see ``Cognitive Anthropology'' by Jennifer Cash
cites Benjamin Colby, 1996, and Roy D'Andrade, 1995.
Cognitive Anthropology has been characterised by use of new/ cognitive/ formal/ rigorous methodologies. Its aim is to discover and represent mental processes; also, the use of cognitive techniques to elicit information for the purpose of ethnographic description. Focus is on intellectual and rational aspects of culture, specifically through studies of language use. Both theoretical elements and methodologies of CA have been derived from structuralism in social/cultural anthropology and linguistics.
Anthropology till the late 1950s largely took the form of ethnography which was influenced by Malinowski and Boas. Categories used by this traditional ethnography were, the technology and techniques for providing material needs, village or local group composition, family and extended group composition and the roles of various members, political organization and the nature of magic, religion, witchcraft, cosmologies and other forms of native beliefs and values (Roy D'Andrade (1995) The Development of Cognitive Anthropology. CUP, Cambridge). The sources of anthropological evidence were mainly myths and customs.
In a model popular in British social anthropology, especially in the functionalist tradition of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, individual peoples were written about by lone anthropologists after prolonged and intensive immersion in their societies.
However it was found that the recorded ethnographies of communities changed significantly with time - accuracy and reliability were questioned and ethnographic validity became a critical issue (eg. Redfield-Lewis controversy on contradiction between two ethnographies of the Mexican village of Tepoztlan recorded in the late 1920s and late 1940s).
(see Gardner MNS, for an example)
The representational level insistence in Cognitive Science, though new to more experimentally oriented disciplines like psychology and linguistics, was natural to anthropology. Yet due to a tension in methodologies, anthropology remained on the periphery of cognitive science. Predictably perhaps the new empirical procedures of cognitive science met with problems in anthropology. There has been since the late 1970s (strongly influenced by postmodernists like Clifford Geertz) a return trend to holistic methods, like ethnography and in-depth case studies: an alignment more with the humanities than with the other cognitive sciences. This trend to some extent also in turn affected cognitive science.