Note on Key Figures in the History of Anthropology

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Edward Burnett Tylor

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Source: slideplayer.com

E.B Tylor is the founding member of British School of Anthropology; he has a great contribution on Evolution of Culture and Religion. Tylor became a pioneer in the field of anthropology in the late 19thcentury. He joined the university Museum of Oxford then became a professor of anthropology.

Some of his major works are:

  • Mexico and Mexicans, 1861
  • Research into Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, 1865
  • Primitive Culture, 1871
  • Anthropology, 881
  • Dictionary of Anthropology

Tylor on Evolution of Culture

Tylor's opinion was that the study of culture is essentially a historical study. For him, anthropology is the study of man’s development in the course of history. According to Tylor, culture is an attribute of man acquired by him as a member of society. In this definition, ‘acquire’ is the key word for it meant that culture was the product of social learning rather than of biological heredity and that the differences in cultural development were not a result of degeneration, but of progress in cultural knowledge. In brief, the study of culture and its evolution is the historical study of man’s development in society, from ‘Savagery’ to the rise of ‘Barbarism’ and then to ‘Civilization’.

Tylor on Evolution of Religion

For Tylor, “Religion is the belief in spiritual being”. All men everywhere developed and followed some kind of supernatural belief system. While liking for the origin of religion, Tylor focused on early man’s attitude towards dreams and death, which are man’s special experiences. For him, soul, spirit, dream, death, natural power and supernatural power, human beings and superhuman beings all are the components of religion. His paradigm of the development of religion:

  • Animism:It suggests the belief on soul and spirit. Early men used to have a belief that everything possesses life and soul. Tylor saw two major attributes of animism, on the one hand, animism believes in the existence of a soul which can survive even after death and on the other, spirits can affect and control the material world and man’s life here and hereafter.
  • Polytheism:It is that phase of religion which suggests the existence of a number of deities of spiritual beings with no overall high god. In this phase, people believe in different gods, worship different natural powers and objects.
  • Monotheism:In this stage, people believe on a superior power or a superior god and worship it. According to Tylor, the separate deities of polytheism fused into a single explanatory principle i.e. monotheism.
  • Religion:The state of religion is the belief in a religious philosophy that guides human beings as a social being. He came to the conclusion that all mankind everywhere developed and followed some kind of supernatural belief system which maintains order and solidarity in the society.

Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski

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Source: izquotes.com

After doing Ph.D. in mathematics and physics, Malinowski paid attention to anthropology. He became a pioneer anthropologist in ‘Functionalism’ while Durkheim and Radcliffe-Brown were doing on Societal and Structural Functionalism respectively Malinowski dragged his attention on ‘Functions of Culture’ to fulfill human needs. He gave anthropology a new meaning and developed a new theory of culture that culture fulfills human needs.

Some of his major works are:

  • Magic Science and Religion, 1908
  • Myth in Primitive Society, 1926
  • Crime and Custom in Savage Society, 1926
  • Sex and Repression of Savage Society, 1927
  • The Sexual Life of Savage, 1929
  • The Scientific Theory of Culture, 1944

Malinowski is the view that if a society is to be properly studied, the culture of that society should be understood at first because that gives a glance in the social life of the people. Every individual makes some adjustment to live smoothly in the society and helps in the development of social culture. For him, main object of every cultural organization is to provide means by which physical and cultural needs are met. Thus, he said culture is a response to basic human needs. No culture can exist if it does not satisfy human needs. For him, needs are individual and responses are collectively effort to deal with them. He also defined culture as ‘social heritage’ of a human. As such culture is the backbone of anthropology.

Reference:

Khatri, Prem Kumar et.al., Elementary Sociology and Anthropology XI, Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu

Sharma, Kamal Raj, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology inNepal-XI, Sunrise Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu

Sitaula, Mohan Kumar, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology-XI, Ekta Books and Distributors, Kathmandu

Major works of Edward Burnett Tylor

  • Mexico and Mexicans, 1861
  • Research into Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, 1865
  • Primitive Culture, 1871
  • Anthropology, 881
  • Dictionary of Anthropology

Major works of Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski

  • Magic Science and Religion, 1908
  • Myth in Primitive Society, 1926
  • Crime and Custom in Savage Society, 1926
  • Sex and Repression of Savage Society, 1927
  • The Sexual Life of Savage, 1929
  • The Scientific Theory of Culture, 1944
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