Anthropology is a holistic science that deals with the study of human cultures, language, behaviour or biology in the present, as well as in the past. According to the American model, anthropology can be divided into 4 subdisciplines – social or cultural, linguistic, physical and archaeological anthropology. In the European context, these subdisciplines are taught and formed as separate disciplines. Social anthropology studies various phenomena occurring within the realm of human cultures and societies. It uses ethnography and long-term field research within particular communities in order to explain social or cultural differences and similarities. Areas addressed by anthropologists and anthropologists may include, but are not limited to, culture, economics, religion, politics, social structure and organization, kinship, or aspects of gender.
Emic approach consists in the interpretation of cultural phenomena from the perspective of the certain (sub)culture being studied. This approach examines how people think and categorize within their own culture and it is therefore also called native-oriented approach. It is important that a researcher has a key cultural consultant who can open important topics for the community, as well as represent its ideas.
(Authors: Aneta Šperková & Teraza Hraníková)
Etic approach consists in the interpretation of cultural phenomena from the perspective of an anthropologist. In this case, the researcher themselves open up topics and create categories that they think are important. This approach is also defined as scientist-oriented approach.
(Authors: Tereza Hraníková & Aneta Šperková)
Ethnographic research is a type of qualitative research that is particularly important withing the field of social anthropology. It is characterized primarily by the researcher’s immersion in the local community and its daily life by using the method of participant observation, which enables a deeper understanding of the local culture, customs and social dynamics. Such research is usually long-term which means that a researcher can spend several months, even years, in the field which gives them direct access to authentic experiences, practices and other aspects of the culture being studied that would otherwise remain concealed.
Ethnography is a scientific and systematic description of human cultures, societies or communities, as well as certain cultural phenomena that occur in the studied population. It is characterized above all by the research of a particular society in its own environment with an emphasis on its own point of view, especially using key anthropological methods of participant observation and in-depth interviews. Ethnography is inherently holistic — it seeks to provide a complex and comprehensive account of the community and usually encompasses a brief historical and contextual description, description of the environment or habitat, as well as an account of social structure and organization of the studied populations. Therefore, its aim is to provide a rich narrative description of the culture being studied which enables anthropologists to examine and interpret its various aspects.
Participant observation is the key anthropological research method aimed at obtaining qualitative data. It is a major part of field research and in a broader sense its synonym, as it represents an effort to directly experience the studied sociocultural life. Thus, it includes not only the observation of various activities, events and interactions of the studied communities but also active participation at them. For example, doing participant observation doesn’t only mean watching people work but also trying it out with them through participating in that work. In this way, anthropologists abandon the position of distant “spectators” and try to take the role of local people. Ultimately, such a practice makes it possible to get closer to the perspective of the studied populations, their practices and ideas in action. The immediate product of the participant observation are detailed notes or (audio)visual recordings, such as photographs, films, maps or drawings, which capture elements of the observed phenomena.
Qualitative research involves the collection and analysis of data that are descriptive and relate to phenomena that can be observed but not necessarily be expressed numerically (quantitatively). In anthropology and other social sciences, these are mainly data collected through participant observations, videos, photographs, interviews with participants, or other texts. Ethnography, grounded theory, or discourse or narrative analysis are some of the most frequently used qualitative methodologies in anthropology. By using these methods and techniques, qualitative researchers examine and interpret how individuals within a society understand their social reality.
(Author: Ines Herćan)
Quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of data that can be expressed numerically. It is generally used to find patterns, average values, predictions, as well as cause-effect relationships between the variables being examined. The goal of quantitative research in anthropology is to study certain social phenomena by developing and using mathematical models, theories and hypotheses. The process of measuring is the central element of quantitative research because it provides a basic link between empirical observation and the mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.
(Author: Ines Herćan)
Semi-structured (or in-depth) interviews, together with participant observations, are the basis of qualitative anthropological research. They are characterized by pre-prepared thematic sets of questions posed to respondents in the field, “face to face” More importantly, their are characterized flexibility – the outlined themes just roughly guide the flow of conversation setting some wider goals. while leaving space for improvisation. Questions are adjusted according to specific situations and are used to stimulate respondents to narrate more freely and in-depth. That way, they allow for the emergence of new aspects of researched problems and lead to a deeper understanding of lived experiences and things familiar to respondents. Therefore, the aim is to unearth details about social life, cultural practices, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, emotions, memories and interconnections.