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(ĕthnŏl`əjē), scientific study of the origin and functioning of human cultures. It is usually considered one of the major branches of cultural anthropologyanthropology,
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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, the other two being anthropological archaeology and anthropological linguistics. In the 19th cent. ethnology was historically oriented and offered explanations for extant cultures, languages, and races in terms of diffusion, migration, and other historical processes. In the 20th and 21st cent. ethnology has focused on the comparative study of past and contemporary cultures. Since cultural phenomena can seldom be studied under conditions of experiment or control, comparative data from the total range of human behavior helps the ethnologist to avoid those assumptions about human nature that may be implicit in the dictates of any single culture.


See R. H. Lowie, The History of Ethnological Theory (1938); E. A. Hoebel, Man in the Primitive World (1949, 2d ed. 1958); M. Mead, People and Places (1959); B. Schwartz, Culture and Society (1968); C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Culture (1973); E. Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture (1973).

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the comparative historical study of peoples and cultures within their environments.

In the USA and parts of Europe ‘ethnology’ has sometimes served as an all-encompassing concept for human studies, including various mixes of archaeology, study of material culture, linguistics, sociology together with social, cultural, and physical anthropology, which may also include sociology as a sub-part.

There has been resistance to such an overarching view. British social anthropology for example, has usually distanced itself from the all-encompassing ‘grand’ historical view implied by the ethnological enterprise. RADCLIFFE-BROWN and others advocated ethnographic studies of the social organization of peoples in the ‘here and now’ as a methodological departure from ethnologies, and historicism, although retaining a concern for comparative study.

In contrast, American cultural anthropology, following the lead of BOAS and of Kroeber (Anthropology: Race, Language, Culture, Psychology, 1923) has championed the ambitious all-encompassing broad sweep of ethnological enquiry alongside ethnographic studies, as nothing less than the classification and taxonomization of the ‘total’ history of humankind in all its physical, material and cultural manifestations.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000


The science that deals with the study of the origin, distribution, and relations of races or ethnic groups of humankind.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the branch of anthropology that deals with races and peoples, their relations to one another, their origins, and their distinctive characteristics
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Caution is required when inferring prehistoric behaviour from ethnological records, since the material remains of prehistoric societies do not necessarily reflect the same activities or modes of behaviour observed ethnologically (including ethnographic field data and ethnohistoric documents).
ethnologically, the Indian race may be distinguished from the Caucasian, Negro, Mongoloid, and other races.
Conversely, I would claim that by resituating, or at least by not forgetting to situate, psychoanalysis within its very particular original milleu, and showing how it functioned culturally, sociologically, anthropologically, even ethnologically, in a particular phase of Jewish history, one need jettison neither its more general truths nor its potential "translatability" into other socio-cultural contexts.
Boyle, working independently, used American Indian subjects for their art works and in Warner's case made an ethnologically valuable contribution.
of California San Diego) present an African American Studies textbook in the form of an anthology of over 270 primary sources arranged around debates elucidating "what it means to be black in America." Materials selected for this collection range widely from Hume's Of National Character, to Frederick Douglass' The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered, and from Frances M.
Soon after the Civil War, Charles Sumner, one of many historical characters fictionalized in Dixon's novel, delivered a well publicized speech entitled "Are We a Nation?" According to Sumner, a nation could be defined either politically or ethnologically. Ethnologically, it implies a people bound together by a common descent.
She opens the essay with a controversial claim: "You will take another look at us [African Americans] and say that we are still black and, ethnologically speaking, you will be right.
Frederick Douglass says in "Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered," that the "present enslaved and degraded negroes" shared with the pyramid builders "a marked similarity in regard to features, hair, color." (Douglass Papers, Blassingame, ed., Vol 2, p.
Ethnologically the Comanche do not furnish a fertile field of inquiry.
This paper will also refer to Douglass's ethnological precepts as expounded in his speech "Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered" (1854).
Not only is the concept of Asia as a repository of common values ethnologically, historically, and sociologically incorrect but it perpetuates an Orientalist discourse which both Asian and Western scholars have increasingly opposed.
Douglass of course had long been thinking about race and cultural origins, and in one of his best known antebellum lectures, "The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered," a graduation speech delivered in 1854 before the Philozetian and Phi Delta literary societies of Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio, he had sought to counter the racist, polygenist arguments of the leading exponents of the so-called "American School" of ethnology--Josiah Nott, Samuel Morton, George Gliddon, and others--who had made avowedly scientific claims about the racial and cultural inferiority, separate evolution, and absolute difference of black peoples in relation to whites.