Boas – What is Anthropology?

What is Anthropology?

by Franz Boaz

[Boas, Franz. 1928. “What is Anthropology?” in Anthropology and Modern Life, 11-18. New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton & Company.]

Points & Quotes:

  • Anthropology is often considered a collection of curious facts telling about the peculiar appearance of exotic people and describing their strange customs and beliefs. It is looked upon as an entertaining diversion, apparently without any bearing upon the conduct of life of civilized communities. This opinion is mistaken. (11)
  • “In short, when discussing the reactions of the individual to his fellows we are compelled to concentrate our attention upon the society in which he lives. We cannot treat the individual as an isolated unit” (15)
  • “He must be studied in his social setting, and the question is relevant whether generalizations are possible by which a functional relation between generalized social data and the form and expression of individual can be discovered; life in other words, whether any generally valid laws exist that govern the life of society.” (15)
  • “The only valuation of discoveries that can be admitted by pure science is their significance in the solution of general abstract problems. While this standpoint of pure science is applicable also to social phenomena, it is easily recognized that these concern our own selves much more immediately, for almost every anthropological problem touches our most intimate life.” (16)

Annotation summary:

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Anthropology is often considered a collection of curious facts telling about the peculiar appearance of exotic people and describing their strange customs and beliefs. It is looked upon as an entertaining diversion, apparently without any bearing upon the conduct of life of civilized communities. This opinion is mistaken.”

Page 1, Stamp (yesgrn)

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “More than that, I hope to demonstrate that a clear understanding of the principles of anthropology illuminates the social processes of our own times”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “work There is a anthropologist ologist, and difference and that psychologist. between of the They the anatomist, deal of the physi primarily with the typical form and function of the human body and mind.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The . s a and interest type, and functions in centers the from always significance a in the of his morphological, or psychological point of view. “

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “individual as a appearance and”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “appearance physiological”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “To the anthropologist, on the contrary, the individual appears important only as a member of a racial or a social group. The distribution and range of differences between individuals, and the characteristics as determined by the group to which each individual belongs are distribution the of phenomena anatomical to be investigated. The features, of physiological functions and of mental reactions are the subject matter of anthropological studies. “

Page 2, Stamp (yesgrn)

Page 2, Stamp (openStarred)

Page 3, Stamp (openStarred)

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” Many examples can be given showing that people of essentially the same descent behave differently indifferent types of social setting.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “the mental processes of artistic creation.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “implies that we are not dealing with the artist alone as a creator but also with his reaction to the culture in which he lives and that of his fellows to the work he has created. “

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The student of linguistics may investigate the”norm” of linguistic expression at a given time and the mechanical changes; “

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” The anthropologist is more deeply inter-the social aspect of the linguistic phenomenon, in language as a means of communication and in the interrelation between language and culture. “

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In short, when discussing the reactions of the individual to his fellows we are compelled to concentrate our attention upon the society in which he lives. We cannot treat the individual as an isolated unit. “

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “In short, when discussing the reactions of the individual to his fellows we are compelled to concentrate our attention upon the society in which he lives.”

Page 5, Stamp (openStarred)

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “. He must be studied in his social setting, and the question is relevant whether generalizations are possible by which a functional relation between generalized social data and the form and expression of individual can be discovered; life in other words, whether any generally valid laws exist that govern the life of society.”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: ” and the question relevant”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “is”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: ” whether any generally valid laws exist that govern the life of society.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The only valuation of discoveries that can be admitted by pure science is their significance in the solution of general abstract problems. While this standpoint of pure science is applicable also to social phenomena, it is easily recognized that these concern our own selves much more immediately, for almost every anthropological problem touches our most intimate life. “

Page 6, Stamp (openStarred)

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “It is the object of the following pages to discuss problems of modern life in the light of the results of anthropological studies carried on from a purely analytical point of view. “

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