If I were to look up the word ‘sociology’ the dictionary would tell me that it’s the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society. For some, sociology can be a hard word to define, considering it can mean so many different things based on how that particular person looks at it. Now if you were to ask me what I think sociology mearns, at first I couldn’t really tell you. Once I had time to think about it I would more than likely say it is the study of why people are the way they are and how that affects and is effected by the world around us.
Around this same time last year I was doing research for a career project. I didn’t know very much about sociology and had no thought or intention of choosing a job in that field for my project. I was browsing through jobs though that had a high job outlook and stumbled upon Social Anthropology. I had never heard of this career and didn’t really know what it meant. After doing more research and “googling”, I realized that this job consisted of all the things I had always been curious about. I never really understood other societies or why people behaved the way they did.
I know now that anthropology has so many more components to it than the social aspect of it, but that is the main reason why I chose to do my project on it. For awhile I thought I would actually want to go to school to be an Anthropologist, but outside influences made me think otherwise. My interest in social anthropology is actually how I ended up in this class. The fact that history plays a part in it is a plus, because I love learning about history as well. Sociology just sounded interesting to me and there wasn’t much else I was interested in taking.
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Furthermore, I learned a little bit about some of the more famous names in social anthropology, such as Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Zora Neale Hurston, Lewis Henry Morgan, and Claude Levi-Strauss. They all contributed to the science in their own ways, influenced by some and influencing others. Boas is known as the “father of modern cultural anthropology”, while Levi-Strauss was known as the “founder of structuralism”, and Morgan being one of the more controversial anthropologists. Lewis Henry Morgan was among the few to be cited by sociologist Karl Marx and social scientist Friedrich Engel.
Franz Boas was also known as the “father of American anthropology”. He was a mentor to many great names in American anthropology. His works were highly influential, works such as The Mind of Primitive Man, Anthropology and Modern Life, and The Kwakiult Ethnography. As a young child Franz was allowed to think for himself and do his own thing. His interest in sciences only grew as he got older. He knew he wanted to pursue anthropology after taking a trip to the arctic and becoming fascinated with the people there.
Claude Levi-Strauss was one of the more influential anthropologists of the 20th century. He did a lot of field work among primitive tribes and he thought that their way of life was in no way beneath the way of life of civilized societies. He was influenced by Marxism as well. Structuralism focused on society and the people that make up that society, along with their inner life. Levi-Strauss’ more important works includes The Savage Mind, Structural Anthropology, and Tristes Tropiques. So, back to why I no longer thought going to school for anthropology was a good suit for me.
I was constantly asked, “What would I do with a degree in anthropology? ” and to be honest I don’t think that I am ambitious enough for what it may require. I did learn however, that having a degree in anthropology opened the door to a number of jobs such as education, health care, museum curation, social work, international development, government, organizational psychology, non-profit management, marketing, publishing, and forensics. I may not pursue a degree in this field, but I will always have an interest in it.
Although anthropology can be considered a branch of sociology, there are ways that they differ. They both deal with the idea that our behavior is shaped by the people we surround ourselves with and cultural traditions. Anthropologists typically study non-Western societies, such as primitive cultures. On the other hand sociologists study modern Western societies. Another difference would be that anthropologists are more likely to do participant observation, while sociologists deal more with surveys. There are major differences between the two, but their overall goal of “peeling ack the layers” of societies and cultures are ssimilar. What does this all mean to me? I am only looking forward to gaining more knowledge in anthropology and look forward to learning more about sociology. In this class I hope to gain a better understanding of our own government, because of its current state. I want to know why change isn’t as easy as it may seem. I would just like to listen and learn and possibly gain some knowledge that will in turn make me a better person and allow me to be the change I want to see.
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