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Anthropology in SIL

Socio-cultural environments help determine people’s behavior and define their identities. As environments change, so do people. Humans are also agents of change, both individually and in groups. The dynamic interaction between people and their environments has produced the fascinating array of diversity observable in the world today.

Anthropology is an academic discipline that has historically explored the details of human existence. It offers ways to help understand people and their socio-cultural environments.

Society is the organizational and structural apparatus that surrounds people. Culture refers to the meaning generated within a social environment. Understanding society and culture means being able to comprehend a complex web of tradition and change, physical and symbolic, sacred and mundane. Building awareness of these complexities through training, research and technical resources is the goal of Anthropology in SIL.


Socio-cultural awareness can be improved with training. Anthropological training in particular is a fundamental ingredient for successful cross-cultural living and productive fieldwork. All language personnel in SIL receive anthropological training.

SIL training programs offer intensive introductions to cultural anthropology and field methods.


Socio-cultural awareness can be improved with research. SIL promotes ethnographic research and publishes its findings in books, journals and online at and SIL Electronic Working Papers.

There is a great need for recording and preserving the cultural and intangible heritage of people throughout the world. SIL field personnel conduct research following ethical guidelines and are encouraged to publish their findings. SIL considers this a professional obligation to the communities with whom the field workers are associated.


Socio-cultural awareness can be improved with appropriate use of technologies. SIL produces software tools designed for ethnographic research. Below are two products that are available to the public.