Description & History

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The Department of Anthropology at UNC Chapel Hill fosters an environment where several different topics and approaches coexist and intersect. Beginning with the adoption of the “Carolina Model” in the early 1980s, which substituted three thematic concentrations (History, Meaning, and Materiality; Social Formations and Processes; Ecology and Evolution) for formal sub-disciplinary specialties, the department has pursued alternatives to conventional disciplinary definitions and divisions, while maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegial exchange. The goals of this approach are to permit crosscutting research on the part of graduate students, to encourage engagement with other programs and interdisciplinary units on campus and to allow interest groups to form around particular problems as they emerge. Within this larger, open structure, the department maintains strong collective interest in issues of globalization, nature and the environment, public anthropology, cultural studies and political economy. It also features strong collective interest in the regional study of North America (particularly the southern United States), Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Europe and Asia (particularly Southeast Asia). None of these interests are exclusive, however, and faculty members work on a variety of topics in a variety of settings. Recently, a number of working groups have also developed within the department, including one devoted to the study of social movements and one to the study of culture change, the environment and health. The department also includes programs in medical anthropology and archaeology, the latter in close association with the Research Laboratories of Archaeology.