What is Anthropology?
The word anthropology literally means "the study of humankind." Of the many disciplines that study humans, only anthropology seeks to understand the whole panorama of human existence, including biological and cultural traits during all times, in all geographic areas of the world, and in all cultural traditions. The subject matter of anthropology is both exotic (the religious beliefs of Australian Aborigines) and commonplace (the anatomy of the foot). The focus of an anthropologist may be global (the evolution of human language) or microscopic (the use-wear patterns of a stone tool). Anthropologists study ancient Maya buildings, the music of African pygmies, family relationships among the polygamous Yanomamo, the corporate culture of General Motors, and fossil humans who lived a million years ago. These vastly different projects are linked by the common goal of answering the questions:
- Who are we?
- How did we come to be the way we are?
- What will we be like in the future?
- Do all societies have incest taboos?
- As a species, are humans innately violent or peaceful?
- When did people first begin speaking a language
- Did the earliest humans have light or dark skin?
- How closely related are humans, monkeys and chimpanzees?
- Is the Homo sapiens brain still evolving?
In a sense, we all "do" anthropology because we are curious about ourselves and about other people. Anthropologists try to answer these kinds of questions using both scientific and humanistic methods. They compare and contrast peoples from different parts of the world and from different eras of human history and prehistory. These comparisons yield differences which anthropologists try to understand and explain; the comparisons also yield similarities that show the amazing degree to which all humans are alike. Anthropologists also study how humans have changed over time, both biologically and culturally. Each of the four subdisciplines in anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, physical or biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology focuses on how one aspect of humanness has developed and changed over time, as well as what it is like in today's world.
Anthropology Program Mission Statement
The mission of the Anthropology Program is to prepare students for their academic, professional and personal futures by providing them with a well-balanced undergraduate education in anthropology. Anthropology is the holistic, multidisciplinary study of the biological, linguistic and sociocultural aspects of human beings, including prehistoric, traditional and modern urban industrialized societies. Students learn about cross-cultural research in both applied and academic contexts, and gain first-hand experience organizing and carrying out systematic observation, interviewing and data analysis. Anthropology majors participate in cultural and archaeological field and laboratory work in classes, internships and during senior project research.
The anthropology major is designed to give the student an interdisciplinary perspective on the comparative study of contemporary cultures and the evolution of human biological and sociocultural lifestyles over time. The program offers its majors a balance between academic content of theory and research, and the applications of anthropological knowledge and methodology in real life contexts such as forensics, multiculturalism, environmental and cultural resource management, international relations and international business. Archaeology portions of the program include hands-on experience in a laboratory setting with 2-7,000 year old stone tools from seven local paleoindian sites, and an assemblage of historical artifacts dating from the 1890's. At all levels, emphasis is placed on the development of critical thinking skills and the application of values to the content of anthropological curriculum. The conceptual knowledge and skills gained during the program are crucial to successful performance in graduate school and are also highly valued by potential employers who hire anthropology majors directly after graduation.
Careers in Anthropology
Today's anthropologists work in a wide variety of settings including education, museums, business, government, health care and human services.
Anthropologists teach at the college level in a variety of departments including social and behavioral sciences, linguistics, anthropology, medicine, anatomy and physiology, psychiatry, criminology, cultural studies, women's studies, economics, ethnic studies, business, international relations and regional studies. They are employed at research institutions devoted to an equally wide variety of subjects. Cultural, ethnic and natural history museums employ anthropologists as curators who obtain, care for and interpret museum collections for the public.
In the business world, anthropologists are employed to do international and multicultural training, product development and design, marketing, organizational culture research, strategic planning and management. Major corporations such as Arthur Andersen. Inc., Motorola, Inc., and General Motors employ full-time professional anthropologists in these and other capacities.
Government agencies also employ anthropologists. The Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forestry Department, the National Park Service, and the various State Park Agencies al) maintain professional archaeology staff. Cultural anthropologists work for agencies such as the U. 5. Agent' for International Development, the State Department , and the World Bank, where knowledge of foreign cultures is essential. Police departments, coroners and district attorney's offices provide employment for forensic anthropologists, who can reconstruct the anatomical, physiological and cultural background of criminals and crime victims.
Increasingly, hospitals, HMO's (for example, Kaiser Permanente) and medical research facilities use the expertise of anthropologists to facilitate the effective delivery of health care to an extremely culturally diverse clientele. Medical anthropology is one of the fastest growing fields in anthropology. Social service agencies and mental health care facilities employ anthropologists for the same reasons as the medical community.
In today's multicultural society, cultural knowledge and skills are increasingly in demand. No longer are anthropologists isolated in academic settings. Teaching and research are but two of the multitude of exciting opportunities available to individuals who seek to apply anthropology in professional settings.
What Do Anthropology Majors Contribute to the Corporate Team?
General Mills uses teams of anthropologists to study family eating habits. One very successful new product based on this kind of research is Go-Gurt, a food product that does not need silverware, can be eaten on the run, and can be refrigerated or frozen to provide a variety of snack and meal options.