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The " Vitruvian Man " by Leonardo da Vinci (1490) as a symbol

Anthropology (in the 16th century as anthropologia formed from ancient Greek ἄνθρωπος ánthrōpos , German 'man' , and -logie : human study, doctrine of man) is the science of man . In the German-speaking area and in many European countries, it is primarily understood as a natural science. The scientific or Physical Anthropology considers the human being, following the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin as a biological being.

This naturalistic view of the human being, which deals, for example, with the constitution (previously also with racial theory and human genetics ) and the descent of the human being , are opposed to various other approaches, for example philosophical anthropology . Here people are scientifically examined not only as an object, but also as a subject. Among other things, it is about qualitative characteristics such as personality , freedom of choice and the possibility of self-determination . In German science policy, anthropology is classified as a minor subject .

History of anthropology

The term anthropology goes back to the German philosopher, doctor and theologian Magnus Hundt (1449–1519), who wrote in a work published in 1501 “Antropologium de hominis dignitate, natura et proprietatibus, de elementis, partibus et membris humani corporis”. One of the first lecturers for the subject was the anatomist and physiologist Heinrich Palmatius Leveling , who offered anthropology as a lecture at Ingolstadt University in 1799. A chair for “General Natural History and Anthropology” was established in Munich in 1826. Friedrich Nasse was from 1823 to 1826 in Leipzig, from the Journal of Mental doctors emerged Journal of anthropology out. Johannes Ranke was appointed to Germany's first independent chair for (physical) anthropology on August 1, 1886 , followed in 1917 by the Swiss Rudolf Martin (1864–1925), who in 1918 became director of the Anthropological Institute and the Anthropological-Prehistoric State Collection. Martin was appointed associate professor at the University of Zurich in 1900 and full professor for anthropology in 1905.

Scientific approach

Biological anthropology

An anthropologist at work

The biological anthropology, with its sub-areas Primatology , evolution , paleoanthropology , Population biology , industrial anthropology , genetics , sports anthropology , growth ( Auxology ) constitution and forensics a Department of Human Biology . Its aim is the description, cause analysis and evolutionary biological interpretation of the diversity of biological characteristics of the hominids ( family of primates , which includes fossil and recent humans). Her methods are both descriptive and analytical.

There are institutions in German-speaking countries at universities and museums in Tübingen, Kiel, Hamburg, Berlin, Göttingen, Jena, Gießen, Mainz, Ulm, Freiburg im Breisgau, Munich, Zurich and Vienna. Most of the time, the name is only "anthropology", additions such as "biological" have recently become necessary because the competing US term of anthropology is also known here.

Forensic anthropology

Anthropometric data sheet with photographs: made in the Alphonse Bertillon laboratory in 1893 , it shows Francis Galton . Today, the detection of human features extends identification purposes collecting work in the field of human genetics to automated review currently recorded pattern .

The forensic anthropology is one of the three judicial Human Sciences, in addition to the legal medicine and forensic dentistry .

Areas of forensic anthropology:

Forensic anthropology uses the means of anthropology to solve crimes . Forensic anthropologists mainly deal with the identification of bank robbers, fast-moving vehicles, etc., but also often with heavily decayed or completely skeletonized corpses. It is not uncommon for them to be the last hope to solve a crime. In Germany there is a strong institutional dominance of forensic medicine, but it is precisely this that sometimes prevents access to the independent competence of anthropology.

Humanities approach

Social anthropology

Social anthropology is regarded as the science of cultural and social diversity - or more generally as the "science of people in society". It analyzes the social organization of humans. In the German-speaking world, the term “social anthropology” was a term used since the 1960s for British social anthropology or French anthropologie sociale , but was then given up in favor of the specialist term “ ethnosociology ” (department of ethnology ). In recent years, however, a renaissance of the concept of anthropology has been observed, which aims to take account of a research landscape that has been changed by transnationalization and globalization processes.

Cultural anthropology

German school starter with a school cone : The gift honors his transition from a family association to a new cultural institution. Ethnology (ethnology), which emerged with physical anthropology, examines traditions and customs. On the other hand , folklore that emerged primarily from the humanities can count as European ethnology.

Cultural anthropology is an empirically supported science of culture (in the sense of "human culture"). It developed from folklore in the 20th century , but in contrast to this it focuses on intercultural , ethnological and sociological topics and models. Among the anthropological disciplines, cultural anthropology occupies a middle position between the biologically and philosophically oriented directions; it is broadest in its range of topics.

In German-speaking countries have not added any more precise definition of the research object has prevailed . In the USA, on the other hand, cultural anthropology refers to ethnology (ethnology). In German, the imprecise English term anthropology is sometimes incorrectly translated as “anthropology”, while what is actually meant is ethnology.

Legal anthropology

Legal anthropology is an independent sub-form of cultural anthropology. It examines the content and functioning of legal structures of people from different cultural traditions of tribes and peoples (see also legal ethnology ). In addition, this term describes a legal research direction that is committed to the natural fundamental constants of legislation and case law . Legal anthropology is primarily concerned with the (western democratic) “view of man in the constitution”, which, on the other hand, is based on people who act freely and responsibly in their will. To do this, she usually chooses a pragmatic, dual approach. The term culture, sometimes also the more political term civilization, then describes the socially real world in which humans combine both perspectives.

Philosophical anthropology

Philosophical anthropology is the discipline of philosophy that deals with the essence of man. Modern philosophical anthropology is a very young philosophical discipline that only emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction to a loss of world orientation. With the exception of René Descartes, who in his meditations on the first philosophy (1641) already harbored certain doubts about the medieval Christian view of the world and took a position on the relationship between body and soul. He conveys a new philosophical set of ideas such as: “It is thinking (= consciousness); it alone cannot be separated from me; I am; I exist - that is certain [...] Accordingly, strictly speaking, I am a thinking thing, i. H. Spirit or soul or understanding [...] "

Historical anthropology

Historical anthropology describes, on the one hand, anthropological research in historical studies and , on the other hand, a transdisciplinary research direction that examines the historical variability of basic phenomena of human existence. In doing so, she relates the historicity of her perspectives and methodological approaches as well as the historicity of her subject, i.e. the appearance of people in the different epochs.

Theological anthropology

Theological anthropology as a sub-area of ​​systematic theology interprets people from a Christian theological point of view. She is particularly concerned with the essence of man and the determination of man before God. In contrast, the studied anthropology of religion as a field of anthropology (ethnology) the religions at the 1300 world's  ethnic groups and indigenous peoples , in contrast to the sociology of religion , especially in (former) non-literate cultures.

Industrial anthropology

The industry anthropology as a discipline of anthropology examines the usability ( usability ) and usability of jobs, controls and products.

Media anthropology

Media anthropology (also known as anthropology of the media or anthropology of the media) is a young, interdisciplinary research area between media studies and anthropology. In media anthropology, the production and use of media as well as their effects are mostly researched using cultural studies and ethnographic methods. Media anthropological research is also often discussed in connection with media education . "In media anthropological terms, people are beings who articulate themselves, perceive and make themselves perceptible in media practices and techniques, because they represent something and something is presented to them."

Other approaches and mixed forms

Anthropology in the Social Sciences

Street scene in Dhaka : townspeople are considered particularly cosmopolitan ; the Human Ethology assumes that instinctive behavior in very large populations is important - the human ecology examines the people in its habitat

In the social sciences, the idea is widespread that human beings are indeterminate in their drives and needs, which is why an orientation and stabilization of behavior and drive life can only arise in socialization processes . This image of man forms the general anthropological prerequisite for the analysis of social processes, for example in Karl Marx , Max Weber , George Herbert Mead or Talcott Parsons .

In addition, there are two classic images of man in the social sciences that function as analytical and ideal-typical models : the homo oeconomicus of economics and the homo sociologicus of sociology. A “realistic” variant of the individualistic homo oeconomicus is the RREEMM model of humans, although the simpler models are still predominantly used in social science theory due to operationalization problems.

Based on the involvement of American social researchers in the Vietnam War ( Project Camelot ), a “reflexive anthropology” was developed as part of Critical Anthropology from 1970 (Bob Scholte 1970). The basic assumption of reflective anthropology is that social science statements can only stand up to criticism if they also consider (reflect) the social and cultural embedding of the researcher and the research. According to the cognitive interest of every anthropology ("know yourself": gnothi seauton ), a distinction is possible in this way between social research as the acquisition of information about other people ("spying out", compare informational self-determination ) or as a contribution to the self-knowledge of the researcher and his client. Significant approaches to a reflective anthropology were presented by Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu .

The concept of reflexive anthropology of Gesa Lindemann joins in contrast to the historical-reflexive direction within the German " philosophical anthropology " ( Helmuth Plessner ) to. General statements of philosophical anthropology are not understood as a socio-theoretical foundation, but are made an object of observation. This approach deals with the question of how the circle of social persons is limited in societies and what function anthropology has in modern times.

Psychological anthropology

In the scheme used, the psychology of the human being cannot be accommodated well, because psychology combines humanities, biological, behavioral and social science concepts and methods. As a science of human experience and behavior, including the biological and neuroscientific foundations, psychology is interdisciplinary from the outset. Because of this comprehensive view of people, empirical psychology can find itself in a particularly tense relationship with philosophical anthropology, which also has a comprehensive theoretical approach, but is hardly able to integrate the empirical human sciences. Important topics in psychological anthropology include: a. the image of man , personality theories , the fundamentals of motives, emotions in neurobiology and psychophysiology , the contributions of cognitive science , social psychology and cultural psychology , all areas of applied psychology and so on.

Even psychoanalysis and psychosomatic medicine were considered anthropological disciplines.

Educational anthropology

Pedagogical anthropology is the sub-area of pedagogy that deals with the output of anthropological questions, approaches and results within pedagogy. Roughly two directions can be distinguished here: Real anthropology is devoted to the empirical consideration of the reality of humans under the focus that results from pedagogy. The anthropology of meaning asks about the meaning and goals of human action, which are incorporated into the educational context. Anthropology of the senses has special references to educational theory in that it derives educational requirements from a specific image of man. Within the various anthropologies, it shows a particular proximity to philosophical and theological anthropology. Real anthropology is particularly close to biological and philosophical anthropology.

The division continued in the 1960s with the distinction between integrative and philosophical approaches. The “integrative” approaches try above all to make anthropological knowledge of various sub-disciplines (especially biology , sociobiology and so on) usable for pedagogical questions. Representatives of this approach include Heinrich Roth and Annette Scheunpflug . The “philosophical” approach has differentiated itself in different directions. Thus, Otto Friedrich Bollnow approach is to make anthropological questions (for example, about the nature of man and his destiny) for educational contexts available. Similar to other authors, however, he also oriented his work on phenomenology . So he did not try to gain an image of man from philosophy (or biology, for example) and to evaluate it pedagogically, but instead devoted himself directly to pedagogical action and the phenomena such as crises or encounters that occur in it , in order to reflect them as determining factors of man. In these investigations, humans appear in three roles with regard to education: as educator, as pupil and as educator.

In the more recent pedagogical anthropology, on the one hand, the integrative approach is continued (for example also in the consideration of more recent human medical results for pedagogy). Today, philosophical anthropology is increasingly continued as historical pedagogical anthropology, reflecting that anthropological knowledge is related to certain people in certain epochs as well as from a specific historical position and therefore cannot claim general validity over time.

Cybernetic Anthropology

Cybernetic anthropology describes the attempt to conceptually couple anthropology and cybernetics with the aim of overcoming the contrast between the natural sciences and the humanities. Cyber ​​anthropology is a newer field of ethnology (ethnology) or social anthropology and examines transnationally composed online communities taking into account cybernetic perspectives.

Medical anthropology

Medical anthropology, which emerged in the 16th century, deals with the interaction between culture and medicine.

Anthropology as a generic term and umbrella science

The thinker in Cleveland : Human interpretations are also expressed in art and religion. Modern anthropology developed in exchange with anatomy , geography and linguistics . She initially concentrated on body structure, but also examined cultural expressions of prehistoric and contemporary people .

Sometimes “anthropology” is used as a generic term for several of the individual and human sciences mentioned above . In the USA in particular, there are corresponding efforts to unite biological anthropology, cultural anthropology , ethnolinguistics and archeology under one roof (so-called "four-field anthropology"). This widespread view derives from the fact that anthropology - in contrast to and often in competition with theology - is human self-knowledge as human, according to the Delphic maxim Gnothi seauton , "know yourself".

The Systematic Anthropology , a 1977 published work of the German ethnologist Wolfgang Rudolph and Peter Tschohl , brings anthropologically fundamental knowledge in an integrated context. With the help of its own conceptual system, a general anthropological model is developed that theoretically dissolves the boundaries and overlaps of disciplines such as ethnology, biology, human genetics, psychology, sociology, philosophy, history (see on this approach: interdisciplinarity ). "The aim of the investigation is a scientific theory that covers that which can be systematically considered to be a subject of investigation called" human ", and which is therefore not dominated by a single subject."

Based on the general conditions of overall reality, the investigation reveals the special conditions of the biotic and human realm. For this purpose, a globally oriented selection of studies was evaluated and the resulting interdisciplinary system was theoretically formulated consistently. A central research result reads in short form: “Anthropology is to be explicated as the theory of class existence, 'human existence' ME. It has to understand the pre-understandable subject area human as existence class M and to present it systematically. ”The subject is human existence as empirically describable fact.

The theory conveyed what was then a progressive, humane and broad concept of culture. Because of its technocratic-looking formulation, however, it was only received in the ethnologically and sociologically oriented professional world. The framework and content of the theory would have to be updated today, but offer "a basis for individual examinations of any section of the human subject".

The practical relevance and thus the reception of Rudolph and Tschohl's "systematic anthropology" were already extremely limited when the work was published in 1977. Critics pointed out that the positivist conceptual system was developed completely apart from the current discussions in the social sciences. Its theoretical value lay in the practice of hierarchically networked nomenclature , which could have served as a starting point for empirical investigations if it had found general acceptance, but did not say much more about the reality of human living conditions than a systematically ordered catalog of European scientific terminology in the human sciences. The question of how the conceptual system of Rudolph and Tschohl could have been transferred to other language and cultural systems also remained unresolved. More fruitful approaches such as the concept of reflective anthropology (see Pierre Bourdieu ) and ethnomethodology , on the other hand, were pushed out of anthropological teaching.

The basic theory of anthropology is also orientation knowledge that shows connections between the disciplines and schools of the human sciences. A frame of reference results from the four basic questions of biological research (according to Nikolaas Tinbergen ): causation (= cause-effect relationships in functional processes), ontogenesis , adaptation value , phylogenesis . These four aspects must be taken into account at different levels of reference (compare Nicolai Hartmann ), for example cell , organ , individual , group :

1. Causes 2. Ontogeny 3. Adjustment value 4. Phylogenesis
a. molecule
b. cell
c. organ
d. individual
e. family
f. group
G. society

All anthropological questions (see PDF overview table, section A), their results (see table, section B) and specialty areas (see table, section C) can be assigned to the tabular orientation framework made up of basic questions and reference levels; it is the basis for structuring the results. With the help of basic theory, anthropological research can be advanced in theory and empiricism and well-founded and speculative knowledge can be better kept apart (e.g. concerns the school dispute in psychotherapy ).




  • Wilhelm Emil Mühlmann : History of Anthropology . 4th edition. Aula, Wiesbaden 1986, ISBN 3-89104-413-5 .
  • Christoph Wulf (Ed.): From people. Handbook of Historical Anthropology. Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 1997.
  • Glenn H. Penny, Matti Bunzl (Eds.): Worldly Provincialism. German Anthropology in the Age of Empire. Ann Arbor 2003.
  • Bernhard Rathmayr: The question about people. A historical anthropology of anthropologies. Barbara Budrich, Opladen 2013.

Medical anthropology:

  • Eduard Seidler (Ed.): Medical Anthropology. Contributions to a Theoretical Pathology. Berlin / Heidelberg / New York / Tokyo 1984 (= publications from the Research Center for Theoretical Pathology of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences ).

Comparative anthropology:

  • Rainer Knußmann: Comparative human biology. Textbook of anthropology and human genetics. Fischer, Stuttgart 1980 (1996), ISBN 3-437-25040-X .

Educational anthropology:

Special topics:

  • Manfred Engel : Romantic anthropology. Sketch of a research project. In: Historical Anthropology. Volume 8, 2000, pp. 264-271.
  • Michael Post: Draft of the foundations of fundamental ontological anthropology and natural theology. Neuss 2007, ISBN 978-3-00-021294-9 .
  • Bernhard Verbeek: The anthropology of environmental destruction, evolution and the shadow of the future. Primus, Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-89678-099-9 .
  • Rüdiger Zymner, Manfred Engel (ed.): Anthropology of literature. Poetogenic structures and aesthetic-social fields of action. Poetogenesis. Studies and texts on the empirical anthropology of literature. Mentis, Paderborn 2004, ISBN 3-89785-451-1 .

Web links

Commons : Anthropology  - Images and Media Files
File category Files: anthropology  - local collection of images and media files
Wiktionary: Anthropology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Axel W. Bauer: Comments on the use of the term “anthropology” in modern medicine (16th – 19th centuries). In: Eduard Seidler (Ed.): Medical Anthropology. 1984, pp. 32-55.
  2. Small subjects: anthropology. In: Undated, accessed October 9, 2019.
  3. Axel W. Bauer : What is man? Attempts at answering medical anthropology. In: Fachprosaforschung - Grenzüberrückungen 8/9, 2012/2013, ISBN 978-3-86888-077-9 , pp. 437–453, especially pp. 441–444, here pp. 441/442.
  4. Christian Friedrich Nasse (Ed.): Journal for Anthropology. Cnobloch, Leipzig 1823-1826; before: Friedrich Nasse (Hrsg.): Journal for psychic doctors. Volume 1-2, Leipzig 1818-1819; the same (ed.): Journal for psychic doctors, with special consideration of magnetism. Leipzig 1880–1822.
  5. ^ Obituary by Martin Rudolf (Yearbook 1926, Mollier). 1926 ( PDF: 102 kB, 1 page on ).
  6. ^ Gerfried Ziegelmayer: 100 years of anthropology in Munich. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 5, 1987, pp. 245-269, here pp. 245-253.
  7. Chair presentation: Social anthropology. University of Freiburg, Chair of Social Anthropology, accessed on October 9, 2019 (undated).
  8. Wulf, Kamper: Anthropology. In: Heinz-Elmar Tenorth, Rudulf Tippelt (ed.): BELTZ. Lexicon pedagogy. Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 2007, pp. 26–28.
  9. ^ Eva Schürmann: Project Media Anthropology. Research portal Saxony, professor for philosophical anthropology, cultural and technological philosophy at the Institute for Philosophy at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg; accessed on November 27, 2015.
  10. Axel Honneth, Hans Joas: Social action and human nature. Anthropological foundations of the social sciences. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1980, pp. ??.
  11. ^ IL Horowitz: The life and death of project Camelot. In: American Psychologist. Volume 21, No. 5, 1966, pp. 445-454 ( doi: 10.1037 / h0021152 ).
  12. Wolf Lepenies: Sociological Anthropology. Materials. Munich: Hanser 1974, p. 49.
  13. Gesa Lindemann: Thinking about the limits of the social. Velbrück, Weilerswist 2009, p. ??.
  14. Axel W. Bauer: What is man? Attempts at answering medical anthropology. 2012/2013 (2014), pp. 447/448.
  15. Erich Weber: Pedagogical Anthropology. 8th edition. Ludwig Auer, Donauwörth 1995, pp. 23/24.
  16. Christoph Wulf : To the introduction. Basics of a historical-pedagogical anthropology. In: Derselbe (Hrsg.): Introduction to pedagogical anthropology. Beltz, Weinheim u. a. 1994, p. 8.
  17. Wulf, Christoph, Zirfas, Jörg (Ed.): Handbook of Pedagogical Anthropology . 2013, ISBN 978-3-531-18166-0 .
  18. ^ Winfried Effelsberg: Intercultural Conflicts in Medicine. Medical anthropological considerations. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 3, 1985, pp. 29-40, here p. 29 (cited).
  19. Axel W. Bauer : What is man? Attempts at answering medical anthropology. In: Fachprosaforschung - Grenzüberrückungen 8/9, 2012/2013, ISBN 978-3-86888-077-9 , pp. 437–453, especially pp. 441–444.
  20. Wolfgang Rudolph , Peter Tschohl : Systematic Anthropology . Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7705-1468-8 , pp. 25.5 .
  21. Wolfgang Rudolph, Peter Tschohl: Systematic Anthropology . Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7705-1468-8 , pp. 316.2 .
  22. Wolfgang Rudolph, Peter Tschohl: Systematic Anthropology . Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7705-1468-8 , p. 319.2 .
  23. Overview 1 from: Gerhard Medicus , What connects us people: Human ethological offers for communication between body and soul sciences. 2nd Edition. VWB, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-86135-583-0 .
  24. Gerhard Medicus : Orientation framework for interdisciplinarity in the human sciences. (PDF: 85 kB, 1 page) (No longer available online.) 2011, archived from the original on November 7, 2011 ; accessed on October 9, 2019 (overview table).