Module I: Introduction
II. Method and Theory in Cultural Anthropology.
Ethnology, or the theoretical aspect of anthropology,
is concerned with the explanation of cultural regularities and variation through comparison and generalization based on existing ethnographic literature and the formulation of hypotheses for further research.
Accordingly, theory building occurs both before fieldwork, as the anthropologist reviews the findings of other researchers to identify issues for investigation, and after, as he/she evaluates the significance of the findings.
While there is some loose agreement on basic concepts, such as culture,
numerous theoretical controversies and differences in orientation have
dominated the development of ethnology.
The following discussion covers the major anthropological theories that start from a scientific orientation and from the Boasian assumption that human nature must be understood in terms of cultural conditioning. I shall not cover those schools which cont
est these axioms, namely:
- Postmodernists, who deny the possibility of objective scientific reporting and explanation.
- Sociobiologists, who interpret human behaviour primarily as a consequence of biology.