Anthropology is the scientific study of the origin and behavior of man, including the development of societies and cultures. Traditionally anthropology is divided into two fields, biological anthropology and cultural anthropology, both of which have their own sub-branches.
Biological anthropology focuses on the study of human populations using an evolutionary framework. Biological anthropologists have theorized about how the globe has become populated with humans, as well as tried to explain geographical human variation.
Cultural anthropology is the study of culture based on methodology that heavily relies on participant-observation. Cultural anthropologists use ethnographic examples to defend their theories. Ethnography is the product of research, a monograph or book describing in detail a specific culture. Indeed, the process of participant-observation can be especially helpful to understanding a culture from an emic point of view; which would otherwise be unattainable by simply reading from a book. The study of kinship and social organization is a central focus of cultural anthropology, as kinship is a human universal. Cultural anthropology also covers economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, material culture, technology, infrastructure, gender relations, ethnicity, childrearing and socialization, religion, myth, symbols, values, etiquette, worldview, sports, music, art, nutrition, recreation, games, food, festivals, and language.
Because of the holistic nature of anthropological research, all branches of anthropology have widespread practical application in diverse fields. This is known as applied anthropology. Thus military expeditions employ anthropologists to discern strategic cultural footholds; marketing professionals employ anthropology to determine propitious placement of advertising; and humanitarian agencies depend on anthropological insights as means to fight poverty. Examples of applied anthropology are ubiquitous.
Antarctica encompasses a rich range of human interactions that is increasingly becoming inseparable from its natural environment. Although no indigenous populations live on Antarctica, the continent is home to scientific research stations from 30 different countries and is the destination of choice for an increasing number of tourists. Understanding the history of human presence, its social and anthropological dynamics, its politics and its shared cultural constructions are important themes in Antarctica Social Science research and management. The Antarctic Treaty was ratified in 1961 to ensure “in the interests of all humankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”. However, as several countries have overlapping territorial claims, future geopolitical tensions could jeopardize the treaty. Millions of people have been exposed to Antarctica through its popularization in the media (books, film, TV, art) and this has prompted curiosity and questions of value. The costs of human presence in Antarctic are remarkable from economical, environmental and cultural points of view. Therefore, Antarctica has become the object of innumerable debates and balancing these different viewpoints could have global implications particularly when they affect climate and international policy. Thus, Antarctic Social Science provides a vital contribution to the region's future.
What do Antarctic Social Scientists research? Below you can find a list of the wide variety of topics researched by APECS members, together with a brief explanation of the topic. To find out more about experts in each field, visit the SCAR Humanities and Social Sciences web page at http://antarctica-ssag.org/ :
Anthropology: For Sociocultural Anthropology, Antarctica is an emerging scenario of practices and associations between humans and non-humans, spatially located and specifically built and experienced by men and women who live and work in Antarctica. From ethnographic work in Antarctica, anthropologists have established their everyday relationships in the field, with scientists and military personnel mainly, trying to understand in situ, how the practices and techniques of everyday life that human beings establish and run, give substance and senses to the associations and networks which build the exceptional values and uses of Antarctica and the Antarctic Treaty System. It is from the ethnographic study of this process by which Anthropology aims to understand the modes, powers and tensions of inter-trans-nationals that characterize the processes of human colonization of Antarctica. Antarctica is an exciting research field for anthropologists. Still, it was not explored enough by this discipline. Only five known anthropologists studied the Antarctic: Palinkas, O'Reilly, Resende de Assis, Soto and Salazar. But if anthropologists in the Antarctic are few, their work open the field of research, attracting readers and students. By using ethnography as a method they research settlements and Antarctic National Programs (USA, Brazil, New Zealand, Chile and Australia) they grow elemental data for the understanding of micro-societies, socio-environmental dwelling strategies, transnational networks and local movements to implement the Antarctic Treaty System. They also produce pioneer research over scientific, military and logistical practices in the ice, gender and labor relations, the emergence of gateway cities (e.g. Ushuaia and Christchurch) and arising symbolic and moral values connected to the Antarctic.
International Law: Exploration of Antarctica began in earnest when the classical era of Imperialism was beginning to come to a close, with the emergence of the two Cold War-era superpowers following suit. This led to the emergence of a singular legal regime superseding previously accepted notions such as effective occupation, with science at its core and an attempt to limit both geopolitical competition and environmental impact. The study of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and the wider “Antarctic Treaty System” is of interest to legal scholars not only in and by themselves, but also to reflect on some of the possible directions international law may take in the future. In this regard, it may be of particular interest to those working on territorial disputes, natural resources law, and space law. At the same time, technological change, thirst for resources, continued competition and tensions among nations, and the (re)emergence of powers not associated with the birth of the regime, are putting added strains on the system. To sum it up, just like many fields in modern science have benefited from that giant laboratory called Antarctica, so can more than a few areas of the law. Stay tuned to learn more!
International Relations: Antarctica is by definition an international arena, given the combination of (sometimes overlapping) territorial claims, an international legal regime, and scientific activities by many countries. Cooperation and competition takes place hand by hand, and while the latter has taken a peaceful form in the continent herself, we cannot forget that the surrounding area has sometimes been home to armed conflict, as in the 1982 Falklands War. Antarctica is essential in terms of soft power for any country wishing to appear as a leading nation in the eyes of the world, while at the same time providing some hope to those voices wishing to leave behind territorial conflicts and zero-sum competition for resources in favor of greater understanding and cooperation. The region also shows how international civil society is coming to have a greater voice in global affairs, no longer the exclusive domain of the nation-state. For these, and many other reasons, no serious student of international affairs can afford to ignore Antarctica. Make sure to follow us!
Sociology: Environmental forces, animal life, or natural events are no longer the only ones that need to be taken into consideration for those who aim to understand Antarctica. Nowadays, social relations inside and outside Antarctica, produce effects on its wilderness that can no longer be ignored, as the region now encompasses a broad range of human relations and interactions that must be understood in order to comprehend and preserve its whole existence. Social interactions are held by visitors, tourists, researchers, policy makers, and all who build and share common perceptions about this place and their experience on it. Besides, host societies get informed about Antarctica, creating and reproducing different collective imaginaries by these reports. Consequently, they directly influence the region’s outcomes as well. Therefore, as Antarctic development is deeply intertwined with human interaction, social studies on Antarctic practices are vital for those who want to understand it as a whole.
Polar research involves knowledge gathering and information integration from many sources. In the Polar Regions, Traditional Knowledge (TK) plays a central and important role. The notion and definition of traditional knowledge varies across geography, disciplines, and peoples, however, is becoming increasingly recognized as valuable information and knowledge in the area of polar science in particular. Discussions pertaining to traditional knowledge also relate to local knowledge, indigenous knowledge or traditional ecological knowledge.
Traditional Knowledge has many definitions, however the core definition is well described by an elder fromjpg Tuktoyaktuk in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region: Traditional Knowledge is the pride in knowing your culture and knowing how to survive in your surroundings. Traditional Knowledge is a rich knowledge base, it is knowledge gained from the experience of living on the land and knowledge passed down by ancestors, and it takes a holistic approach to understanding the environment. As science often takes a reductionist approach to understanding the environment, using Traditional Knowledge and scientific knowledge together creates a more in-depth understanding of ecosystems or species of study.
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