Tuesday, June 11, 2002

No wonder I was confused about ethnology/anthropology. This is what Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia has to say about the topic - courtesy of my colleague Eivind Rønnestad:

Different terms are used to describe the fields of anthropology in the United States and Europe. While in the United States the term anthropology is used to name the whole subject, in Europe the name ethnology is applied. (Ethnology is defined as the science that studies the many races of mankind their beginnings, characteristics, differences, and distribution.) What is called "cultural anthropology" in the United States is also termed "ethnology" in European countries. The term physical anthropology is used in both parts of the world.

Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. Copyright © 1993, 1994 Compton's NewMedia, Inc.

After I shared my confusion with the department where I work, Øystein Sande was quick to reply with his understanding of the terms, giving me the correct answer based on the etymology of the words.

But Erling Sivertsen put me on the track of a book by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. And Jill, Hylland Eriksen is an exellent example of a researcher who used the net to communicate his opinions as well as write journal-like entries long before blogging became a fashion, He should be on your list, I think. At least he's an example to remember when we talk about this in Norway.

Back to anthropology versus ethnology:
According to Hylland Eriksen, ethnology comes from the french ethnologie, and the distinction is between ethnographie: a description of society and culture, ethnologie: regional comparisons and anthropologie: The general comparative science of mankind, society and culture.

Hylland Eriksen however focuses on social anthropology, and he would of course use a definition of the topic which positions the anthropology as the main or dominant category, which the other categories are subordinate to. My confusion has been caused by the American/European use of the words described in the quote from Compton's, as the texts I keep referring to position themselves randomly (appearantly) within the one or the other paradigm. The texts themselves however refer to the same kind of theory, problems, questions and methods. And that's no wonder, since it's the same thing, just different terms.

Now I can go back to the thesis and change a headline. That's a relief!

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