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ethnology (ĕthnŏlˈəjē), 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. 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
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While the arguments of Ethnology and Empire give rise to such exciting prospects, I find the book's vitality and viability compromised somewhat by its excessive use of scholarly jargon.
The collaboration between Czech Radio and the Department of Music History of the Institute of Ethnology has also positively manifested itself in the overall quality of the editing work.
Without folklore studies, ethnology all too easily becomes a specialized, regional subfield of social and cultural anthropology.
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The Estonian National Museum has been, and will probably remain, one of the most influential centers of ethnology in Estonia, both in research and in teaching.
He was Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution and for a time, served as director of the United States Geological Survey.
of Victoria) look closely at all that is happening on the front lines in this ethnology, and find that patients are quickly becoming considered after rather than before costs.
Chilkovsky made films on dance and music ethnology, notated a wide variety of dances including dances on the TV show American Bandstand, ran a private school for K-12 with a dance emphasis, and created a national curriculum for dance in secondary school education.
Focusing on a group of 66 Pueblo and Navajo textiles in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, this informative volume holds many pleasing surprises for readers interested in the art of weaving.
Scientific Definition in Rhetorical Formations: Race as "Permanent Variety" in James Cowles Prichard's Ethnology
Eleven essays by authors with a surprisingly eclectic background--including college teachers in archaeology and ethnology, museum curators, a biologist, and a poet--focus on particular topics of this African island nation's textiles attracting wide notice because of their quality of production, colorfulness, and social significance.