Difference Between Anthropology and Ethnography

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Social disciplines focus on the analysis of men, including men’s history and social behaviors. Anthropology is one of the main social sciences and focuses on the study, analysis and understanding of man (and mankind) both in the present and in the past. Conversely, ethnography – which is strictly linked to ethnology – focuses on the analysis of rituals, traditions and ceremonies within the context of smaller social groups, like tribes and clans. While anthropology aims at achieving a holistic understand of man’s history and evolution, ethnography focuses on smaller scale analysis.

Difference Between Anthropology and Ethnography

What is Ethnography?

Ethnography is a smaller branch of anthropology, which focuses on the study of social procedures and ceremonies in clans, tribes and societies. The work of the ethnographer is based on finding evidence and proof, that will later be analyzed and linked to broader theories by the ethnologist. The ethnographer basis his work on the evaluation of key social and traditional ceremonies, including weddings, marriages, burial procedures, funerals, and cremation ceremonies. By studying and analyzing such phenomena, the ethnographer can infer the main values upon which the various societies and social groups are built.

Difference Between Anthropology and Ethnography-1

What is Anthropology?

The term anthropology derives from the Greek words anthropos – which means man – and logos – which means study. The combination of the two terms provides the meaning of the word anthropology, which is understood to be the study of mankind. The anthropologist studies men and societies both in the present and in the past, and analyzes both social behaviors and geographical and historical contexts. The idea of context is key in anthropology – as in most social sciences – as men and men’s behaviors are to be understood within a larger framework that provides ground for interpretation. Analyzing present and past societies and exploring all aspects of men’s lives can be quite complex; therefore, anthropology is often divided into smaller groups and disciplines that focus on particular aspects of men’s lives and social behaviors.

Similarities between Ethnography and Anthropology

Ethnography and anthropology are rather similar, as they both concentrate on the study of men and men’s history. The main similarities between the two disciplines are listed below:

  1. Both disciplines aim at providing a better and deeper understanding of man, society and social behaviors; and
  2. Both disciplines are social sciences and employ methodologies that protect and respect the object of study.

What is the Difference between Ethnography and Anthropology?

While they both focus on the study of humanity and of human history, ethnography and anthropology differ on few key aspects:

  1. Anthropology uses a holistic approach to man and societies, whereas ethnography focuses on restricted social groups, like tribes and clans; and
  2. Anthropology focuses on man and analyzes human behavior in relation to the social, geographic and historic context; conversely, ethnography focuses on cultures and social rituals and traditions.

Ethnography vs Anthropology

Building on the differences outlined in the previous section, we can identify few other aspects that further differentiate ethnography from anthropology.

Ethnography VERSUS Anthropology


Ethnography and anthropology are two social sciences that focus on the analysis of man, including human history and culture. Anthropology is a broader discipline that uses a holistic approach to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the past and present of human beings. Conversely, ethnography is a branch of anthropology that focuses on human cultures and involves the analysis and study of social rituals and traditions, just like burial ceremonies, weddings, marriages, and funerals. Both disciplines have allowed social scientists to gain a better understanding of primitive and contemporary societies as well as human behaviors in different contexts.

Author: Giulia Squadrin

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