What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is the integrative study of human beings at all times and places and around the globe. Anthropology considers humans as their lives are framed simultaneously by cultural meanings, the social systems in which they participate and the biology and ecology of the human species in its evolutionary context and contemporary variation. As part of your University education, anthropology has three unique characteristics.
First, more than any other discipline, anthropology lends itself to an integrative and interdisciplinary perspective on the human condition. With its distinctive emphasis on “fieldwork,” it is unique in considering the full range of alternative ways of life and cultures that humans have produced. Its rigorous inclusivity thus makes it central to a liberal arts education.
Second, anthropology’s unusual history of developing interdisciplinary interests has kept it especially attuned to the social issues of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Contemporary trends such as the explosion of scientific discoveries and new technologies, instantaneous worldwide communications, international enterprises, transnational migration and emerging transnational cultures, changing forms of social conflict, new health concerns, and abrupt economic and environmental disruptions, all resist traditional scholarly treatment within disciplines. Anthropology in contrast offers the interdisciplinary theories and methods which appropriately address the human consequences, dislocations, challenges, and opportunities entailed by these societal and cultural changes.
Third, anthropology has long studied human diversity, in both its cultural and biological aspects, as one of its central themes. Drawing upon years of research, anthropology provides a wealth of knowledge about the processes that produce social, cultural, and biological heterogeneity and that simultaneously unify the human species. In doing so, anthropology illuminates the dynamics of diversity in the human relations that cross international boundaries, play out in multicultural societies, mediate human-environment interactions, and shape workplaces, schools, and other institutions in contemporary life.
In these ways, anthropology is a major for the twenty-first century — one that will prepare you for life and work in a world marked by cultural diversity, technological innovation, globalization, and rapid economic change.