Cultural anthropology

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Cultural anthropology is a sub-area of ethnology (earlier ethnology, today also social and cultural anthropology ) that examines people in their relationship to their culture . The term is a direct translation from English (cultural anthropology) . In America, cultural anthropology describes one of four fields of research within the science of man (anthropology) : physical anthropology deals with man as a biological living being, i.e. his evolution, his physical adaptations and his behavior; the linguistic anthropologyexplores the human ability for verbal communication in all its forms; the archeology studies the prehistory of man on the basis of material evidence from the past and the cultural anthropology deals comprehensively (holistically) and worldwide comparative cultural systems, symbolic systems and practices.

Nowadays, the term cultural anthropology is primarily associated with the work of Franz Boas in America in the early 20th century and his theory of historical particularism developed as a critique of evolutionism. However, recent studies point to a more complex history of the development of cultural anthropology as early as the 19th century. In ethnology (earlier ethnology ), cultural anthropology still stands for theoretical approaches from the American tradition of knowledge, in which the symbolic dimension of human communication is the focus, while social anthropology primarily describes the functionalist approaches developed in England in the 20th century.

In the search for a new name for their own subject, the representatives of the Folklore Institute at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main began to use not only “ethnology” but also “cultural anthropology” as a self-name. The term cultural anthropology is therefore used differently in German-speaking countries today: Folklore took over the terms “cultural anthropology” and “European ethnology”, while ethnology (ethnology) continues to use “cultural anthropology” in the sense of the North American expression of cultural anthropology .

Cultural anthropologists conduct empirical and historical research as well as contemporary and comparative research with the aim of developing overarching theoretical questions, terms and theories.


Cultural anthropology developed out of folklore : in 1970, at the working conference of the German Society for Folklore (DGV) in Falkenstein, two positions on the scientific use of the term "culture" were formed. The representatives of the former Institute for Folklore in Tübingen , which at that time had already been renamed the Institute for Empirical Cultural Studies , advocated sociology as the new leading discipline . The representatives of the institute in Frankfurt am Main, on the other hand, emphasized the similarity of content between folklore and ethnological disciplines such as ethnology (ethnology) and Anglo-Saxon cultural anthropology . The majority joined the first group, within which culture is now primarily understood as a regulatory model for everyday life .

In Frankfurt am Main the aim was to conduct intercultural comparative research in complex societies. The opposition of culture and everyday life was seen as no longer appropriate: culture is understood as everyday life and everyday life as culture. The reorientation of the subject was reflected in the name change in 1974: Folklore became cultural anthropology and European ethnology .

Concept of culture

The cultural anthropological concept of culture includes both social networks and their manners and customs as well as the production of technical aids that people need to be able to live in their environment through work . So culture is not set in opposition to civilization , but describes the totality of the human environment. The human being is seen both as a cultural creator and as a creature of culture. The exchange between cultures is considered under the aspect of this interaction. Here are transnational cultures and illuminates subcultures .

In purposeful definitions, culture is largely viewed as a high culture that follows certain regularities. In value-rational definitions, culture is seen as something comprehensive, meanings, actions and interpretations of people are taken into account.

Cultural studies

The interdisciplinary English term cultural studies ("Kulturstudien") spread from 1964 onwards with the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham, founded by the British cultural sociologist Richard Hoggart . The most famous representatives of the institute are the then director Stuart Hall as well as Edward P. Thompson , Raymond Williams and Paul Willis .

See also

Portal: Folklore  - Overview of Wikipedia content on folklore


  • Hermann Bausinger : Inconsistencies: From Folklore to Empirical Cultural Studies. In: Helmut Berking, Richard Faber (Ed.): Kultursoziologie. Wuerzburg 1989.
  • Christine Bischoff, Karoline Oehme-Jüngling, Walter Leimgruber (ed.): Methods of cultural anthropology. Haupt, Bern 2014, ISBN 978-3-8252-3948-0 (lecturers from Hamburg and Basel).
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer , Paul Vogler (Hrsg.): Kulturanthropologie (= Anthropologie. Volume 4). Thieme, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-13-476401-6 (and: dtv 1973, ISBN 3-423-04072-6 ).
  • Helge Gerndt : Cultural studies in the age of globalization: Folklore markings (= Munich contributions to folklore. Volume 31). New York / Munich / Berlin 2002.
  • Ina-Maria Greverus : Culture and everyday life. 2nd Edition. Frankfurt / M. 1987 (introduction to questions of cultural anthropology).
  • Marvin Harris : Cultural Anthropology: A Textbook. Frankfurt et al. 1989.
  • Wolfgang Kaschuba : Introduction to European Ethnology. Munich 2003.
  • Peter Niedermüller: European Ethnology: Interpretations, Options, Alternatives. In: Konrad Köstlin , Peter Niedermüller, Herbert Nikitsch (eds.): The turning point as turning point? Orientations of European ethnologists after 1989. Vienna 2002, pp. 27–62.
  • Martin Scharfe : Signatures of culture: studies on everyday life & its research. Jonas, Marburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-89445-459-3 .
  • Harm-Peer Zimmermann (Ed.): Empirical cultural studies, European ethnology, cultural anthropology, folklore: guidelines for studying cultural studies at German-speaking universities. Germany, Austria, Switzerland. Jonas, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-89445-351-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ EN Anderson: Four-Field Anthropology . In: Anthropology News . tape 44 , no. 5 , May 1, 2003, ISSN  1556-3502 , p. 3 , doi : 10.1111 / an.2003. (English, full version).
  2. ^ Dan Hicks: Four-Field Anthropology: Charter Myths and Time Warps from St. Louis to Oxford . In: Current Anthropology . tape 54 , no. 6 , December 1, 2013, ISSN  0011-3204 , p. 753-763 , doi : 10.1086 / 673385 (English).
  3. ^ Adam Kuper: Culture: The Anthropologists' Account . Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1999 (English).
  4. ^ Peter F. Smith: Social anthropology of radcliffe-brown . Routledge, 2010, ISBN 0-415-61157-1 (English).
  5. ^ Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main : Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  6. Compare Gerd Spittler : Anthropology of work: An ethnographic comparison. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2016, ISBN 978-3-658-10433-7 , p. 32.