The name anthropology derives from the Greek notion of anthropos, i.e. a human being; ethnology again from the Greek ethnos, i.e. a group of people living together, a nation or a tribe; and culture derives from the Latin colere, meaning to cultivate land, while in this case it means to nurture mental abilities.
Etymology therefore indicates that anthropology is an academic discipline that deals with people who, living in groups and having the ability to think, produce a culture shared by members of the community, cultivated and passed on as a set of ideas and mechanisms that organise their coexistence.
Nowadays we emphasise the fact that culture is not only a phenomenon characteristic of specific ethnic groups, but of all their types, it is a dynamic effect of constantly crossing influences and borrowings, a phenomenon resulting from complex social relations. Hence, it would be most appropriate to speak of our discipline as socio-cultural anthropology, of which the study of ethnic groups, nations and relations between them is only a department.
The world is inhabited by more than 7 billion culturally diverse humans who pray to different gods, speak multiple languages, have different customs, differ in appearance, and are rich or poor. Behind this multiplicity, however, lies the basic truth about the unity of the human species, which anthropologists realised as early as the 19th century.
It is social and cultural anthropology that deals with the study of unity in human diversity. As its practitioners, we do this using the ethnographic method, which involves direct contact with living individuals. Thanks to it, we do not satisfy ourselves with decontextualised, often misleading statements about attitudes and behaviours, which are being reproduced elsewhere. We delve deeper into people’s real lives through long and repeated conversations, interacting with them, participating in their activities and observing their real, everyday actions, not failing to documenting those through visual media also.
In order to be able to do that, we travel to different parts of the world, to India, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Buryatia, Mongolia, Japan, Romania, Africa, Fiji and the Balkans, not forgetting about our own country and the groups living there who create their own subcultures: youth, environment, generation, profession, beliefs, ideology, region.
We study local communities in their small homelands, managers, experts and transnational financial companies. We do this by examining many aspects of each group’s life, such as celebration, work, health and illness, modes of communication, publishing and social media, identities, family life and kinship systems, beliefs and rituals, art, sport, consumption, social movements, protests, pilgrimages, environmental exploitation and energy use, the creation of urban living spaces, economic systems, mobility and migration, ethno-inspiration and expressions of cultural heritage.
We seek to link these fields, to discover how they intersect systems at local, national, regional and global scales. In the process of social cultural production, relations of economic and political dependence, colonial domination, power and subordination, hierarchies between groups emerge taking the form of xenophobia, nationalisms, hostility towards immigrants and minorities of all kinds, from ethnic to sexual. However, there are also emerging solidarities and attitudes of tolerance. We often become involved in these issues by advocating for the underprivileged and the discriminated.
Studies in ethnology and cultural and social anthropology are for those curious about the diversity of the human world, who want to understand the mechanisms of the creation of culture: how come that culture both unites and divides and that it sometimes masks social inequalities? Our discipline teaches sensitiveness to human diversity. It demands critical and constructive thinking. This is an education that can be applied in various professional settings. Graduates work in the media, in cultural institutions, NGOs, research centres, education and in high-profile businesses. There is demand everywhere for open-minded, imaginative people who know the world at large, who are aware of the principles of society and culture and are ready to solve problems creatively.