Difference between Anthropology and Sociology??

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Interesting that I find this discussion here today because I just found myself having to try and explain this to a fellow PhD student with a background in philosophy. I am taking my first sociology course next term and personaly feel that I am at risk of going over to the 'Dark Side' if I am not careful. This could happen if I even do as little as put a foot inside the door at the Sociology Department. I am only half-joking...

As a Masters student I was criticised for having too much theory in my papers and advised to take sociology instead - something I never really felt like doing. Fieldwork was vital and I loved it too much to sit in an armchair and just theorise (yes, the old stereotypes are hard to shake). What I did learn though pretty quickly was that too much theory in an anthropological paper and you are branded a sociologist; lots of descriptions of the field and quotations from the people and you have an anthropological paper and get an 'A'. Terribly simple but also not quite right, in my opinion.

But anyway... By the end of my attempt at an explanation on the distinction between these two my words had turned into monosyllabic mutterings that made absoluely no sense. I ended the conversation with a weak 'Uh... perhaps they are the same nowadays?' An answer which can not possibly be true - can it?

What I do think still holds is a general suspicion of the other and as...

Keith Hart said:

...neither is in good shape right now because they have become too specialised and self-referential, having lost the broad vision of the world that launched them.

I also liked what Elaine wrote...

Elaine Forde said:

For me, I would add to Philip Swift's quote from Levi-Strauss to say that while sociology is concerned with society- which is the representation of the relationships between people, anthropology is concerned with the people and how they perceive those relationships.

It was simple and elegant and Anthropology is often about shared imagings and perceptions. Maybe Sociology is too but having never set foot in a Sociology class or opened a Sociology textbook I cannot be sure if this still holds.

Perhaps it is constructive to have unclear boundaries and instead of focusing on establishing them, allow for a cross-fertilsation of ideas?

Just some spontaneous thoughts.

@Rebekah

Allow me to recommend one of my favorite books, Andrew Abbott (2004) Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. Abbott is a sociologist, but one with a deep knowledge of classic anthropology as well as quantitative methods. In this book, he takes us beyond the classic binary opposition anthropology vs sociology to look at what people actually do in the social sciences. He develops a model illustrated by the diagram attached to this message. You might find it interesting.

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Thanks John,

I will check it out. Might come in handy the next time someone asks me!

John McCreery said:

@Rebekah

Allow me to recommend one of my favorite books, Andrew Abbott (2004) Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. Abbott is a sociologist, but one with a deep knowledge of classic anthropology as well as quantitative methods. In this book, he takes us beyond the classic binary opposition anthropology vs sociology to look at what people actually do in the social sciences. He develops a model illustrated by the diagram attached to this message. You might find it interesting.

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