Scope of Anthropology

Scope of Anthropology

Anthropology means a study of all aspects of human kind at all levels of developments in any and every part of the world, both past and the present”. It aims to understand what is universal, general and specific to the biological, cultural and social aspects of human kind.


  • The Scope of Anthropology is universal because it strives to understand humankind in its totality. In this context, it not only describes and analyses but also synthesises the biological, cultural and social aspect of humankind at all levels of its development in all places at all times, in order to understand the totality in the parts and the parts in relation to totality and to make certain generalisations about the social biological and cultural universe of the whole human kind.
  • The scope of anthropology does not restrict to any one aspect of humankind; it studies the biological, cultural and social aspect in their totality. It does not restrict to any one group of people. It studies people at whatever level of development they are. It does not restrict to any one particular time period or portion of earth; it studies people wherever they live and at whatever time they exist. The boundaries of the scope of anthropology are thus coterminous with the boundaries of the genus homo in space and time.
  • When the scope of anthropology covers the biology of humankind, it examines human as an organism and explains human origin, human evolution, human differentiation and human variation as influenced by heredity and environment. This becomes the subject matter of physical anthropology.
  • When the scope of anthropology encompasses culture and society of humankind it shows how culture acts as a design for living, how culture guides humans in their endeavour of establishing reciprocal social relations and facilitating collective and corporate social living. It examines social relation and pattern of life among all types of societies as seen through their institutions and groups, such as kinship, marriage, the family, economic activities, religious belief and practices, political behaviour, mythology, folktales, symbols and so on.
  • With such all embracing scope anthropology tries to extract what is universal, what is general and what is particular about the emergence, divergence and dynamics of biology, culture and society of human kind in space and time. Through such knowledge, it brings to light the unity and diversity in the biology, culture and society of the genus homo, right from its emergence till today. On the basis of such knowledge, it tries to propound certain regularities, principles or laws governing the biological, cultural and social nature of the genus homo.


Six perspectives make the scope of anthropology unique:

  1. Holistic
  2. Comparative
  3. Systems and process
  4. Emic and etic
  5. Case study
  6. Fieldwork


  • The holistic perspective makes anthropology a “whole science”. Other discipline is part science i.e they study one or another aspect of humankind, while anthropology studies all aspect of human kind.  
  • The comparative perspective is the systematic comparison of human biology, of culture and of society in space and time. In this regard it attends to synchronic and diachronic approach. 
  • The systems and process perspective attempts to show how the internal dynamics of biological, cultural and social systems and its interactional process among all these systems.
  • The emic and etic perspective provides dichotomy of viewpoints in order to gain a non judgemental picture (unbiased) of the biological, cultural and social life of the human kind.
  • The case study perspective is the presentation of in depth studies of specific individuals, groups, communities, events or even the whole societies. It emphasises qualitative point of view in terms of rich descriptions of human setting and behaviour in specific instance.
  • The field work perspective helps to gain direct evidence about the biology, culture and society of human kind.


Anthropology is thus analytical, synthesising and generalising. It is the only science which provides a holistic view about the human kind. Its range of appeal is as infinite and as fascinating as humanity itself. The scope of anthropology is so comprehensive and universal that it spreads its net over past and present, over all parts of the globe and over all aspects of human at any level of development. No aspect of humankind escapes from its coverage. For this reason, it is said that “everything under the sun becomes the grist ( material) to the mill of anthropology”. 


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