verse
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Hi all,

As the topic states, what are the differences between an anthropology degree versus a sociology one?

from some (admittedly limited) reading i've done, it seems that both deal with societies and how they function. so what makes each unique?
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jasonm
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Anthropology can be really broad, if you wanted to you could do Biological Anthropology, looking at the evolution of man for example, doing lab work etc.

I'm not sure if i could give a definition of what Anthropology actually is, (perhaps this site could help you more : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/)
but i think the difference would be that Sociology would be purely the study of society, whereas Anthropology is the general study of the man whether you use interaction, biology, or artifacts to do so.

If anyone could elaborate that would be great, unfortunately i'm only a prospective student myself.
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Emjabr
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So if we took social anthropology and sociology, what would be the difference in content / approch?
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Ellsbells3032
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sociology tends to focus more on our own societies and how they function while social anthropology tends to focus more on "the other" cultures by looking at cultural differences and how culture has evolved over time.

Also the approach of Sociology is that of studying data etc (i think) while anthropology is explored through "participant observation" where you live among those you are studying and learn how to be a member of that group
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Wise One
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(Original post by Ellsbells3032)
sociology tends to focus more on our own societies and how they function while social anthropology tends to focus more on "the other" cultures by looking at cultural differences and how culture has evolved over time.
That used to be true, but not so much now.

If you can get up to London on July 10th, there's a London Anthropology Day tailor-made for answering the kinds of questions you have now.

Oh, and if you've got a spare 20-30 min, have a read of this.
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Catsmeat
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(Original post by Ellsbells3032)
sociology tends to focus more on our own societies and how they function while social anthropology tends to focus more on "the other" cultures by looking at cultural differences and how culture has evolved over time.
This I would disagree with; certainly the foundations of anthropology are in the study of the "other" (the work of Malinowski, Fortes, Evans-Pritchard, and so on, comes to mind), yet in the last fifty years there has been a trend towards "anthropology at home". Anthropology is always, I'd argue, about self-reference; as a comparative discipline, the ethnographer cannot help but to make comparisons, implicit or explicit, between their society and the one they study.

(Original post by Ellsbells3032)
Also the approach of Sociology is that of studying data etc (i think) while anthropology is explored through "participant observation" where you live among those you are studying and learn how to be a member of that group
That's true, but there's a broad meeting ground between them; an ethnographer is as likely to draw on Durkheim and Weber as they are on functionalism, so perhaps it is best to locate anthropology as 'applied sociology'. Social anthropology, at least, as it is taught in Norway and Britain, has more and more to do with US cultural anthropology, however, so there are very distinct differences, as well as similarities, between the two fields. Perhaps the greatest difference between the two fields is the methodological aspect; anthropology is based on long-term, extensive field-work, whilst, as you correctly observe, sociology tends to be concerned with statistical analysis and data (broad trends, rather than subjective, 'fragmentory', experiences).

OP (Verse); sociology may be more concerned with "function", that is, how and what institutions do, and what social patterns emerge as a result. Anthropology, at least (as I've detailed, in brief, above), is increasingly cognitive/interpretive in its approach; in other words, it concerns itself not directly with how society "functions", but with how society, and culture, are experienced, and how structures (as well as functions) are negotiated and explored by those living within them. The general lait motif of contemporary anthropology seems to be of construction (identity, ethnicity, and so on), international relations and social interaction (often between ethnic groups), rather than with how institutions, per se, "function".
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gavinlee
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I would generally agree with Catsmeat..but maybe I could add a few additional points. Many universities offer sociology which has modules that are entirely anthropological (within this text if I refer to anthropology I mean social/cultural anthropology, not biological). While anthropology was concerned with 'the other' it has become extremely critical of it's own past, and as other posters have noted, much anthropology is now concerned with study 'at home'.

In my opinion, 2 principle characteristics define anthropology. The first is it's methodology, ethnography. This is based on it's second defining principle, it's primary concern with culture. Anthropologists argue, that to really get an understanding of why people behave in a certain way, the researcher must be emmersed in that culture/community/environment. Only then will they be able to make explicit what those being studied imply with their everyday behaviour.

Sociologists may too be ethnographers. I would say sociology is generally more broad. Thus, you could do research by ethnography, in doing so prioritising everyday behaviour. Or, alternatively, you could study something by questionnaires. Both of which would be sociological, but only the former is anthropological.

Much of anthropology utilises sociological theory, and more generally philosophy. Thus it is impossible to do a degree in sociology without getting an elaborate understanding of anthropology. However, it is common to do a sociology degree without even touching anthropology.

It's because of this overlap that anthropologists are usually presented as sociologists in A level sociology text books.

generally speaking, and this is only my own interpretation, anthropology has more status that sociology. Sociology is often (wrongly in my opinion) perceived as a 'mikey mouse' course. Anthropology isn't. Due to it's long standing history with the establishment (of which anthropology is now very critical of), anthropology is generally only offered by red brick universities, and particularly within academic circles, is more highly regarded.

Sorry for the numerous typing errors - I'm in a rush!
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Emjabr
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(Original post by gavinlee)
I would generally agree with Catsmeat..but maybe I could add a few additional points. Many universities offer sociology which has modules that are entirely anthropological (within this text if I refer to anthropology I mean social/cultural anthropology, not biological). While anthropology was concerned with 'the other' it has become extremely critical of it's own past, and as other posters have noted, much anthropology is now concerned with study 'at home'.

In my opinion, 2 principle characteristics define anthropology. The first is it's methodology, ethnography. This is based on it's second defining principle, it's primary concern with culture. Anthropologists argue, that to really get an understanding of why people behave in a certain way, the researcher must be emmersed in that culture/community/environment. Only then will they be able to make explicit what those being studied imply with their everyday behaviour.

Sociologists may too be ethnographers. I would say sociology is generally more broad. Thus, you could do research by ethnography, in doing so prioritising everyday behaviour. Or, alternatively, you could study something by questionnaires. Both of which would be sociological, but only the former is anthropological.

Much of anthropology utilises sociological theory, and more generally philosophy. Thus it is impossible to do a degree in sociology without getting an elaborate understanding of anthropology. However, it is common to do a sociology degree without even touching anthropology.

It's because of this overlap that anthropologists are usually presented as sociologists in A level sociology text books.

generally speaking, and this is only my own interpretation, anthropology has more status that sociology. Sociology is often (wrongly in my opinion) perceived as a 'mikey mouse' course. Anthropology isn't. Due to it's long standing history with the establishment (of which anthropology is now very critical of), anthropology is generally only offered by red brick universities, and particularly within academic circles, is more highly regarded.

Sorry for the numerous typing errors - I'm in a rush!
Thanks for such a comprehensive description, I'm considering both as degree courses. So if modern social anthropology now covers "home" topics as well as "other", how would the subject content differ from sociology, with the exception of methodology? Or put another way, what topics would anthropologists / sociologists see as "outside" their area?

Thanks!
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Wise One
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(Original post by Emjabr)
Thanks for such a comprehensive description, I'm considering both as degree courses. So if modern social anthropology now covers "home" topics as well as "other", how would the subject content differ from sociology, with the exception of methodology? Or put another way, what topics would anthropologists / sociologists see as "outside" their area?
There aren't any, really. It's mostly about the methodology. So while you could do, say, a module on Gender/Sexuality in both Sociology and Anthropology, a Sociological approach might focus on

- the performance of gender within ("modern") institutions, such as the army, hospitals, the workplace, or the family

... while Anthropology would be more likely to look at ...

- a wide variety of examples and case studies of specific gender roles, and the way gender operates in different cultural contexts
- the role of gender in processes of social transformation
- the impact of globalisation on gender relations, both at the national and international levels

Both modules would, however, probably share similar theoretical underpinnings, and rely on the a similar (if not the same) cast of theorists, academics and commentators.

So, yeah, it's a tricky question. Your best bet is to look at the precise degrees you'd be interested, and check out the options, choice of modules, and precise structure.
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gavinlee
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Yeah, Wise One is right. It is important to realise precisely why anthropoligists advocate the methodology that they do though. It isn't simply because they prefer it, it is because of what they are studying. Anthropology is all about everyday culture. Take a classical sociological topic, say socio economic background and it's relation to health. Sociology may consider large trends such as lack of education regarding health amongst people in poverty, poor environments, unwillingness to engage with health professionals etc. All this could be done from secondary research.

An anthropologist on the other hand would get out there, live amongst people for a substantive amount of time, to understand what it is about their behaviour that determines their health. This would lead to an anylsis of their values and the sort of intangible things that quantitave sociologists could never explain. So, often, an anthropologist would be critical of sociologists who favour large scale research methods as they fail to take account of the cultural attitudes, norms and values that govern everyday life.

Having said all that, and while it is possible for anthropologists and sociologists to cover the exact same subject but with differing research methods, anthropologists often have a fascination for small scale cultures or sub cultures, minority groups or people in a different, typically 'non-western' country. So, it is often this, not the value of differnet research methods, that often attracts people to anthropologists.
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Emjabr
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(Original post by Wise One)
There aren't any, really. It's mostly about the methodology. So while you could do, say, a module on Gender/Sexuality in both Sociology and Anthropology, a Sociological approach might focus on

- the performance of gender within ("modern") institutions, such as the army, hospitals, the workplace, or the family

... while Anthropology would be more likely to look at ...

- a wide variety of examples and case studies of specific gender roles, and the way gender operates in different cultural contexts
- the role of gender in processes of social transformation
- the impact of globalisation on gender relations, both at the national and international levels

Both modules would, however, probably share similar theoretical underpinnings, and rely on the a similar (if not the same) cast of theorists, academics and commentators.

So, yeah, it's a tricky question. Your best bet is to look at the precise degrees you'd be interested, and check out the options, choice of modules, and precise structure.
Sounds like thats the best thing to do... I'd noticed that alot of the module titles / descriptions are similar, so your answer has been really helpful! At the moment, I'm looking as LSE, Sussex, Kent, and Manchester for Soc Anth (maybe Durham and Cambridge too, for SPS and Social sciences), so off to have a flick though the prospectuses! Thanks!
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gavinlee
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I did Social Anthrop at Manchester and it is a very good course with a wide range in module choice.
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Wise One
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In my experience, Sussex's course is also really good.
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verse
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thanks for all the replies! i was actually regretting creating this thread cos i went and browsed a few pages back in this forum and there were actually a couple threads about the same issue haha.

anyway, wrt social anthro, would most of the study be concentrated around 'third world' tribes and the like? cos while the subject matter sounds interesting, i'm not too keen on studying tribes of new guinea (for example)..
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Wise One
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(Original post by verse)
anyway, wrt social anthro, would most of the study be concentrated around 'third world' tribes and the like? cos while the subject matter sounds interesting, i'm not too keen on studying tribes of new guinea (for example)..
Define 3rd world.

I've written essays on Thai spirit mediums in the 1990s, the etiquette of gift exchange, witchcraft in West Africa, urban politics and land use in Mumbai, the anti-globalisation movement, gay parenting, gated communities in Los Angeles, p2p file-sharing, and Hindu village temple festivals.
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verse
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hmm what you've done sounds interesting!

btw is there any fieldwork done at undergrad level?
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Wise One
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(Original post by verse)
hmm what you've done sounds interesting!

btw is there any fieldwork done at undergrad level?
Depends on the university. I did a group study on street performers and buskers in Brighton in my first year, but I've only got experience of Sussex's anthropology programme.
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Emjabr
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(Original post by Wise One)
Depends on the university. I did a group study on street performers and buskers in Brighton in my first year, but I've only got experience of Sussex's anthropology programme.
I'm thinking about applying to Sussex - would you reccomend the course / uni, and how does the course differ from other?

Thanks!
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Wise One
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(Original post by Emjabr)
I'm thinking about applying to Sussex - would you recommend the course / uni, and how does the course differ from other?
I would totally recommend the course. As for the uni, it depends on the kind of person you are. It's left-wing, liberal, campus university, with a fairly critical bent to its teaching. That doesn't necessarily suit everyone. I loved it.

The anthropology department is comparatively large, with a variety of specialisms. If you look at the research page, you can get a decent idea of the kind of stuff that various faculty members are interested in - there's a lot of stuff on conflict, development, medicine, human rights, migration, and globalisation.

The course is unusual because - assuming you take single honours - 50% of your time in the first year, and 25% of your second year will be given over to optional modules from other schools. This is a fair bit higher than at otherwise comparable universities. The course is well-balanced, giving you an solid grounding in the subject and its various areas of interest, before allowing you to specialise in in-depth option modules in the final year.

There's a good departmental community, the staff members are - in my experience - all really easy to approach and talk to, and (providing the first year hasn't changed that much since I did it) you get some practical research experience relatively early on.
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So how does Social Anthropology (specifically) compare to Sociology?
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