When the social anthropology arose

When the social anthropology arose

Social anthropology – the intersubject discipline studying the person and human society and also regularities of their development. Its emergence is connected with a number of researchers.

Marcel Moss

The term "social anthropology" was entered in 1907 by James Frezer heading the first department of social anthropology at the Cambridge university. The French ethnographers and sociologists Emil Durkheim and Marcel Moss are considered as founders of social anthropology. In an essay "About a gift" (1925) Moss for the first time addresses a research of the person as public being on the basis of the representations which developed in "primitive" communities.

Moss developed complete approach to studying public interactions in archaic society. Addressing subjects of a sacrifice, primitive exchange, he pays attention that the specific physical and physiological manifestations are inherent in various societies. Thus, in the works of the first half of the 20th century Moss carries out conceptual transition from especially sociological interpretations of religion to studying human thinking that becomes distinctive feature of social anthropology.

"Anthropologists in chairs"

Formation of social anthropology was influenced by sociologists, not being ethnographers and using in the analysis the others observations. Such scientists are carried to the category "arm-chair anthropologists" (anthropologists in chairs). Claude Lévi-Strauss, the founder of structuralist approach to a problem "the person and society" is distinguished from them. Addressing in the works "Race and history" (1952) and "Structural anthropology" (1958) a research of primitive cultures, Lévi-Strauss comes to a conclusion that any observation surely includes comparison of modern and traditional society. Therefore, the transition to comparison of model of the person and society within the same criteria and structures allowing to avoid the hidden eurocentrism is necessary. For this purpose it is necessary to develop a special conceptual framework which allows to describe the phenomena of different cultures, without inserting them into concepts of the western society. The social anthropology involved a great number of the western researchers (E. Fromm, M. Weber, K. Lorentz) in development of this device.


Formation of social anthropology, besides sociologists structuralists, is connected also with names of ethnographers - A. Radcliff-Brown and Bronislav Malinovsky. Unlike many other anthropologists, Malinovsky lived among natives and personally knew their life that influenced the theory of the included observation which is one of key in social anthropology. Having gone in 1914 to the British colony of Papua, the scientist conducts early studies to Maila and the islands of Trobrian. In the same place he meets also Radcliff-Brown who gives to it advice on field work. Saying that the purpose of the ethnographer consists in understanding of outlook and a way of life of the native, Malinovsky develops the doctrine about culture as the complete organism having accurate function.

Author: «MirrorInfo» Dream Team