Crow economy
Original affluent society
Formalist vs substantivist debate
The Great Transformation
Culture of poverty
Anthropology of development
Jane I. Guyer
Harold K. Schneider
Social and cultural anthropology
Main article: Economic anthropology
Economic anthropology attempts to explain human economic behavior in
its widest historic, geographic and cultural scope. It has a complex
relationship with the discipline of economics, of which it is highly
critical. Its origins as a sub-field of anthropology begin with the
Polish-British founder of Anthropology, Bronisław Malinowski, and his
French compatriot, Marcel Mauss, on the nature of gift-giving exchange
(or reciprocity) as an alternative to market exchange. Economic
Anthropology remains, for the most part, focused upon exchange. The
school of thought derived from Marx and known as Political Economy
focuses on production, in contrast. Economic Anthropologists have
abandoned the primitivist niche they were relegated to by economists,
and have now turned to examine corporations, banks, and the global
financial system from an anthropological perspective.
Political economy in anthropology
Political economy in anthropology
Political economy in anthropology is the application of the theories
and methods of
Historical Materialism to the traditional concerns of
anthropology, including, but not limited to, non-capitalist societies.
Political Economy introduced questions of history and colonialism to
ahistorical anthropological theories of social structure and culture.
Three main areas of interest rapidly developed. The first of these
areas was concerned with the "pre-capitalist" societies that were
subject to evolutionary "tribal" stereotypes. Sahlin's work on
hunter-gatherers as the 'original affluent society' did much to
dissipate that image. The second area was concerned with the vast
majority of the world's population at the time, the peasantry, many of
whom were involved in complex revolutionary wars such as in Vietnam.
The third area was on colonialism, imperialism, and the creation of
the capitalist world-system. More recently, these Political
Economists have more directly addressed issues of industrial (and
post-industrial) capitalism around the world.
Main article: Applied anthropology
Anthropology refers to the application of the method and
theory of anthropology to the analysis and solution of practical
problems. It is a "complex of related, research-based, instrumental
methods which produce change or stability in specific cultural systems
through the provision of data, initiation of direct action, and/or the
formulation of policy". More simply, applied anthropology is the
practical side of anthropological research; it includes researcher
involvement and activism within the participating community. It is
closely related to
Development anthropology (distinct from the more
Anthropology of development).
Main article: anthropology of development
Anthropology of development
Anthropology of development tends to view development from a critical
perspective. The kind of issues addressed and implications for the
approach simply involve pondering why, if a key development goal is to
alleviate poverty, is poverty increasing? Why is there such a gap
between plans and outcomes? Why are those working in development so
willing to disregard history and the lessons it might offer? Why is
development so externally driven rather than having an internal basis?
In short, why does so much planned development fail?
Kinship, feminism, gender and sexuality
Part of a series on the
Anthropology of kinship
Parallel / cross cousins
Fictive / Milk / Nurture kinship
Cognatic / Bilateral
Household forms and residence
Polyandry in Tibet / in India
Coming of Age in Samoa
Lewis H. Morgan
Stephen O. Murray
David M. Schneider
Matrilineal / matrilocal societies
Sex and Repression in Savage Society
Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship
Main article: Kinship
Kinship can refer both to the study of the patterns of social
relationships in one or more human cultures, or it can refer to the
patterns of social relationships themselves. Over its history,
anthropology has developed a number of related concepts and terms,
such as "descent", "descent groups", "lineages", "affines",
"cognates", and even "fictive kinship". Broadly, kinship patterns may
be considered to include people related both by descent (one's social
relations during development), and also relatives by marriage.
Main article: Feminist anthropology
Feminist anthropology is a four field approach to anthropology
(archeological, biological, cultural, linguistic) that seeks to reduce
male bias in research findings, anthropological hiring practices, and
the scholarly production of knowledge.
Anthropology engages often with
feminists from non-Western traditions, whose perspectives and
experiences can differ from those of white European and American
feminists. Historically, such 'peripheral' perspectives have sometimes
been marginalized and regarded as less valid or important than
knowledge from the western world. Feminist anthropologists have
claimed that their research helps to correct this systematic bias in
mainstream feminist theory. Feminist anthropologists are centrally
concerned with the construction of gender across societies. Feminist
anthropology is inclusive of birth anthropology as a specialization.
African-American female anthropologist and
said to be
Vera Mae Green who studied ethnic and family relations in
Caribbean as well as the United States, and thereby tried to
improve the way black life, experiences, and culture were studied.
Medical, nutritional, psychological, cognitive and transpersonal
Part of a series on
Medical and psychological
Critical medical anthropology
Society for Medical Anthropology
National character studies
Charles L. Briggs
Michael M. J. Fischer
E. Thomas Lawson
Robert I. Levy
Cognition and Culture
Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Anthropology of Consciousness
Social and cultural anthropology
Main article: Medical anthropology
Medical anthropology is an interdisciplinary field which studies
"human health and disease, health care systems, and biocultural
adaptation". It is believed that William Caudell was the first to
discover the field of medical anthropology. Currently, research in
medical anthropology is one of the main growth areas in the field of
anthropology as a whole. It focuses on the following six basic
the development of systems of medical knowledge and medical care
the patient-physician relationship
the integration of alternative medical systems in culturally diverse
the interaction of social, environmental and biological factors which
influence health and illness both in the individual and the community
as a whole
the critical analysis of interaction between psychiatric services and
migrant populations ("critical ethnopsychiatry": Beneduce 2004, 2007)
the impact of biomedicine and biomedical technologies in non-Western
Other subjects that have become central to medical anthropology
worldwide are violence and social suffering (Farmer, 1999, 2003;
Beneduce, 2010) as well as other issues that involve physical and
psychological harm and suffering that are not a result of illness. On
the other hand, there are fields that intersect with medical
anthropology in terms of research methodology and theoretical
production, such as cultural psychiatry and transcultural psychiatry
Main article: Nutritional anthropology
Nutritional anthropology is a synthetic concept that deals with the
interplay between economic systems, nutritional status and food
security, and how changes in the former affect the latter. If economic
and environmental changes in a community affect access to food, food
security, and dietary health, then this interplay between culture and
biology is in turn connected to broader historical and economic trends
associated with globalization. Nutritional status affects overall
health status, work performance potential, and the overall potential
for economic development (either in terms of human development or
traditional western models) for any given group of people.
Main article: Psychological anthropology
Psychological anthropology is an interdisciplinary subfield of
anthropology that studies the interaction of cultural and mental
processes. This subfield tends to focus on ways in which humans'
development and enculturation within a particular cultural
group—with its own history, language, practices, and conceptual
categories—shape processes of human cognition, emotion, perception,
motivation, and mental health. It also examines how the understanding
of cognition, emotion, motivation, and similar psychological processes
inform or constrain our models of cultural and social
Main article: Cognitive anthropology
Cognitive anthropology seeks to explain patterns of shared knowledge,
cultural innovation, and transmission over time and space using the
methods and theories of the cognitive sciences (especially
experimental psychology and evolutionary biology) often through close
collaboration with historians, ethnographers, archaeologists,
linguists, musicologists and other specialists engaged in the
description and interpretation of cultural forms. Cognitive
anthropology is concerned with what people from different groups know
and how that implicit knowledge changes the way people perceive and
relate to the world around them.
Main article: Transpersonal anthropology
Transpersonal anthropology studies the relationship between altered
states of consciousness and culture. As with transpersonal psychology,
the field is much concerned with altered states of consciousness (ASC)
and transpersonal experience. However, the field differs from
mainstream transpersonal psychology in taking more cognizance of
cross-cultural issues—for instance, the roles of myth, ritual, diet,
and texts in evoking and interpreting extraordinary experiences.
Political and legal
Part of a series on
Status and rank
Age grade/Age set
Law and custom
Societies without hierarchical leaders
African Political Systems
Papuan Big man system
The Art of Not Being Governed
Non-western state systems
and the State in Africa
Colonialism and resistance
Europe and the People
Political economy in anthropology
Network Analysis and Ethnographic Problems
E. Adamson Hoebel
F. G. Bailey
Robert L. Carneiro
Henri J. M. Claessen
E. E. Evans-Pritchard
Thomas Blom Hansen
Ted C. Lewellen
Sally Falk Moore
James C. Scott
Douglas R. White
Social and cultural anthropology
Main article: Political anthropology
Political anthropology concerns the structure of political systems,
looked at from the basis of the structure of societies. Political
anthropology developed as a discipline concerned primarily with
politics in stateless societies, a new development started from the
1960s, and is still unfolding: anthropologists started increasingly to
study more "complex" social settings in which the presence of states,
bureaucracies and markets entered both ethnographic accounts and
analysis of local phenomena. The turn towards complex societies meant
that political themes were taken up at two main levels. First of all,
anthropologists continued to study political organization and
political phenomena that lay outside the state-regulated sphere (as in
patron-client relations or tribal political organization). Second of
all, anthropologists slowly started to develop a disciplinary concern
with states and their institutions (and on the relationship between
formal and informal political institutions). An anthropology of the
state developed, and it is a most thriving field today. Geertz'
comparative work on "Negara", the Balinese state is an early, famous
Main article: Legal anthropology
Legal anthropology or anthropology of law specializes in "the
cross-cultural study of social ordering". Earlier legal
anthropological research often focused more narrowly on conflict
management, crime, sanctions, or formal regulation. More recent
applications include issues such as human rights, legal pluralism,
and political uprisings.
Main article: Public anthropology
Anthropology was created by Robert Borofsky, a professor at
Hawaii Pacific University, to "demonstrate the ability of anthropology
and anthropologists to effectively address problems beyond the
discipline – illuminating larger social issues of our times as well
as encouraging broad, public conversations about them with the
explicit goal of fostering social change" (Borofsky 2004).
Nature, science and technology
Part of a series on
Anthropology of nature,
science and technology
Science, technology and society
Social and cultural anthropology
Main article: Cyborg anthropology
Cyborg anthropology originated as a sub-focus group within the
American Anthropological Association's annual meeting in 1993. The
sub-group was very closely related to STS and the
Society for the
Social Studies of Science. Donna Haraway's 1985 Cyborg Manifesto
could be considered the founding document of cyborg anthropology by
first exploring the philosophical and sociological ramifications of
Cyborg anthropology studies humankind and its relations with
the technological systems it has built, specifically modern
technological systems that have reflexively shaped notions of what it
means to be human beings.
Main article: Digital anthropology
Digital anthropology is the study of the relationship between humans
and digital-era technology, and extends to various areas where
anthropology and technology intersect. It is sometimes grouped with
sociocultural anthropology, and sometimes considered part of material
culture. The field is new, and thus has a variety of names with a
variety of emphases. These include techno-anthropology, digital
ethnography, cyberanthropology, and virtual anthropology.
Main article: Ecological anthropology
Ecological anthropology is defined as the "study of cultural
adaptations to environments". The sub-field is also defined as,
"the study of relationships between a population of humans and their
biophysical environment". The focus of its research concerns "how
cultural beliefs and practices helped human populations adapt to their
environments, and how their environment across space and time. The
contemporary perspective of environmental anthropology, and arguably
at least the backdrop, if not the focus of most of the ethnographies
and cultural fieldworks of today, is political ecology. Many
characterize this new perspective as more informed with culture,
politics and power, globalization, localized issues, century
anthropology and more. The focus and data interpretation is often
used for arguments for/against or creation of policy, and to prevent
corporate exploitation and damage of land. Often, the observer has
become an active part of the struggle either directly (organizing,
participation) or indirectly (articles, documentaries, books,
ethnographies). Such is the case with environmental justice advocate
Melissa Checker and her relationship with the people of Hyde Park.
Main article: Ethnohistory
See also: Historical anthropology
Ethnohistory is the study of ethnographic cultures and indigenous
customs by examining historical records. It is also the study of the
history of various ethnic groups that may or may not exist today.
Ethnohistory uses both historical and ethnographic data as its
foundation. Its historical methods and materials go beyond the
standard use of documents and manuscripts. Practitioners recognize the
utility of such source material as maps, music, paintings,
photography, folklore, oral tradition, site exploration,
archaeological materials, museum collections, enduring customs,
language, and place names.
Part of a series on
Anthropology of religion
Evolutionary origin of religions
Rite of passage
Theories about religions
Veneration of the dead
Coral Gardens and Their Magic
Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants
The Elementary Forms
of the Religious Life
Purity and Danger
Myth and ritual
Archaeology of religion and ritual
Poles in mythology
Akbar S. Ahmed
Arnold van Gennep
E. E. Evans-Pritchard
Edward Burnett Tylor
Daniel Martin Varisco
Anthony F. C. Wallace
Anthropological Perspectives on Religion
The Hibbert Journal
The Journal of Religion
Armenian Apostolic Church
Social and cultural anthropology
Anthropology of religion
The anthropology of religion involves the study of religious
institutions in relation to other social institutions, and the
comparison of religious beliefs and practices across cultures. Modern
anthropology assumes that there is complete continuity between magical
thinking and religion,[n 6] and that every religion is a cultural
product, created by the human community that worships it.
Main article: Urban anthropology
Urban anthropology is concerned with issues of urbanization, poverty,
Ulf Hannerz quotes a 1960s remark that traditional
anthropologists were "a notoriously agoraphobic lot, anti-urban by
definition". Various social processes in the
Western World as well as
in the "Third World" (the latter being the habitual focus of attention
of anthropologists) brought the attention of "specialists in 'other
cultures'" closer to their homes. There are two main approaches to
urban anthropology: examining the types of cities or examining the
social issues within the cities. These two methods are overlapping and
dependent of each other. By defining different types of cities, one
would use social factors as well as economic and political factors to
categorize the cities. By directly looking at the different social
issues, one would also be studying how they affect the dynamic of the
Key topics by field: archaeological and biological
Archaeological and Biological anthropology
Main article: Anthrozoology
Anthrozoology (also known as "human–animal studies") is the study of
interaction between living things. It is a burgeoning
interdisciplinary field that overlaps with a number of other
disciplines, including anthropology, ethology, medicine, psychology,
veterinary medicine and zoology. A major focus of anthrozoologic
research is the quantifying of the positive effects of human-animal
relationships on either party and the study of their interactions.
It includes scholars from a diverse range of fields, including
anthropology, sociology, biology, and philosophy.[n 7]
Main article: Biocultural anthropology
Biocultural anthropology is the scientific exploration of the
relationships between human biology and culture. Physical
anthropologists throughout the first half of the 20th century viewed
this relationship from a racial perspective; that is, from the
assumption that typological human biological differences lead to
cultural differences. After World War II the emphasis began to
shift toward an effort to explore the role culture plays in shaping
Main article: Evolutionary anthropology
Evolutionary anthropology is the interdisciplinary study of the
evolution of human physiology and human behaviour and the relation
between hominins and non-hominin primates. Evolutionary anthropology
is based in natural science and social science, combining the human
development with socioeconomic factors.
Evolutionary anthropology is
concerned with both biological and cultural evolution of humans, past
and present. It is based on a scientific approach, and brings together
fields such as archaeology, behavioral ecology, psychology,
primatology, and genetics. It is a dynamic and interdisciplinary
field, drawing on many lines of evidence to understand the human
experience, past and present.
Main article: Forensic anthropology
Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical
anthropology and human osteology in a legal setting, most often in
criminal cases where the victim's remains are in the advanced stages
of decomposition. A forensic anthropologist can assist in the
identification of deceased individuals whose remains are decomposed,
burned, mutilated or otherwise unrecognizable. The adjective
"forensic" refers to the application of this subfield of science to a
court of law.
Main article: Palaeoanthropology
Paleoanthropology combines the disciplines of paleontology and
physical anthropology. It is the study of ancient humans, as found in
fossil hominid evidence such as petrifacted bones and footprints.
Contemporary anthropology is an established science with academic
departments at most universities and colleges. The single largest
organization of Anthropologists is the American Anthropological
Association (AAA), which was founded in 1903. Membership is made
up of anthropologists from around the globe.
In 1989, a group of European and American scholars in the field of
anthropology established the European Association of Social
Anthropologists (EASA) which serves as a major professional
organization for anthropologists working in Europe. The EASA seeks to
advance the status of anthropology in Europe and to increase
visibility of marginalized anthropological traditions and thereby
contribute to the project of a global anthropology or world
Hundreds of other organizations exist in the various sub-fields of
anthropology, sometimes divided up by nation or region, and many
anthropologists work with collaborators in other disciplines, such as
geology, physics, zoology, paleontology, anatomy, music theory, art
history, sociology and so on, belonging to professional societies in
those disciplines as well.
List of major organizations
American Anthropological Association
American Ethnological Society
Asociación de Antropólogos Iberoamericanos en Red, AIBR
Anthropology Student Network
Society of London
Center for World Indigenous Studies
Society of London
Anthropology and Ethnography
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Network of Concerned Anthropologists
N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of
Ethnology and Anthropology
Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Society for anthropological sciences
Society for Applied Anthropology
USC Center for Visual Anthropology
As the field has matured it has debated and arrived at ethical
principles aimed at protecting both the subjects of anthropological
research as well as the researchers themselves, and professional
societies have generated codes of ethics.
Anthropologists, like other researchers (especially historians and
scientists engaged in field research), have over time assisted state
policies and projects, especially colonialism.
Some commentators have contended:
That the discipline grew out of colonialism, perhaps was in league
with it, and derives some of its key notions from it, consciously or
not. (See, for example, Gough, Pels and Salemink, but cf. Lewis
That ethnographic work is often ahistorical, writing about people as
if they were "out of time" in an "ethnographic present" (Johannes
Fabian, Time and Its Other).
As part of their quest for scientific objectivity, present-day
anthropologists typically urge cultural relativism, which has an
influence on all the sub-fields of anthropology. This is the
notion that cultures should not be judged by another's values or
viewpoints, but be examined dispassionately on their own terms. There
should be no notions, in good anthropology, of one culture being
better or worse than another culture.
Ethical commitments in anthropology include noticing and documenting
genocide, infanticide, racism, mutilation (including circumcision and
subincision), and torture. Topics like racism, slavery, and human
sacrifice attract anthropological attention and theories ranging from
nutritional deficiencies to genes to acculturation have been
proposed, not to mention theories of colonialism and many others as
root causes of Man's inhumanity to man. To illustrate the depth of an
anthropological approach, one can take just one of these topics, such
as "racism" and find thousands of anthropological references,
stretching across all the major and minor sub-fields.
Anthropologists' involvement with the U.S. government, in particular,
has caused bitter controversy within the discipline. Franz Boas
publicly objected to US participation in World War I, and after the
war he published a brief expose and condemnation of the participation
of several American archaeologists in espionage in Mexico under their
cover as scientists.
But by the 1940s, many of Boas' anthropologist contemporaries were
active in the allied war effort against the "Axis" (Nazi Germany,
Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan). Many served in the armed forces,
while others worked in intelligence (for example, Office of Strategic
Services and the Office of War Information). At the same time, David
H. Price's work on
American anthropology during the Cold War provides
detailed accounts of the pursuit and dismissal of several
anthropologists from their jobs for communist sympathies.
Attempts to accuse anthropologists of complicity with the CIA and
government intelligence activities during the Vietnam War years have
turned up surprisingly little. Many anthropologists (students and
teachers) were active in the antiwar movement. Numerous resolutions
condemning the war in all its aspects were passed overwhelmingly at
the annual meetings of the
American Anthropological Association
American Anthropological Association (AAA).
Professional anthropological bodies often object to the use of
anthropology for the benefit of the state. Their codes of ethics or
statements may proscribe anthropologists from giving secret briefings.
The Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth
(ASA) has called certain scholarship ethically dangerous. The AAA's
current 'Statement of Professional Responsibility' clearly states that
"in relation with their own government and with host
governments ... no secret research, no secret reports or
debriefings of any kind should be agreed to or given."
Anthropologists, along with other social scientists, are working with
the US military as part of the US Army's strategy in Afghanistan.
Science Monitor reports that "Counterinsurgency efforts
focus on better grasping and meeting local needs" in Afghanistan,
Human Terrain System (HTS) program; in addition, HTS teams
are working with the US military in Iraq. In 2009, the American
Anthropological Association's Commission on the Engagement of
Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities
released its final report concluding, in part, that, "When
ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not
subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the
context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in
a potentially coercive environment – all characteristic factors of
the HTS concept and its application – it can no longer be considered
a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology. In summary, while
we stress that constructive engagement between anthropology and the
military is possible, CEAUSSIC suggests that the AAA emphasize the
incompatibility of HTS with disciplinary ethics and practice for job
seekers and that it further recognize the problem of allowing HTS to
define the meaning of "anthropology" within DoD."
Post–World War II developments
Before WWII British 'social anthropology' and American 'cultural
anthropology' were still distinct traditions. After the war, enough
British and American anthropologists borrowed ideas and methodological
approaches from one another that some began to speak of them
collectively as 'sociocultural' anthropology.
There are several characteristics that tend to unite anthropological
work. One of the central characteristics is that anthropology tends to
provide a comparatively more holistic account of phenomena and tends
to be highly empirical. The quest for holism leads most
anthropologists to study a particular place, problem or phenomenon in
detail, using a variety of methods, over a more extensive period than
normal in many parts of academia.
In the 1990s and 2000s (decade), calls for clarification of what
constitutes a culture, of how an observer knows where his or her own
culture ends and another begins, and other crucial topics in writing
anthropology were heard. These dynamic relationships, between what can
be observed on the ground, as opposed to what can be observed by
compiling many local observations remain fundamental in any kind of
anthropology, whether cultural, biological, linguistic or
Biological anthropologists are interested in both human
variation and in the possibility of human universals
(behaviors, ideas or concepts shared by virtually all human
cultures). They use many different methods of study, but
modern population genetics, participant observation and other
techniques often take anthropologists "into the field," which means
traveling to a community in its own setting, to do something called
"fieldwork." On the biological or physical side, human measurements,
genetic samples, nutritional data may be gathered and published as
articles or monographs.
Along with dividing up their project by theoretical emphasis,
anthropologists typically divide the world up into relevant time
periods and geographic regions.
Human time on Earth is divided up into
relevant cultural traditions based on material, such as the
Paleolithic and the Neolithic, of particular use in
archaeology. Further cultural subdivisions according
to tool types, such as
Mousterian or Levalloisian help
archaeologists and other anthropologists in understanding major trends
in the human past. Anthropologists and geographers
share approaches to
Culture regions as well, since mapping cultures is
central to both sciences. By making comparisons across cultural
traditions (time-based) and cultural regions (space-based),
anthropologists have developed various kinds of comparative method, a
central part of their science.
Commonalities between fields
Because anthropology developed from so many different enterprises (see
History of Anthropology), including but not limited to fossil-hunting,
exploring, documentary film-making, paleontology, primatology,
antiquity dealings and curatorship, philology, etymology, genetics,
regional analysis, ethnology, history, philosophy, and religious
studies, it is difficult to characterize the entire field in a
brief article, although attempts to write histories of the entire
field have been made.
Some authors argue that anthropology originated and developed as the
study of "other cultures", both in terms of time (past societies) and
space (non-European/non-Western societies). For example, the
classic of urban anthropology,
Ulf Hannerz in the introduction to his
seminal Exploring the City: Inquiries Toward an Urban Anthropology
mentions that the "Third World" had habitually received most of
attention; anthropologists who traditionally specialized in "other
cultures" looked for them far away and started to look "across the
tracks" only in late 1960s.
Now there exist many works focusing on peoples and topics very close
to the author's "home". It is also argued that other fields of
History and Sociology, on the contrary focus
disproportionately on the West.
In France, the study of Western societies has been traditionally left
to sociologists, but this is increasingly changing, starting in
the 1970s from scholars like Isac Chiva and journals like Terrain
("fieldwork"), and developing with the center founded by Marc Augé
(Le Centre d'anthropologie des mondes contemporains, the
Anthropological Research Center of Contemporary Societies).
Since the 1980s it has become common for social and cultural
anthropologists to set ethnographic research in the North Atlantic
region, frequently examining the connections between locations rather
than limiting research to a single locale. There has also been a
related shift toward broadening the focus beyond the daily life of
ordinary people; increasingly, research is set in settings such as
scientific laboratories, social movements, governmental and
nongovernmental organizations and businesses.
Outline of anthropology
Anthropological Index Online
Anthropological Index Online (AIO)
Anthropological science fiction
Christian anthropology, a sub-field of theology
Human Relations Area Files
Intangible cultural heritage
List of anthropologists
Origins of society
Philosophical anthropology, a sub-field of philosophy
Anthropology in Tinbergen's four questions
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Brutus in British history, includes the passage "Genealogy or issue
which they had, Artes which they studied, Actes which they did. This
History is named Anthropology."
^ John Kersey's 1706 edition of The New World of English Words
includes the definition "Anthropology, a Discourse or Description of
Man, or of a Man's Body."
^ In French: L'Anthropologie, c'est à dire la science qui traite de
l'homme, est divisée ordinairment & avec raison en l'Anatomie,
qui considere le corps & les parties, et en la Psychologie, qui
parle de l'Ame.
^ As Fletcher points out, the French society was by no means the first
to include anthropology or parts of it as its topic. Previous
organizations used other names. The German Anthropological Association
of St. Petersburg, however, in fact met first in 1861, but due to the
death of its founder never met again.
^ Hunt's choice of theorists does not exclude the numerous other
theorists that were beginning to publish a large volume of
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^ "AAA Commission Releases Final Report on Army
Human Terrain System".
American Anthropological Association
American Anthropological Association (2009-12-08)
^ Rosaldo, Renato (1993).
Culture and Truth: The remaking of social
analysis. Beacon Press. Inda
^ Xavier, John and Rosaldo, Renato (2007). The
^ Jurmain, Robert; Kilgore, Lynn; Trevathan, Wenda and Ciochon,
Russell L. (2007). Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 11th
Edition. Wadsworth. chapters I, III and IV. ISBN 0495187798.
^ Wompack, Mari (2001). Being Human. Prentice Hall. pp. 11–20.
^ Brown, Donald (1991).
Human Universals. McGraw Hill.
^ Roughley, Neil (2000). Being Humans: Anthropological Universality
and Particularity in Transciplinary Perspectives. Walter de Gruyter
^ Erickson, Paul A. and Liam D. Murphy (2003). A
Anthropological Theory. Broadview Press. pp. 11–12.
^ Stocking, George (1992) "Paradigmatic Traditions in the
Anthropology", pp. 342–361 in George Stocking, The Ethnographer's
Magic and Other Essays in the
History of Anthropology. Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299134148.
^ Leaf, Murray (1979). Man, Mind and Science: A
Anthropology. Columbia University Press.
^ See the many essays relating to this in Prem Poddar and David
Johnson, Historical Companion to Postcolonial Thought in English,
Edinburgh University Press, 2004. See also Prem Poddar et al.,
Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures—Continental Europe
and its Empires, Edinburgh University Press, 2008
^ Lewis, Herbert S. (1998) The Misrepresentation of
its Consequences American
Anthropologist "100:" 716–731
^ Goody, Jack (2007) The Theft of History. Cambridge University Press.
^ Abélès, Marc. "How the
Anthropology of France Has Changed
Anthropology in France: Assessing New Directions in the Field".
Cultural Anthropology. 1999: 407. JSTOR 08867356.
^ Fischer, Michael M. J. (2003) Emergent Forms of Life and the
Anthropological Voice. Duke University Press.
Main article: Bibliography of anthropology
Dictionaries and encyclopedias
Barnard, Alan; Spencer, Jonathan, eds. (2010). The Routledge
Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. London:
Barfield, Thomas (1997). The dictionary of anthropology. Hoboken:
Jackson, John L. (2013). Oxford Bibliographies: Anthropology. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Levinson, David; Ember, Melvin, eds. (1996). Encyclopedia of Cultural
Anthropology. Volumes 1–4. New York: Henry Holt.
Rapport, Nigel; Overing, Joanna (2007). Social and Cultural
Anthropology: The Key Concepts. New York: Routledge.
Fieldnotes and memoirs
Barley, Nigel (1983). The innocent anthropologist: notes from a mud
hut. London: British Museum Publications.
Geertz, Clifford (1995). After the fact: two countries, four decades,
one anthropologist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1967). Tristes tropiques. Translated from the
French by John Russell. New York: Atheneum.
Malinowski, Bronisław (1967). A diary in the strict sense of the
term. Translated by Norbert Guterman. New York: Harcourt, Brace &
Mead, Margaret (1972). Blackberry winter: my earlier years. New York:
—— (1977). Letters from the field, 1925–1975. New York: Harper
Rabinow, Paul (1977). Reflections on fieldwork in Morocco. Quantum
Books. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Asad, Talal, ed. (1973).
Anthropology & the Colonial Encounter.
Atlantic Highlands, NJ:
Barth, Fredrik; Gingrich, Andre; Parkin, Robert (2005). One
Discipline, Four Ways: British, German, French, and American
anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Darnell, Regna. (2001). Invisible Genealogies: A
Americanist Anthropology. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska
Gisi, Lucas Marco (2007). Einbildungskraft und Mythologie. Die
Verschränkung von Anthropologie und Geschichte im 18. Jahrhundert.
Berlin; New York: de Gruyter.
Harris, Marvin. (2001) . The rise of anthropological theory: a
history of theories of culture. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira
Hunt, James (1863). "Introductory Address on the Study of
Anthropology". The Anthropological Review. London: Trübner & Co.
Kehoe, Alice B. (1998). The Land of Prehistory: A Critical
American Archaeology. New York; London: Routledge.
Lewis, H. S. (1998). "The Misrepresentation of
Anthropology and Its
Consequences". American Anthropologist. 100 (3): 716–731.
—— (2004). "Imagining Anthropology's History". Reviews in
Anthropology. v. 33.
—— (2005). "Anthropology, the Cold War, and Intellectual History".
In Darnell, R.; Gleach, F.W. Histories of
Anthropology Annual, Vol.
Pels, Peter; Salemink, Oscar, eds. (2000). Colonial Subjects: Essays
on the Practical
History of Anthropology. Ann Arbor: University of
Price, David (2004). Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the
FBI's Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists. Durham: Duke
University Press. .
Sera-Shriar, Efram (2013). The Making of British Anthropology,
Culture in the Nineteenth Century, 18.
London; Vermont: Pickering and Chatto.
Schiller, Francis (1979). Paul Broca, Founder of French Anthropology,
Explorer of the Brain. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Stocking, George, Jr. (1968). Race,
Culture and Evolution. New York:
Trencher, Susan (2000). Mirrored Images: American
American Culture, 1960–1980. Westport, Conn.: Bergin &
Wolf, Eric (1982). Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley;
Los Angeles: California University Press.
Textbooks and key theoretical works
Carneiro's circumscription theory
Clifford, James; Marcus, George E. (1986). Writing culture: the
poetics and politics of ethnography. Berkeley: University of
Geertz, Clifford (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York:
Harris, Marvin (1997). Culture, People, Nature: An Introduction to
Anthropology (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Salzmann, Zdeněk (1993). Language, culture, and society: an
introduction to linguistic anthropology. Boulder, CO: Westview
Shweder, Richard A.; LeVine, Robert A., eds. (1984).
essays on mind, self, and emotion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University
Waitz, Theodor (1863). Introduction to Anthropology. Translated by J.
Frederick Collingwood for the Anthropological
Society of London.
London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.
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"Home". Australian Anthropological Society. Retrieved 23 March
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Antropólogos Iberoamericanos en Red. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
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