Every discipline has a typical approach to a social phenomenon. Economics
studies anything in term of profit and loss, production and distribution and
demand and supply. History attempts to study anything in historical context
Likewise these disciplines, anthropology has its own perspective,
that is, its own ways of looking things.
The holistic perspective is hallmark of anthropology. According to holistic
perspective, all aspects of life – biological, social, cultural, economics and
political are interrelated and interdependent. So any aspects of life, be it
biological, economic and political cannot be studied in isolation but in
relation to other aspects of life especially, social and cultural. It is the
holistic perspective that distinguishes anthropology from biology,
economics and political science. In biology, biological issues such as
evolution, genetics, disease are studied in biological terms. On the other
hand biological anthropology studies biological issue holistically, that is
from biological as well as socio-cultural point of view.
Human evolution is studied not only in term of
biological dimension but also in cultural dimension. Biological
anthropology studies human genetics from cultural point of view because
in human, mating, a crucial fact in study of genetics, is influenced by
religion, custom, taboo and morality.
Biological anthropology studies disease holistically, considering
apart from biological factor social, cultural, environment and economic.
In medical anthropology the concept of disease is magico- religious. Tribal
people believe that disease is caused by anger of spirits, black magic and
arrow of the witch.
The holistic principle also distinguishes economic anthropology from
economics. Following holistic principle, economic anthropology studies
economic issues of tribal societies from socio-cultural point of view. For
example, to understand the shifting cultivation which is the main economic
activity of Hill Baiga (Chattisgrahh), it is essential to know their belief. The
Hill Baiga avoids ploughing, because they have a belief that the earth is like
mother and to plough the earth means to tear the breast of mother. Hence
the economic activity (shifting cultivation) of Hill Baiga is governed by their
belief-value, which suggests that every aspects of life is intertwined with
other aspects. On the other hand economics studies economic aspect of
modern society from economic point of view, that is, in term of demand,
supply, profit and loss. Likewise political issues in anthropology is studied
from socio-cultural point of view.
The second basic feature of anthropological perspective is that a part
must be understood in the context it belongs to. Dance among the tribal
people must be understood in tribal cultural matrix. In terms of tribal
cultural matrix, dance is :--
a. An educational Institution - Through dance tribal tactics of hunting
and defence is taught.
b. Religious Institution – Through dance gods and spirits are propitiated .
c. Community Institution – Through dance clan solidarity is expressed.
d. Lastly dance is recreational institution through which tribal’s express
their emotion, feelings and other supreme facts of life. Thus from
tribal point of view dance plays important role in tribal society.
On the other hand, the outsider non-tribal point of view guided by
upper caste value where only a class of women called prostitute
dances, gives a different view of tribal dance.
Perspective of cultural relativism
The third basic feature of anthropological perspective is that no culture
is superior, and no culture is inferior. In fact each culture is unique and
should be accepted as it exists, without any value judgment. since
anthropology attempts to study diversity of cultures, as a result of
knowledge and experience of different cultures, anthropologists develop
true perspective towards a particular problem such as communalism
and other cultural problems of misunderstanding. The cultural
relativism of anthropology emphasizing the principle of mutual self-
respect towards each other cultural values – Language and religion is
very helpful in solving the problem of communalism. It is knowledge
that breeds respects. Anthropology provides the knowledge of language,
religion and tradition of several communities – Hindu, Sikhs, Muslim
and tribal and helps in promoting respects towards each other and
reducing hostilities and distrust.