Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures. It seeks to understand the complexities of human interaction. Anthropologists are interested in understanding how people give meaning to the past and present worlds that humans inhabit; they study what people make, what they do, what they think and how they organise their social life and relationships, cultures and societies.
Anthropologists produce knowledge in a specific way: they conduct fieldwork, immerse themselves in the lives of the people they study, they gather up observations, analyse, theorise, and they write up their findings. Virtually everything of our world interests them: business and money, kinship, modes of production, consumption, beliefs and rituals, social knowledge and cognition, relationships and politics, gender constructions, migration, nationhood, heritage, social movements and even education. Anthropology is the study of people everywhere, in the big cosmopolitan cities as much as in rural areas, in Africa, Europe, Asia, or anywhere else in the world.
Anthropology is about our involvement in the world we share, and the forms that our world takes. The stories that anthropologists tell are not just an account of the lives of others but rather they are also about ourselves: anthropological knowledge itself emerges in encounters, from the relationship between “us” and the “other” and is affected by the ways in which the anthropologist comes to know.
Anthropology is a discipline that was historically founded around the question of difference. In its inception, it was understood as the study of the non-Western people. However, important new questions and challenges have been posed to anthropology from the Global South, by black and feminist scholars, and this has forced the discipline to undergo a productive process of self-critique and regeneration from the 1960s onwards.
Also history has presented new provocations and questionings to the anthropologists: How do we understand the world we live in? How can our work speak to the inequalities and violence that characterises our contemporary? Anthropology is indeed traversed by the quest of social justice that remains crucial in the ways in which we write, teach and research today. Through their works and constant reflections, anthropologists foster mutual respect and understanding of other people’s experiences and worldview, and are committed to bring change in our societies.