How Cultural Anthropology Helps Explain the World

There have been significant discoveries about our ancestors' way of life thanks in large part to the findings of some pretty famous anthropologists. If you've ever traveled to a different part of your country, or to a completely new country or region, you may notice some pretty stark differences in culture. Each society's eating practices, clothing choices, music and dance styles and celebratory occasions are all akin to unique fingerprints that are deeply rooted in history. These cultures—as well as how and why they came to be—are studied by cultural and social anthropologists, and they've given us quite a detailed vision of what life was like for our ancestors and the ways in which they've influenced culture today. Paul Farmer, a cultural anthropologist, has led numerous studies featuring the struggles of poverty-stricken Haitians, researched the control of infectious diseases in society and works as a human rights activist in Russia and Peru. Zora Neale Hurston was a pioneer in anthropology as one of the first prominent African American figures in the field who also studied scrupulously under some of anthropology's greatest minds at Barnard College. Margaret Mead redefined the study of sex and sexuality with an anthropologic lens, paving the way for the future studies of topics in that field.

Because of the countless contributions of these cultural anthropologists, we have a deeper grasp of the reasons behind the interactions between humans, cultures and societies. This information can help historians fill in gaps, provide context among global and domestic conflict, and give an overall snapshot of the origins of human existence. This playlist features some of the most well-known social anthropologists in history—check it out and get a glimpse into what makes your culture unique.

Written by Curiosity Staff July 7, 2014

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