Anthropologist – Definition, Types, Work Area




Anthropologist is a social scientist who studies human societies and cultures, past and present. Anthropologists examine various aspects of human behavior, such as social organization, cultural beliefs and practices, linguistic diversity, and biological diversity. They also explore the ways in which humans interact with their environment and the impact of culture on human development.

Types of Anthropologist

There are several types of anthropologists, each with a specific area of focus within the field of anthropology. Here are some of the most common types of anthropologists:

  • Cultural anthropologists: They study the beliefs, behaviors, and social organization of people in different cultures.
  • Physical or biological anthropologists: They study the biological and physical aspects of human beings, including their evolution, anatomy, genetics, and health.
  • Linguistic anthropologists: They study the relationship between language and culture, how language is used in different cultures, and how language shapes people’s experiences and worldviews.
  • Archaeologists: They study past human societies and cultures by examining artifacts, architecture, and other physical remains.
  • Medical anthropologists: They study the relationship between culture and health, including how cultural beliefs and practices affect health outcomes.
  • Applied anthropologists: They use anthropological methods and theories to address practical problems in fields such as education, public health, and business.
  • Forensic anthropologists: They apply their knowledge of anatomy, biology, and archaeology to help identify human remains in legal and forensic investigations.
  • Environmental anthropologists: They study the relationship between humans and their environment, including the ways in which human activities affect natural ecosystems and how humans adapt to and cope with environmental changes.
  • Economic anthropologists: They study the economic systems of different cultures and how economic activities are embedded in social, cultural, and political contexts.
  • Political anthropologists: They study the ways in which power and authority are exercised in different societies, including the role of institutions, elites, and popular movements.
  • Development anthropologists: They work to understand and address the social and cultural implications of development projects, such as infrastructure construction and resource extraction, on local communities.
  • Visual anthropologists: They use visual media, such as photography and film, to document and analyze social and cultural phenomena.
  • Psychological anthropologists: They explore the ways in which cultural beliefs and practices shape human emotions, personality, and mental health.
  • Legal anthropologists: They study the relationship between law and culture, including the ways in which legal systems reflect and shape cultural values and norms.
  • Urban anthropologists: They study the social and cultural dynamics of urban environments, including issues such as urbanization, gentrification, and community development.
  • Performance anthropologists: They use ethnographic methods to study and analyze different forms of cultural performance, such as dance, music, and theater.
  • Museums and heritage anthropologists: They work with museums, archives, and other cultural institutions to preserve and promote cultural heritage, including the material culture of different societies.
  • Ethnohistorians: They use ethnographic methods and historical research to study and interpret the cultural traditions and histories of different societies.

What Do Anthropologists Do

Here are some of the key things that anthropologists do:

  • Conduct fieldwork: Anthropologists often spend significant amounts of time living among and observing the people they study in order to gain a deep understanding of their culture and way of life. They may also collect data through surveys, interviews, and archival research.
  • Analyze data: Anthropologists use various methods to analyze the data they collect, such as statistical analysis, content analysis, and discourse analysis.
  • Develop theories: Anthropologists use their findings to develop theories about human behavior and cultural practices. These theories can be used to explain patterns of behavior across different societies and to identify commonalities and differences between cultures.
  • Apply knowledge: Anthropologists use their knowledge of human behavior and culture to address practical problems in a wide range of fields, such as public health, education, business, and government. For example, they may work to develop effective health interventions that are culturally appropriate for different populations.
  • Teach and educate: Anthropologists teach and educate others about the diversity of human cultures and the importance of cultural understanding and sensitivity. They may work in academic institutions, museums, or other educational settings.
  • Publish research: Anthropologists publish their research findings in academic journals, books, and other publications in order to share their knowledge with other scholars and the public.

What Skills Must an Anthropologist Have

nthropologists require a range of skills in order to conduct effective research, analyze data, and communicate their findings. Here are some of the key skills that are essential for success as an anthropologist:

  • Cross-cultural awareness: Anthropologists must be able to understand and appreciate the diversity of cultural practices, beliefs, and values across different societies and populations.
  • Observation and fieldwork skills: Anthropologists must be skilled in conducting fieldwork, including observing, interviewing, and interacting with members of the communities they study.
  • Critical thinking and analysis: Anthropologists must be able to critically analyze and interpret data in order to identify patterns and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Communication skills: Anthropologists must be able to communicate their research findings effectively to a range of audiences, including other scholars, policymakers, and the general public.
  • Writing skills: Anthropologists must be skilled writers, capable of producing clear and compelling research reports, academic papers, and other written materials.
  • Interdisciplinary knowledge: Anthropologists often work in interdisciplinary teams, so they must have a broad knowledge base and be comfortable working with professionals from other fields.
  • Ethics and sensitivity: Anthropologists must be sensitive to the ethical considerations of working with communities and individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.

Where Anthropologist Work

Anthropologists work in a variety of settings, depending on their area of expertise and the nature of their research. Here are some of the most common places where anthropologists work:

  • Academic institutions: Many anthropologists work in colleges and universities, where they teach courses in anthropology and conduct research.
  • Museums and cultural institutions: Anthropologists may work in museums, archives, and other cultural institutions, where they help to preserve and interpret cultural artifacts and traditions.
  • Non-profit organizations: Anthropologists may work for non-profit organizations, such as NGOs, that focus on issues such as international development, human rights, or environmental conservation.
  • Government agencies: Anthropologists may work for government agencies at the local, state, or federal level, where they may be involved in policy development or research related to issues such as public health, education, or social welfare.
  • Private industry: Anthropologists may work in private industry, such as in marketing or product design, where they use their knowledge of human behavior and culture to help companies develop effective strategies for engaging with different populations.
  • Consulting firms: Anthropologists may work for consulting firms that provide research and analysis services to a wide range of clients, including businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

How to Become An Anthropologist

To become an anthropologist, you typically need to follow these steps:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree: A bachelor’s degree in anthropology or a related field is usually required to become an anthropologist. In addition to anthropology coursework, you may also need to complete courses in other social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, or political science.
  • Pursue a master’s degree: Many anthropologists go on to earn a master’s degree in anthropology, which can help to deepen their knowledge and skills in the field. A master’s degree may also be required for certain types of positions or research opportunities.
  • Consider a PhD: While a PhD is not always required to work as an anthropologist, it can be beneficial for those who want to pursue academic careers or conduct research at the highest level. A PhD program typically involves several years of coursework, followed by original research and the completion of a dissertation.
  • Gain practical experience: Many anthropologists gain practical experience through internships, fieldwork, or research assistantships. This can help to build your skills and knowledge in the field, as well as to make valuable connections with other professionals.
  • Network with other professionals: Networking is important in any field, and anthropology is no exception. Joining professional organizations, attending conferences, and collaborating with other professionals can help you to learn about new research opportunities and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.

Famous Anthropologist In History

AnthropologistEraNotable Contributions
Franz BoasLate 19th to early 20th centuryFather of American anthropology, founder of cultural relativism, studied Native American cultures
Margaret MeadMid-20th centuryStudied gender roles and sexuality in non-Western societies, wrote “Coming of Age in Samoa”
Bronislaw MalinowskiEarly 20th centuryFounder of functionalism, conducted fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands
Clifford GeertzLate 20th centuryDeveloped the concept of thick description, studied symbolic systems in different cultures
Marcel MaussEarly 20th centuryStudied gift-giving and reciprocity in different cultures, developed the concept of “total social fact”
Ruth BenedictMid-20th centuryDeveloped the idea of culture patterns, studied cultural diversity in the United States
Lewis Henry MorganMid-19th centuryStudied kinship systems and social organization, developed the concept of cultural evolution
Zora Neale HurstonEarly to mid-20th centuryConducted fieldwork on African American folklore and culture, wrote “Mules and Men” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
Edward SapirEarly 20th centuryStudied linguistic diversity and the relationship between language and culture, developed the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Jane GoodallLate 20th century to presentStudied chimpanzee behavior and social organization in Tanzania, became an advocate for wildlife conservation

About the author

Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer