Modern cultural anthropology has its origins in, and developed in reaction to, 19th century "ethnology", which involves the organized comparison of human societies. Scholars like E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazer in England worked mostly with materials collected by others usually missionaries, traders, explorers, or colonial officials earning them the moniker of "arm-chair anthropologists".
Kinship studies have also experienced a rise in the interest of reproductive anthropology with the advancement of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), including in vitro fertilization (IVF). These advancements have led to new dimensions of anthropological research, as they challenge the Western standard of biogenetically based kinship, relatedness, and parenthood. According to anthropologists Maria C. Inhorn and Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli, "ARTs have pluralized notions of relatedness and led to a more dynamic notion of "kinning" namely, kinship as a process, as something under construction, rather than a natural given". With this technology, questions of kinship have emerged over the difference between biological and genetic relatedness, as gestational surrogates can provide a biological environment for the embryo while the genetic ties remain with a third party. If genetic, surrogate, and adoptive maternities are involved, anthropologists have acknowledged that there can be the possibility for three "biological" mothers to a single child. With ARTs, there are also anthropological questions concerning the intersections between wealth and fertility: ARTs are generally only available to those in the highest income bracket, meaning the infertile poor are inherently devalued in the system. There have also been issues of reproductive tourism and bodily commodification, as individuals seek economic security through hormonal stimulation and egg harvesting, which are potentially harmful procedures. With IVF, specifically, there have been many questions of embryotic value and the status of life, particularly as it relates to the manufacturing of stem cells, testing, and research.
Current issues in kinship studies, such as adoption, have revealed and challenged the Western cultural disposition towards the genetic, "blood" tie. Western biases against single parent homes have also been explored through similar anthropological research, uncovering that a household with a single parent experiences "greater levels of scrutiny and [is] routinely seen as the 'other' of the nuclear, patriarchal family". The power dynamics in reproduction, when explored through a comparative analysis of "conventional" and "unconventional" families, have been used to dissect the Western assumptions of child bearing and child rearing in contemporary kinship studies.
Town siting has varied through history according to natural, technological, economic, and military contexts. Access to water has long been a major factor in city placement and growth, and despite exceptions enabled by the advent of rail transport in the nineteenth century, through the present most of the world's urban population lives near the coast or on a river.
Urban areas as a rule cannot produce their own food and therefore must develop some relationship with a hinterland which sustains them. Only in special cases such as mining towns which play a vital role in long-distance trade, are cities disconnected from the countryside which feeds them. Thus, centrality within a productive region influences siting, as economic forces would in theory favor the creation of market places in optimal mutually reachable locations.