As Leach (1976) notes, anthropologists have taken radical and exploratory approach in studying the people’s way of life. As a study, Anthropology is anchored on comparative, holistic, and relative perspectives in studying human cultures and social structures (Peoples and Bailey, 2011). It is upon this understanding that any anthropological study is likely to be considered incomplete unless it gives an elaborate description of the subject matter and explanation for their existence.
The philosophy of holism and holistic determination form the acceptable threshold of any anthropological research. It therefore gives cultural studies an ecological aspect of considering a society as a single interacting whole. As such, social changes are considered to be a product of several elements interacting together within the society and its environment. It is upon this philosophy that anthropology dismisses the technological and geographical determinism of ardent structural-functionalists such as Radcliffe-brown (Sahlins, 1999).
The assumption that all aspects of culture are integrated and intertwined together gives anthropology the holistic approach since none of the aspects can be understood in isolation. Ethnography, among other research methods, allows anthropologists to understand communities by comparing different cultures relatively.
Of the four research methods that are mostly used in anthropology, ethnography presents the opportunity for anthropology researchers to gather descriptive data on the cultures of a specified group of people (Geertz, 2011). Ethnography serves to fill the gap of ethnic specificity that is ignored by ethnology, synchronic, and diachronic, all of which study people’s cultures in wholesomely.
To explain application of ethnography in the anthropology, the study of the ritual practices among the Washoe community around Lake Tahoe, North America. Ethnography would help to collect and record data about this community in order to understand all the social structures and practices that are related to the rituals being studied. The holistic approach in this study plays a major role in gaining a deeper insight since community’s ritual practices cannot be understood in isolation without understanding the implication of the political and economic forces that influence such rituals.
Looking at the fundamental components of anthropology, both in the study of culture and in other fields, its comprehensive nature and holistic approach that remain the key features setting it apart from other disciplines. The integration of ethnographic method gives anthropology the ‘ethnic-specific’ tag.