Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology is the comparative study of society and culture. The subject seeks, above all, insight into how people's lives, the organization of society and people's world views vary and change over time. Our most important method is participant observation - fieldwork - which involves long-term involvement in people's social world.

The lives of others

This is how researchers can understand how people create their living conditions in interaction with external conditions that they normally have less control over - such as ecological, economic and political conditions. An important driving force for most anthropologists is an interest in other people's lives. The great social and cultural diversity that characterizes human societies must be understood, and it must be described in light of processes that are increasingly global.

Research fellow Jon Henrik Remme explores Ifugao ontology and their ontological practices in Northern Luzon, Philippines. Photo: Jon Henrik Remme

A holistic analysis

Anthropologists do not assume that the human world is necessarily divided into sectors, as the structure of modern society and scientific specialization would give us reason to believe. Therefore, we seek to identify and analyze relations in people's lives holistically, and we are  therefore interested in many different aspects of community life.

Diversity - at home and in the world

Historically, social anthropologists often studied communities that were perceived as very different from our own. Anthropology still strives to show how diverse human beings are. Equally, SAI has developed a strong tradition of anthropology "at home" in Norway and in Scandinavia. This has provided us with the opportunity to see the supposedly familiar with fresh eyes. Social anthropology practices what we like to call methodological relativism, which involves studying people and communities on their own terms. Our ideal is to compare societies but without uncritically using the ways we think and live in our own society as a default standard. Both methodologically and empirically, this has been a rich vein for SAI and Norwegian anthropology in recent years.

Published Oct. 17, 2011 12:37 PM - Last modified Nov. 3, 2016 1:06 PM