The development of human life is not everywhere the same but rather takes form in an extraordinary diversity of societies and civilizations. This intellectual, aesthetic and sociological diversity is in no way the outcome of the biological differences, in certain observable features, between different groups of men; it is simply a parallel phenomenon in a different sphere.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Race, History and Culture. 1996
The surrounding environment has always played a pivotal role in the human process of understanding and comprehension. Moreover, a direct link between the environment and its active inhabitants has proved to be the catalyst that unearths past, present and possible future behavioural paths. Anthropology revolves around and works within the parameters of such notions, studying the human dimension in all its facets, times and situations, with the aid of a variety of research tools and technologies.
The etymology of the word anthropology is rooted in the Greek words of “anthropos” meaning “man” and “logos” meaning “thought” or “reason”. Through the combination of reason and observation, anthropology has moved a long way and provided insight into numerous social issues, norms, customs and beliefs. Starting with the same precept used by natural scientists that entails observing and recording the natural environment, anthropologists inquired into the human nature through a variety of means and tools. Being a holistic discipline, anthropology makes use of both quantitative and qualitative tools, thus incorporating participant observation, excavations, linguistic and behavioural analyses. Although anthropology is a relatively young social science, it commanded and still commands wide attention from scholars around the world, with the consequence of creating a strong and varied cornucopia of knowledge. Anthropology is categorised into two major disciplines:Physical / Biological and Cultural / Social anthropology. Although there is some disagreement with regards to the right terminology to use between the American and British schools of thought, a general consensus exists on the functions and roles of each discipline. Throughout the nineteenth, twentieth and 21st centuries both major disciplines evolved and branched into minor schools of thought and analyses incorporating: economics, linguistics, art, childhood, the environment, gender, performing arts, political, religion, visual and archaeology. All of these subsections map out a network of distinct yet interrelated themes that work to answer one central question: Why we are who we are.
For an overview of the two major disciplines and their subsequent offshoots that populate the field today, please click here.
For an overview of Cultural / Social Anthropology, please click here.
For a high-level overview of other fields within anthropology, please click here.
The IRISS firmly believes in the strength and validity of anthropology and related disciplines working in a networked environment for the improvement and the better apprehension of the human experience. However, the IRISS also believes that knowledge for the sake of knowledge has limited utility to society and endeavours to make practical use of the body of knowledge thus created in order to find ways of improving social outcomes and intercultural understanding on the ground. To further this end, the IRISS is committed to be a leading local and regional institution in the advancement and incorporation of mixed methods and technologies in the field of social sciences and to integrate, in a cross-disciplinary style, the anthropological body of knowledge with the bodies of knowledge resulting from the other social and natural sciences.