Anthropology or Ethnology? Iranian Case

Reviewing a selection of speeches and articles by some European culturologists on ethnological issues today, an interesting question arose about the differences between anthropology and ethnology in their true reflection in the East. Human being through the time: culture and way of life, traditions, heritage in preserved values, historical memory and self-identity. The world of humanities in Iran offers an interesting picture of the distinction within this disciplinary dichotomy for researchers and students.

Anthropology believes in cultural proportions and measures each element according to its own cultural context and dialogue. But is terminology a scientific subject or is it related to the structure of power, scientific institutions, the competition of anthropology professors, or the competition of subdisciplinary anthropological traditions? Are the functions of language in different societies, including Iran, based on communication or does language have other functions as well? That Persian language carries our historical identity and is an inter-ethnic language, then we know that the function of Persian language is beyond verbal communication?

Persian language is a complex phenomenon in naming, for naming in the field of science has the same complexity. Another question is that the experiences of Iranian anthropology are equal to its foreign experiences?

Iran has a pre-modern anthropology that belongs to Abu Rihan al-Biruni and has a modern methodology, and it has a modern anthropology that is far from the tradition of Abu Rihan al-Biruni and the constitutional era is the time of the re-emergence of anthropology in Iran.

In Iran, there is anthropology as a discourse, institution and science in Iran. Anthropology is seen as a discourse in Jamalzadeh’s works. After that, in 1315, discourse was formed as an institution and later as science in 1337.

Iranians were in crisis before the constitutional era, and the book “Girls of Quchan” shows all the crises of Iranian society, but the constitutional revolution changed the concept of people and nation, and we even came to a revolutionary interpretation of it like the people. .

In Iranian mystical literature there is a contradiction between anthropology and ethnology, so the discussion shows the transcendental definition of pre-Islamic and post-Islamic culture. An anti-discourse is formed and pre-Aryan mythology with the presence of Mehrdad Bahar. The first discourse is text-based, but the second discourse focuses on religion, and here we see a contradiction with anthropology and ethnology.

Persians use the word people and human in the same sense in Farsi. But we need to understand the differences more. If we look at the concept of power in Foucault and Bourdieu; Academic competition is formed in the field of research and academia. This competition is institutions, people, discourses, traditions, and so on. No one believes the dispute between Khanlari and Shirazi. But when we talk about competition, it makes sense.

There is a difference in the definition of anthropology and ethnology in the West itself: The field of anthropology or ethnology in Iran owes much to the polyphony of Iranian culture. This issue has positive and negative features. The good thing is that you can hear different voices from Iranian anthropology. Blokbashi says that Iran’s anthropology has gone beyond political discourses over the past hundred years and has not been used as a tool. In other words, the tool of knowledge is not empowered to overwhelm and deceive local and popular communities. Therefore, anthropology in Iran is different from the West in that it has become a market for power.

 Anthropology in Iran is the science of self-knowledge, but in the West, anthropology is a knowledge far from knowing another and even not knowing each other!

Iranian anthropology puts itself at the service of redefining national identity, not power! Some Iranists admit that the study of anthropology should begin in Iran. Of course, some books have been published, but it is not a critical history. For example, Dalvand’s work is excellent, but it is not a critical history.

The history of anthropology or ethnology is different in Iran and the West, and it is wrong to equate the history of this field in Iran with the West, because in the West, another knowledge is emphasized, but in Iran, self-knowledge has been considered.

Vahdati Nasab says there is “peopology” in Iran, but who said people are people? People is a word whose advantage over the word man in the West is that it considers man to mean one unit and one group, and is knowing culture different from something else? Does culture mean the study of isolated human beings? 

They see the unity of ethnology and anthropology as similar, but this is a challenging issue because the departments of the two in the world, although close to each other and far from cultural anthropology. However, these two disciplines have separation structures in the Western academic traditions, and although their interdisciplinary relationships are undeniable.

In the West, both anthropology and ethnology coexist and work together: But the choice should be based on the principle of the Habermas agreement, because each community uses the word it needs. We have traditions that have an independent identity and go their own way.

Both anthropological and ethnological names are the same, and both claim anthropology, not ethnology. These controversial words are based on the relationships of academic power and levels of competition between professors. The word people is a special word in Iranian culture and there is a difference in it. It is transcendence in this word that represents man and the collective. The word ethnology in countries like France is the same as anthropology and cultural anthropology is the same as ethnology. But for some there is no difference between these two words because they consider themselves to be anthropologists. But in Iran, the dominant discourse is cultural anthropology.

Scholars in Iran do not consider anthropology as equal to ethnology because it is a relative matter and goes back to the hermeneutics of the humanities in Iran, and this hermeneutics has never been studied.

Regardless of the awareness of the value of certain disciplines, the past echoes us in the present. And the main task of these two disciplines is to save humanity, so that human simply does not disappear from this earth – the cradle of life. And instead of categorizing at our own discretion, we have a unique opportunity to touch, feel, understand and live through and with a person today. Perhaps this will add to the lack of clarity between these two concepts in both hemispheres of Eurasia – a mystical and eternal bridge where a human meets a human.