Welcome to the Department of Anthropology!
Anthropology is the integrative study of human beings at all times and in all places. Within this broad field of study, three programs of foundational training form the focus of our department: Archaeology; Human Biology, Ecology, and Evolution; and Sociocultural Anthropology and Ethnography.
We cross cut these specializations with five concentrations to integrate anthropology’s diverse expertise. Our current concentrations focus on: Health, Medicine, and Humanity; Heritage and Unwritten Histories; Global Engagement; Race, Place, and Power; and Food, Environment, and Sustainability.
Department Statement on Anti-Black Violence and Recent Protests
We, the graduate students and faculty of the Department of Anthropology of UNC Chapel Hill, join the voices in the United States and around the world in condemning recent and continued acts of anti-Black violence and racism. As anthropologists, we insist that the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as so many other lives unjustly destroyed by state-sanctioned agencies and other actors, are made possible by larger and centuries-old systems of oppression and racism that authorize assaults of all kinds on Black lives. We grieve and stand with families and communities as they express their refusal to quietly suffer these killings, and support their demands for policy changes to policing and the criminal justice system. We are outraged by acts of police brutality in the United States and globally, and by the use of militarized force against protesters exercising their Constitutional right to dissent, all while alt-right agitation is defended at the highest levels. We extend our solidarity to Black communities on campus, and to protesters across the country and around the world.
The same week George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, the world also witnessed Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York’s Central Park, threaten Christian Cooper, a Black man who politely requested that she put her dog on a leash, by dialing the police to falsely report that she was being threatened by an “African-American man.” The recruitment of the police in order to deploy state power against people of color is, unfortunately, not new. It is made possible by a long history in the United States of Black lives being systematically and intentionally targeted and assaulted with impunity, and by the structural racism that bolsters the project of white supremacy and white privilege. These dynamics have been compounded during the coronavirus pandemic: while SARS-Co-V-2 may be “novel,” its unequal effects are not. Due to pre-existing health and socioeconomic disparities, as well as COVID-related policy measures that neglect the reality of communities of color and the working poor, Black, Latinx and indigenous communities across the country have suffered disproportionate loss of jobs, homes, and lives during the pandemic. Working-class people of color are treated as disposable by employers who refuse to provide them with safe working conditions and personal protective equipment. Black communities have also been subjected to expanded surveillance and policing in the name of public health. Both the ravages of the virus and government efforts to contain it have deepened inequalities and structural racism, in ways that we understand to be inseparable from the more media-visible assaults on Black life. While we are hopeful that recent protests open possibilities for systemic change, as anthropologists, we hold that neither recent police brutality against Black people nor the disparities compounded by the pandemic are an exception, a rupture, or “novel” in any way. If anything, these contemporaneous and intersecting events have only shone more light on the inequalities and injustice that we have consistently witnessed around us, in our work and in our lives.
We stand in solidarity with the Association of Black Anthropologists, whose statement against police violence and anti-Black racism can be read here. We are encouraged and inspired by those who are reflecting as well as acting in concrete ways in this current moment, including within our classrooms and through research. But we also recognize that there is much work to do within our own discipline and within the academy. As anthropologists, we must reckon with our discipline’s history and practice in the struggle to decolonize teaching, research, fieldsites, and mentorship. We pledge to listen and learn, even when it is difficult; to face the forms of structural racism and bias at work in our classrooms and in our discipline in order to enact ways of redress together; and to hold our home institutions accountable by speaking up against unjust policies that hinder the growth of our Black and other POC and indigenous students, faculty, and non-academic staff. As we engage in these lifelong efforts, we stand united with our students, staff, and faculty in the struggle for justice, safety and well being on our campus, in our communities, and in our society at large.
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