Anthropology A discipline that studies humans, focusing on the study of differences and similarities, both biological and cultural, in human populations. Anthropology is concerned with typical biological and cultural characteristics of human populations in all periods and in all parts of the world. 

The branch of anthropology that concerns itself with applying anthropological knowledge to achieve practical goals.

Anthropology A discipline that studies humans, focusing on the study of differences and similarities, both biological and cultural, in human populations. Anthropology is concerned with typical biological and cultural characteristics of human populations in all periods and in all parts of the world. 

One of the main subfields of applied or practicing anthropology, aimed at improving people’s lives, particularly decreasing poverty and hunger.

Emerged in UK

Cultural anthropology is the study of human patterns of thought and behavior, and how and why these patterns differ, in contemporary societies. Cultural anthropology is sometimes called social anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, or ethnology. Cultural anthropology also includes pursuits such as ethnography, ethnohistory, and cross-cultural research.

Sir Edward B. Tylor’ Primitive culture (1871) “Culture… is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society.”

A civilization is generally defined as an advanced state of human society containing highly developed forms of government, culture, industry, and common social norms. 

The attitude that a society’s customs and ideas should be viewed within the context of that society’s problems and opportunities.

The branch of applied anthropology that seeks to recover and preserve the archaeological record before programs of planned change disturb or destroy it.

The belief that one’s beliefs, customs, and traditions are superior to other cultures and judging them by a different standard. It became the basis of the White man’s burden theory and subsequent colonialism.

The borrowing by one society of a cultural trait belonging to another society as the result of contact between the two societies.

The process of extensive borrowing of aspects of culture in the context of superordinate–subordinate relations between societies; usually occurs as the result of external pressure.

 New religious movements intended to save a culture by infusing it with a new purpose and life.

A group of people emphasizing common origins and language, shared history, and selected aspects of cultural difference such as a difference in religion. It provides a we-feeling to a group and differentiates it from other societal groups.

Creation of a new culture

An ethnologist who uses historical documents to study how a particular culture has changed over time.

A comparative study of different cultures to find causes of similarity and dissimilarity. It provides a multi-perspective analysis of different cultures. 

A description of a society’s customary behaviors, ideas, institutions, world view, traditions, etc

It is the marriage of a woman with a man of higher Varna or superior caste or family. (Anulom marriages)

The rule specifying marriage to a person from outside one’s own group (kin or community).

Marriage rule specifying marriage to a person from within one’s own group.

A socially approved sexual and economic union, usually between a man and a woman, that is presumed, both by the couple and by others, to be more or less permanent, and that subsumes reciprocal rights and obligations between the two spouses and their future children.

According to Ogburn and Nimkoff, the process by which individuals and groups are ranked in a more or less enduring hierarchy of status is known as stratification.

A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact and share a sense of unity and common identity. A social group exhibits some degree of social cohesion and is more than a simple collection or aggregate of individuals. Social cohesion can be formed through shared interests, values, representations, ethnic or social background, and kinship ties, among other factors. It could be a religious group, sports team, club in one’s local place, college class, workplace, and more. Thus a social group is one that develops in people a sense of belonging to a unit, and share common attitudes and ideas, common goals, established status and division of labor.

A social institution may be defi ned as an organizational system that functions to satisfy basic social needs by providing an ordered framework linking the individual to a larger culture. Family, kinship, marriage, educational institutions, political-legal institutions, economic institutions, religious institutions, form the main social institutions. A social institution is an organized form of customs, dogmas, rituals, and procedures.

A group of people who occupy a particular territory and speak a common language not generally understood by neighboring peoples. By this definition, societies do not necessarily correspond to nations.

Cultural traits that diminish the chances of survival and reproduction in a particular environment. For example – Sati in India.

An ethnologist who uses historical documents to study how a particular culture has changed over time.

It is the marriage of a high caste man with a low caste woman. ( Pratiloma marriage).

Prohibition of sexual intercourse or marriage between mother and son, father and daughter, and brother and sister; often extends to other relatives.

The marriage of one man to more than one woman at a time.

Plural marriage; one individual is married to more than one spouse simultaneously. Polygyny and polyandry are types of polygamy.

The marriage of one woman to more than one man at a time.

The marriage of a woman to one or more men at the same time.

The marriage of a woman to two or more brothers at the same time.

Marriage of a woman to two or more men who are not brothers.

Marriage of a man to two or more women who are not sisters.

Polygynandry another variety of polygamy pertains to a marriage where several men are married to several women or a man has many wives and a woman has many husbands at any given time. Such marriages were prevalent among the Marquesans of Polynesia and also among the Todas of the Nilgiri hills and the Khasas of Jaunsar Bawar of India.

A custom whereby a man is obliged to marry his deceased brother’s wife.

Work performed by the groom for his bride’s family for a variable length of time either before or after the marriage.

A substantial gift of goods or money given to the bride’s kin by the groom’s family at the marriage. Also called bridewealth.

The economic transactions occurring during a marriage are called marriage payments. It includes dowry payments, bride service, bride price, suitor service.

A custom or law decreeing that a widower should, or in rare cases must, marry his deceased wife’s sister.

One’s biological relatives; relatives by birth.

In the process of tracing kinship, ego is the reference point or focal person.

A bilateral set of close relatives who may be called upon for some purpose.

It involves tracing descent from one parent only. It can be divided into patrilineal descent (  tracing descent by father ) and matrilineal descent ( tracing descent by mother ).

A unilineal kinship system that affiliates individuals with a group of matrilineal kin for some purposes and with a group of patrilineal kin for other purposes. However, at one time, the descent is traced from a single parent only.

The type of kinship system in which individuals affiliate equally with their mother’s and father’s relatives.

The rule of descent that affiliates individuals with groups of kin related to them either through men or women.

 A pattern of residence in which a married couple lives with or near either the husband’s parents or the wife’s parents.

A pattern of residence in which a married couple settles with or near the husband’s mother’s brother.

A pattern of residence in which a married couple lives with or near the husband’s parents

A pattern of residence in which a married couple lives with or near the wife’s parents.

Rules that connect individuals with particular sets of kin

 A unique term used for a distinct relative.

Kinship terms that merge or equate relatives who are genealogically distinct from one another; the same term is used for a number of different kin. Eg- In Christians, there is the same term – uncle for Mama, Chacha.

(descriptive and classificatory)- The terms used to refer to our kins

It’s a unilineal descent group in a society that is divided into two such maximal groups; there may be smaller unilineal descent groups as well. For eg: Tartharol and Teivaliol are 2 moieties of Todas

A unilineal descent group composed of a number of supposedly related clans. They share a common mythical ancestor along with the presence of totems.

 A pattern of residence whereby a married couple lives separately, and usually at some distance, from the kin of both spouses 

Exchanging/Giving with the expectation of a straightforward and immediate exchange by the other.

Item exchange or Gift giving without any expectation of immediate or planned return.

Societies in which all people of a given age-sex category have equal access to economic resources, power, and prestige.

A universally accepted medium of exchange.

Objects of value for which only some goods and services can be exchanged. eg: cowries, 

The food-getting activities: gathering, hunting, fishing, herding, and agriculture.

Activities that involve the preparation and processing of food either to make it edible or to store it.

A feast among Pacific Northwest Native Americans at which great quantities of food and goods are given to the guests in order to gain prestige for the host. Its called creative destruction of wealth.

The theory that individuals seek to maximize the returns (in calories and nutrients) on their labor in deciding which animals and plants they will go after.


 A form of subsistence technology in which food-getting is based directly or indirectly on the maintenance of domesticated animals like sheep, camel, buffalos, pigs etc. Examples of pastoral tribes- Todas, Bedouins, Maasai, etc.

Plant cultivation carried out with relatively simple tools and methods like sickle and hoe ; nature is allowed to replace nutrients in the soil, in the absence of permanently cultivated fields. Collection of nuts and fruits also comes under horticulture.

Food production characterized by the permanent cultivation of fields and made possible by the use of the plow, draft animals or machines, fertilizers, irrigation, water-storage techniques, and other complex agricultural techniques.

It is a political organization of 10-15 people which is nomadic and autonomous in nature.

A set of kin whose members believe themselves to be descended from a common ancestor but cannot specify the links back to that founder; often designated by a totem. Also called a sib.

A political unit, with a chief at its head, integrating more than one community but not necessarily the whole society or language group.

Societies that do not have any unequal access to economic resources or power, but with social groups that have unequal access to status positions and prestige.

An autonomous political unit with centralized decision making over many communities with power to govern by force (e.g., to collect taxes, draft people for work and war, and make and enforce laws). Most states have cities with public buildings; full-time craft and religious specialists; an “official” art style; a hierarchical social structure topped by an elite class; and a governmental monopoly on the legitimate use of force to implement policies.

A state of recurring hostility between families or groups of kin, usually motivated by a desire to avenge an offense against a member of the group.

A category of people who happen to fall within a particular, culturally distinguished age range.

A group of people of similar age and the same sex who move together through some or all of life’s stages.

An organized political group not based exclusively on kinship or territory.

A means of determining guilt or innocence by submitting the accused to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under supernatural control. Eg- holding red hot axe before testimony.

Any set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power, whether that power rests in forces, gods, spirits, ghosts, or demons.

Anthropological approaches to the study of religion (evolutionary, psychological, and functional)

Religious belief that there is only one high god and that all other supernatural beings are subordinate to, or are alternative manifestations of, this supreme being.

Repetitive sets of behaviors that occur in essentially the same patterns every time they occur. Religious rituals involve the supernatural in some way.

A belief in supernatural forces. It refers to “a belief in a generalized, impersonal power over which people have some measure of control”.

A belief in a dual existence for all things—a physical, visible body its invisible soul.

A supernatural, impersonal force that inhabits certain objects or people and is believed to confer success and/or strength. Its linked with Animatism. 

A plant or animal associated with a clan as a means of group identification. It has other special significance for the group too like – tribesmen trace ancestry from the totem, ceremonious consumption of totem on auspicious occasions, etc.

A prohibition that, if violated, is believed to bring supernatural punishment. For example- eating a totem is a taboo; some societies observe taboos on post-partum intercourse.

The performance of certain rituals that are believed to compel the supernatural powers to act in particular ways. It can be used for both benefiting and harming others.

Part-time religious practitioners who are asked to heal and divine while in a trance.

A religious intermediary, usually part-time, whose primary function is to cure people through sacred songs, pantomime, and other means; sometimes called witch doctor by Westerners.

The practice of attempting to harm people by supernatural means, but through emotions and thought alone, not through the use of tangible objects.

It includes all the myths, legends, folktales, ballads, riddles, proverbs, and superstitions of a cultural group. Generally, folklore is transmitted orally, but it may also be written.

Firsthand experience with the people being studied and the usual means by which anthropological information is obtained. Regardless of other methods that anthropologists may use (e.g., censuses, surveys), fieldwork usually involves participant observation for an extended period of time, often a year or more. 

The distinction between technique, method, and methodology 

Prolonged stay among the people being studied—observing, questioning, and (when possible) taking part in the important events of the group. Writing or otherwise recording notes on observations, questions asked and answered, and things to check out later are parts of participant-observation.




Case study, 



oral history, 

secondary sources of information

participatory methods. 

Analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data.

A ranked group, often associated with a certain occupation, in which membership is determined at birth and marriage is restricted to members of one’s own caste.

A category of people who have about the same opportunity to obtain economic resources, power, and prestige.

The ongoing spread of goods, people, information, and capital around the world. It leads to the world becoming more interconnected, interdependent and homogenous.

Refers to an approach that studies many aspects of a multifaceted system.

Standards or rules about what is acceptable behavior

The strong sense of loyalty, attachment, and devotion to a nation.