Anthropology has three unique elements which differentiate it from other disciplines: Holism, cultural relativism and cross-cultural comparativism. Anthropologists apply these elements in what we call the anthropological imagination. (Gomes 2010:03/03)
The holistic approach involves taking all the aspects of a culture into consideration when conducting research such as; religion, language, symbolism, marriage, social organization, politics, economics and ecological aspects. It is not just a focus on a single aspect. This allows studies to be conducted in-depth. (Gomes 2010:17/03) One way that anthropologists gain a holistic view of a culture is by spending long periods of time living in a society and becoming as integrated as possible in the every day life of the people that they are studying. This is portrayed in the reading of Cultural Anthropology, Chapter 3: Fieldwork by Emily Schultz & Robert Lavenda (2005). Here it is explained how anthropologists use a holistic approach to their research by getting completely immersed in the culture they are studying through the use of different anthropological tools and field work. It becomes apparent that the only way to truly get the whole picture of a particular society is to become a part of that society.
Cross-cultural Comparison is about comparing different cultures in order to gain a deeper understanding of the societies, which is very unique to anthropology. An excellent example of cross cultural comparison is demonstrated through Bohannan, L 1966, Shakespeare in the Bush, pp1-4. Two seemingly different cultures were explored, compared and brought together by Shakespeare's story of Hamlet. When this story was translated to the Tiv West African tribal people, she discovered their unique interpretation of the story according to their beliefs and demonstrated through comparison the values of these remote west African tribe in compared with the English culture portrayed through Hamlet. This revealed an interesting discovery that some cultural aspects such as lying, betrayal and moral issues can transcend cultural differences and reveal that some values are universal and can be shared no matter how different the cultural comparison may be.