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Anthropology is the study of the physical, social and cultural characteristics of humanity. Anthropology has origins in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. Ethnography is one of its primary methods as well as the text that is generated from anthropological fieldwork.

Since the work of Franz Boas and Bronisław Malinowski in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, anthropology has been distinguished from other social sciences by its emphasis on in-depth examination of context, cross-cultural comparisons, and the importance it places on participant-observation, or long-term, experiential immersion in the area of research. Cultural anthropology in particular has emphasized cultural relativity and the use of findings to frame cultural critiques. This has been particularly prominent in the United States, from Boas's arguments against 19th-century racial ideology, through Margaret Mead's advocacy for gender equality and sexual liberation, to current criticisms of post-colonial oppression and promotion of multiculturalism.

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Transhumanism h+.svg

Transhumanism (sometimes symbolized by >H or H+), a term often used as a synonym for "human enhancement", is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death. Transhumanist thinkers study the possibilities and consequences of developing and using human enhancement techniques and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Possible dangers, as well as benefits, of powerful new technologies that might radically change the conditions of human life are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.

Although the first known use of the term "transhumanism" dates from 1957, the contemporary meaning is a product of the 1980s, when a group of scientists, artists, and futurists based in the United States began to organize what has since grown into the transhumanist movement. Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings will eventually be transformed into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman". Transhumanism is therefore sometimes referred to as "posthumanism" or a form of transformational activism influenced by posthumanist ideals.

Selected biography

Franz Boas
Franz Boas (July 9, 1858 – December 21, 1942) was a German-American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology". Like many such pioneers, he trained in other disciplines; he received his doctorate in physics, and did post-doctoral work in geography. He is famed for applying the scientific method to the study of human cultures and societies, a field which was previously based on the formulation of grand theories around anecdotal knowledge.

Boas's work in physical anthropology brought together his interest in Darwinian evolution with his interest in migration as a cause of change. His most important research in this field was his study of changes in body form among children of immigrants in New York. Boas's primary interest — in symbolic and material culture and in language — was the study of processes of change; he therefore set out to determine whether bodily forms are also subject to processes of change.

Boas has had an enduring influence on anthropology. Virtually all anthropologists today accept Boas's commitment to empiricism and his methodological cultural relativism. Moreover, virtually all cultural anthropologists today share Boas's commitment to field research involving extended residence, learning the local language, and developing social relationships with informants. In his 1963 book, Race: The History of an Idea in America, Thomas Gossett wrote that "It is possible that Boas did more to combat race prejudice than any other person in history."

In the news

  • Feb 13: Researchers release the first known photographs of gorillas copulating face-to-face in the wild. Read more...
  • Feb 12: A 40,000-year-old tooth suggests that Neanderthals may have been more mobile than previously believed. Read more...
  • Jan 24: Australian filmmaker and anthropologist Fiona Graham debuts as the first Western geisha. Liza Dalby did research on geisha in the 1970s and participated in banquets but did not become a geisha herself. Read more...
  • Jan 17: Recent genetic anthropology research indicates that Polynesians and Melanesians have largely distinct ancestry. Read more...

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Did you know?

  • ..that anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker conducted and wrote the first ethnography of Hollywood in 1950?
  • ...a group of forensic anthropologists, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, developed techniques to document human rights violations by exhuming and identifying some of the remains of the tens of thousands of people who were "disappeared" (pictured) during Argentina's Dirty War (1976-1983)?
  • ...that the Mass-Observation study, co-founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, enlisted hundreds of untrained British volunteers to anonymously record people's conversation and behavior at work, on the street and at various public occasions?


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