Conversation Analysis and Anthropology


Hunter College, CUNY


In this chapter, I discuss the relationship between Anthropology and Conversation Analysis (CA). After briefly describing what Anthropology is and the intellectual history of the relationship between Anthropology and CA, I focus on the ways in which each field has influenced the other.

Anthropology is the study of the human species in its present and past diversity from a holistic and empirical perspective. With this wide-ranging and inclusive approach to the study of the human experience, North American Anthropology is made up of four subfields: sociocultural anthropology, physical anthropology, archeology, and linguistic anthropology. Culture is considered a central aspect of what makes us human, but anthropologists do not share a single definition of culture. In fact, definitions of and disagreements about culture abound across anthropological subfields and theoretical approaches. Duranti (1997a) devotes an entire chapter of his linguistic anthropology textbook to present six definitions of culture: culture as (i) distinct from nature, (ii) knowledge, (iii) communication, (iv) a system of mediation, (v) a system of practices, and (vi) systems of participation. Despite the differences, a general understanding exists around a definition of culture as the component of human experience that is not biologically transmitted, but rather learned and passed among and between populations across ...

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