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classification and analysis of humans and their society, descriptively, culturally, historically, and physically. Its unique contribution to studying the bonds of human social relations has been the distinctive concept of culture.
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, scientific study of the origin and functioning of human cultures. It is usually considered one of the major branches of cultural anthropology, the other two being anthropological archaeology and anthropological linguistics. In the 19th cent.
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ethnographythe direct observation of an organization or small society, and the written description produced. Often the method of observation involves PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION. The ethnographic method (sometimes also referred to as FIELDWORK) is a basic method in SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY, It is also a method used in some areas of sociology, e.g. COMMUNITY STUDIES. Usually a researcher gathers data by living and working in the society or social setting being researched, seeking to immerse himself or herself as fully as possible in the activities under observation, but at the same time keeping careful records of these activities.
In anthropology, an emphasis on the importance of the ethnographic method was initially associated with the functionalist school, which encouraged an analysis of the internal structure and function of single societies rather than historical or comparative studies (see FUNCTIONALISM). However, there is no inherent reason why ethnographic and comparative approaches should not be seen as complementary or why ethnography should simply be associated with one theoretical school.