Social anthropology

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A Social anthropology is one of the four or five branches of anthropology that studies how contemporary human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long-term, intensive field studies (including participant observation methods), the social organization of a particular person: customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on.

Social anthropology also explores the role of meanings, ambiguities and contradictions of social life, patterns of sociality, violence and conflict; and the underlying logics of social behavior. Social anthropologists are trained in the interpretation of narrative, ritual and symbolic behavior, not merely as text, but with communication examined in relation to action, practice, and the historical context in which it is embedded. Social anthropologists address the diversity of positions and perspectives to be found within any social group.

The name social anthropology is used in the United Kingdom but it is a subject closely related to, or even the equivalent of, cultural anthropology, the latter term being more commonly used in other English speaking countries.


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