Social anthropology is the dominant constituent of anthropology throughout the United Kingdom and Commonwealth and much of Europe (France in particular) where it is distinguished from cultural anthropology. In the USA, social anthropology is commonly subsumed within cultural anthropology (or under the relatively new designation of sociocultural anthropology). In contrast to cultural anthropology, culture and its continuity (including narratives, rituals, and symbolic behavior associated with them) have been traditionally seen more as the dependent ‘variable’ (cf. explanandum) by social anthropology, embedded in its historical and social context, including its diversity of positions and perspectives, ambiguities, conflicts, and contradictions of social life, rather than the independent (explanatory) one (cf. explanans). Topics of interest for social anthropologists have included customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childbearing and socialization, religion, while present-day social anthropologists are also concerned with issues of globalism, ethnic violence, gender studies, trans nationalism and local experience, and the emerging cultures of cyberspace, and can also help with bringing opponents together when environmental concerns come into conflict with economic developments. British and American anthropologists including Gillian Tett and Karen Ho who studied Wall Street provided an alternative explanation for the Financial crisis of 2007–2010 to the technical explanations rooted in economic and political theory. Differences among British, French, and American sociocultural anthropologies have diminished with increasing dialogue and borrowing of both theory and methods. Social and cultural anthropologists, and some who integrate the two, are found in most institutes of anthropology. Thus the formal names of institutional units no longer necessarily reflect fully the content of the disciplines these cover. Some, such as the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (Oxford) changed their name to reflect the change in composition, others, such as Social Anthropology at the University of Kent became simply Anthropology. Most retain the name under which they were founded. Long-term qualitative research, including intensive field studies (emphasizing participant observation methods) has been traditionally encouraged in social anthropology rather than quantitative analysis of surveys, questionnaires and brief field visits typically used by economists, political scientists, and (most) sociologists.
About the Author: Matt Artz
Matt Artz is a business and design anthropologist, consultant, author, speaker, and creator. He writes, speaks, and consults in user experience, product management, and business strategy. He creates products, podcasts, music, and visual art. Matt is the Head of Product and Experience for Cloudshadow Consulting and Artmatcher. He is also the Founder of Anthro to UX, Azimuth Labs, and Biomega Technologies. He earned a Masters of Science in Applied Anthropology from the University of North Texas in 2018, an MBA in Finance and Management Information Systems from Marywood University in 2008, a BS in Biotechnology from Marywood University in 2008, and a BBA in Computer Information Systems from Marywood University in 2006. As an anthropologist and consultant, he is known for his research interests and work in business anthropology, design anthropology, consumer genetics, user experience, product management, big data, sensemaking, and algorithmic bias. Matt is also the creator of the Anthropology in Business podcast and Anthro to UX podcast where he discusses the application of anthropology to business and UX. He has been featured by TEDx, SXSW, Anthropology News, MedPage Today, Kevin MD Technically, UX Planet, Towards Data Science, Product Coalition, and the University of North Texas. You can follow Matt on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and Google Scholar.