Holistic Perspective

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.

Insider's Perspective

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.

Insider’s Perspective

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.

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