Difference Between Ethnography and Ethnology

Ethnography vs Ethnology

Ethnography and Ethnology are the two minor branches of anthropology or the study of the history of man. Both these are natural sciences, and they show some differences between them when it comes to their subject matter. Ethnography deals with the procedures carried out in any society for that matter. It deals with the study of procedures such as marriages, weddings, cremation procedures, burial procedures and the like.

Ethnography also deals with circumcision ceremonies. In short, it can be said that ethnography deals in detail with descriptions of the procedures mentioned above. Ethnology, on the other hand, gives a detailed description of the demographics of the society.

It can be said that ethnography deals with the rational description of human clans and nations. It throws enormous light on the various human tribes too. It makes a study of the evolution of man or the history of man right from the formative years. This is the main difference between the two branches of anthropology, namely, ethnography and ethnology.

The expert in the subject or branch of ethnography is called by the name of ethnographer. On the other hand, the expert in the subject or branch of ethnology is called by the name of ethnologist. An ethnographer studies in detail the various tribes and the various customs that prevail among them. It is said that they concentrate more on the savage part of the study.

On the other hand, an ethnologist takes a review of the superstitions, beliefs, myths and institutions that are common to or differ from the other parts of the world. An ethnologist involves himself in a comparative study of the human tribes, whereas, an ethnographer does not go deep into the comparative study of the human tribes.

An ethnographer is more interested in unearthing what is common in terms of the principles of the various societies or tribes of the world. On the other hand, an ethnologist tries his best to conduct a theory of what goes into any given society. This is another fundamental difference between ethnology and ethnography.

There are two main divisions of ethnology, and they are historic ethnology and prehistoric ethnology. Historic ethnology conducts research into the origin of the barbarian tribes. It gives a detailed account of their practices and customs too. On the other hand, the prehistoric ethnology gives an insight of the early conditions of man particularly where there are no documents to prove them.

It only shows that certain areas of the study of ethnology are based on assumptions. On the other hand, ethnographic study cannot be based on assumptions. They are based on valid proofs. Ethnology too conducts research into the methods of warfare. It gives a detailed account of the various weapons used from the time of the evolution of man. The service of ethnologists is needed during researches on human teeth, human bones and the like. These are the key differences between ethnography and ethnology.

  • Barry Bainton

    I disagree here with the distinction which is really presented as not a distinction. Ethnography is a methodology within the general discipline of anthropology (the study of the human species in all of its physical (biological), psychological, social and cultural dimensions through time and across space as understood through the concept of “culture.” Ethnography focuses on the study of living peoples and collects information and data primarily through a process of participation in the society and observations of the individuals and groups that make up the society. The Ethnographer supplies the data that the Ethnologist studies.

    The Ethnology is the study of Culture through the use and application of the comparative method where different societies are compared in order to identify commonalities and differences between societies and cultures. The goal of ethnology is to identify and define the basic cultural elements of human society as they relate to the social organization, technological development, economic, political and religious institution that form the basis of human society.

    Ethnography is the disciplined process of observation and a reflexive interpretation by the fieldworker upon his/her experience as an outsider participating in the social and cultural activity of the society under observation.

    Ethnology is the scientific and scholarly study of the ethnographic record to identify common characteristics among different societies in time and space and the unique differences that distinguish societies in order to develop typologies and to understand the dynamic properties of culture and culture change.