Anthropology has its etymological origins in the Greek words Anthropos meaning human being and logos meaning study. Anthropology is thus a study of the history of the development of human beings. Though anthropology was originally purely a Natural Science it has evolved into a much more complex field of study where the human society, as much as the human evolution, is a major subject of inquiry. The fathers of anthropology include the illustrious Claude Levi-Strauss, Edward Burnett Tylor, Emile Durkheim, Lewis H. Morgan, Bronislaw Malinowski, Franz Boas, etc. In its initial stages anthropology was often used by the colonizers to classify the colonized other but today anthropology has emerged as a great proponent of multiculturalism and pluralism. It has also been instrumental in exploding the myth of racial superiority.
Anthropology can be divided into more specialized branches of study. This division is known as the "four-field" approach to the subject. These four divisions are:
- Biological Anthropology
- Socio-Cultural Anthropology
- Linguistic Anthropology
Each of these branches are broad fields of studies which can then be further sub divided. For instance, Biological anthropologists can deal with primatology, forensic anthropology, evolutionary genetics, etc. Socio-Cultural anthropology can be similarly divided into various branches of study and research like the study of folklore, ethnic studies, psychological anthropology, media studies, cultural studies, etc. Semiotics, sociolinguistics, narrative analysis and discourse analysis fall under the broader linguistic branch of anthropology. Archaeology in its turn, contributes to the enrichment of various other fields of study such as population genetics, history, etc.
Nature of Work
Anthropologists have to be involved extensively with field work and researching. There are various institutes which employ anthropologists most importantly the Anthropological Survey of India. Anthropologists can also be employed as professors in various universities which offer courses on anthropology. Field work often involves study of certain ethnic groups or ancient artefacts in remote locations for long periods. The field work can be both physically and mentally exhaustive and involve working in locations with low comfort levels.
Generally anyone having completed their schooling in the science stream is eligible to study anthropology in college. This is because in most colleges and universities the bachelor's degree is a B.Sc. Therefore, having studied science is a must. Individual colleges or universities may have different requirements such as a grounding in 10+2 (with biology) and different percentages of marks required to take admission to a course in anthropology.
Similarly, for a master's degree in anthropology (M.Sc.), one needs to have completed the B.Sc. with requisite marks. Further academic options include PhD and research.
However, some universities also offer B.A and M.A in Anthropology.
An Anthropologist needs to be prepared for physical hard work (travelling, excavating, etc.). He or she should also be open-minded and unbiased. This quality is of utmost importance as a biased person (like the nineteenth century white colonisers who were predisposed to treat people with different skin colour as inferiors) will not be able to derive the right conclusions from their research and study. An anthropologist will be required to write down his or her findings; so some skill in the written language is also necessary.
The degree courses offered in Anthropology include the bachelor's degree in science and the master's degree in science. One can also pursue Ph.D after completion of graduation studies. As mentioned above, it is also possible to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in arts in Anthropology. The bachelor's degrees, almost always like most other arts and science subjects, have a three year course of study whereas the master's courses have a two year course of study.
Colleges, Institutions and Universities
Many colleges and universities offer degrees in anthropology. These are:
- Visva Bharati University (West Bengal),
- Pt.Ravishankar Shukla University (Chhatisgarh),
- Vinoba Bhave University (Jharkhand),
- Berhampur University (Orissa),
- University of Calcutta (West Bengal),
- University of Delhi (Delhi),
- University of Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh),
- University of Mysore (Karnataka),
- Sambalpur University (Orissa),
- Vidyasagar University (West Bengal),
- Manipur University (Manipur)
- Bangalore University (Bangalore)
- University of Rajashthan (Rajasthan)
- North Eastern Hill University (Meghalaya)
- Pune University (Maharashtra )
- Dibrugarh University (Assam )
- Guwahati University (Assam )
- Sri Venkateswara University (Andhra Pradesh)
- University of Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh)
- Utkal University (Orissa)
- Siddhu Kanhu University (Jharkhand)
- Kurukshetra University (Haryana)
- University of Mumbai (Maharashtra)
There are several streams in which one can specialise in Anthropology. Some of them are Sociocultural Anthropology, Prehistoric Anthropology or Archaeology, Physical or Biological Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology and Applied Anthropology.
- Socio-cultural Anthropology: It deals with different aspects of socio-cultural behaviour like how groups and communities are formed and the development of cultures. One studies socio-economic changes like cultural differences among various communities and regions and the causes behind such differences and also cross-cultural communication, the evolution of languages, the evolution of technology and the patterns of change in different cultures.
- Prehistoric-Anthropology or Archaeology: There is an attempt to reconstruct history on the basis of relics like statues, bones, coins and other historical artefacts. Such discoveries help to reconstruct early history and social customs and traditions. Archaeologists also try to analyse social activity from such discoveries. They also make use of contemporary records or historical documents to tally with their discoveries and then reconstruct early human history.
- Physical or Biological Anthropology: This stream of anthropology is concerned with physical or biological characteristics of the primate order, like, humans and the links with other primates like chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys. This branch tries to understand social customs through the evolutionary chain. It also explores the physical differences between races and the way in which different races have adapted themselves physiologically and their reactions to different environments. Biological or physical anthropology also has other sub streams or sub disciplines. These provide further specialisation options. These include primate biology, osteology (the study of bones and skeletons), paleoanthropology and forensic anthropology.
- Applied Anthropology: Applied anthropology puts to use the information collected from other branches of anthropology and then uses this data in programmes like large scale initiatives for birth control, health treatment, reducing malnutrition, trying to curb juvenile delinquency, solving labour problems and worker protests in industries, improving agricultural practices, preventing tribal welfare and helping in tribal rehabilitation when their land is taken over or they are forcefully removed.
- Linguistic Anthropology: This stream deals with origin and construction of oral well as written languages. There is also a scope for comparative studies and see how cultural interactions have influenced the language of the different cultures involved and how language is an indicator to different cultural practices and customs. Linguistic anthropology is closely linked with cultural anthropology.
There are many fields where Anthropologists can find employment. If one is planning on an academic career, then one can either find Academic jobs at various universities and institutes or do research at organisations like the Archaeological Survey of India, the Planning Commission and the Commission for Scheduled Castes, Tribes and Other Backward Classes, the WHO, UNESCO and UNICEF. One can always work with NGOs working in under-developed areas. Other than such jobs, one can also find employment in corporate houses in the Human Resource Development sector as anthropologists can balance the relation between society and industry. Anthropologists are also employed by museums, art galleries, libraries and archives. One can find employment as archaeologists, curators, linguists, social workers, tour guides, in publishing houses and in social service organisations. Anthropologists also find employment in forensic science departments and criminal investigation departments.
The remuneration varies widely. For researchers, the grants are far and few between but if one is dedicated to one's task and one's research area, grants come someway or the other. Many foreign institutions support anthropological research in India as well. It is not that only Indian organisations support anthropological researches in India and overseas ones do not support research within India.
For non-research based jobs, the pay is generally good. Museums and libraries pay a high salary as do corporate houses for jobs in the Human Resource Development sector. Even working with NGOs pays quite well. The focus for most anthropologists is more on their work rather than on the money.
One can apply to universities and other academic institutions if one wishes to continue with research or teach. Otherwise, one can apply to museums, libraries and other archives for the post of curators and archivists. Similarly, one can apply to corporate houses for jobs in the Human Resource Development sector. One can also apply to institutions like the Archaeological Survey of India, the WHO, the UNESCO and the UNICEF. One can also find NGOs working with issues that one is interested in and team up with such NGOs to do both research and field work. This entails some sort of applied anthropology and is sometimes more mentally rewarding. One can also apply for posts in publishing houses dealing with the social sciences.