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Anthropology | Courses | Faculty

215 Machmer Hall

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Lynnette Leidy Sievert
Office: 105 Machmer Hall
Phone: (413) 545-1379

Chair of Department: Associate Professor Elizabeth S. Chilton. Professors Faulkingham, Godfrey, Keene, Mulholland, Paynter, Sievert, Wobst; Associate Professors Krause, Page, Samuels, Urla; Assistant Professors Battle-Baptiste, Decker, Harper, Hemment, Holt, Pérez, Sugerman, Walker Johnson; Lecturers Forward, Jones; Adjunct Faculty Abel, Appfel-Marglin, Darian-Smith, DiGiacomo, Fratkin, Foster, Garland, Goodman, Holzberg, Kerewsky-Halpern, Lass, Martin, Morgan, Nicholas, Pader, Root, Ryan.

The Field

Anthropology examines the nature and significance of human diversity in its biological, historical, and cultural forms. This examination is both a scientific and a humanistic undertaking, and inevitably students of anthropology apply what they learn to understand and ameliorate social conditions here and elsewhere and to preserve and to interpret cultural resources from the past. Anthropology thus straddles the social sciences and human biology in its theories and methods and the interpretive traditions of the humanities as well. Anthropology challenges conventional views that regularly mystify, categorize, or essentialize human diversity by race, gender, language, nationality, and class.

An anthropological perspective on human nature and human diversity is avidly comparative and cross-cultural, relying on assessing the full range of human diversity now and in the past before making generalizations about what it means to be and to act human. By contrast to various popular efforts to reduce human nature to what are perceived to be biological imperatives or constants, anthropology is skeptical of such claims and insists on examining and interpreting the interplay of culture, history, biology, and identity formation.

The Department of Anthropology offers four overlapping subdivisions of anthropology: cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.

In cultural anthropology the general focus is on the interplay of culture, history, and personal identity, both here in America, and in other social settings around the world. Cultural anthropologists produce ethnographies­—richly developed written and/or filmed descriptions of real people in specific social, historical, and cultural settings. Courses in cultural anthropology emphasize the reading, viewing, and comparing of ethnographies to discern what is common and what is different among human groups, and then to account for both similarities and differences.

Archeology has a very similar objective, except that both the time frame and the kinds of evidence are different. Archaeologists interpret cultural change on the basis of what may be gleaned from the material remnants of human behaviors in the past—ecological changes, tools, settlements, and artistic and monumental productions, often laid bare through excavation. Archaeologists are acutely aware that there is no single authoritative interpretation of the past. As a consequence, they take special steps not only to be scientifically rigorous but also to attend to alternative explanations, especially those coming from the descendants of the ancestors whose lifeways are being investigated.

Biological anthropology examines both human origins and variability, and seeks to construct and interpret the processes of evolution and histor. In addition, biological anthropologists aim to understand the factors that explain human biological diversity in the world at the present, whether in the way our bodies look and work, on in the ways they develop and change over the life span, on in how we exhibit health and disease.

Linguistic anthropology is a specialized branch of cultural anthropology with a singular focus on the most systematic domain of culture: language. Language is not only a medium of communication, but it also structures thought and the perception of reality. Moreover, language use defines social communities, whether differences lie at the level of language or dialect. Linguistic anthropologists describe languages now in use or used in the past, trace language change over time and space, and examine the social and political import of language usage.

The Major

The Department of Anthropology is one of the largest in New England with 20 full-time faculty members, about 150 undergraduate majors, and 85 graduate students. All four subdivisions of anthropology are represented in the faculty and in their research and course offerings. The department offers more than 50 courses for undergraduates, comprising a full complement for each of the subdisciplines.

Majors have a flexible set of requirements, reflecting the very broad scope of the field. Students develop depth and breadth, and select specific programs of study to suit their individual interests and requirements. The advising system encourages students to consult frequently with their faculty advisers about their course selections and their educational and career goals. Undergraduate majors are represented on all administrative committees of the department, are formally organized as the Undergraduate Caucus, and sponsor social and educational events during the year.

The department has large research and study collections in archaeology and biological anthropology, videotape and recording equipment, an extensive collection of anthropological films, and several laboratories for biological anthropology and archaeology. Field work opportunities are provided by the departmental Field School in Archaeology (summers), by the departmental Field Program in European Anthropology (spring semesters), and through student participation in other ongoing research. Extensive opportunities exist for internships, study abroad, and community service learning.

Access to the major in anthropology is not restricted, but students must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who in turn assigns each major to a faculty adviser. Details of the major and minor requirements are spelled out in the Guide to Undergraduate Studies in Anthropology, available upon request from the department’s main office in 217 Machmer Hall. The Guide also provides information about the departmental Honors track, individual faculty interests, careers in the field, and special programs. The department publishes a weekly online newsletter, Megamemo, with news of meetings, lectures, and research and career opportunities.

The Anthropology major requires a minimum of 36 credits in anthropology, of which at least 30 must be in courses numbered at the 200 level or higher. These must include: 1) At least one course in three of the four subfields of anthropology at the 300 level or higher; 2) At least one “hands-on” course or project (e.g., a laboratory course, an internship, an honors thesis); and 3) Two required courses: ANTHRO 364 Problems in Anthropology 1 and ANTHRO 281 Research Methods in Anthropology. ANTHRO 104 and ANTHRO 106 cannot both be counted toward the major.

Career Opportunities

Many Anthropology majors attend graduate school, although not necessarily in anthropology, since the B.A. in Anthropology is not narrowly constructed to prepare students only for graduate study. Anthropology provides a good background for a wide variety of people-oriented occupations. The cross-cultural and comparative perspectives offered by anthropology constitute excellent preparation for a career in government, international development, personnel management, human services, sales and marketing, and teaching. Also, as high schools begin to introduce anthropology courses into the curriculum, the need for teachers with a strong foundation in anthropology is increasing. At present, the demand for anthropologists at the B.A. level (particularly archaeologists and biological anthropologists) is rapidly increasing for jobs in cultural resource management, the health care field, and international programs.

The Minor

The Anthropology minor enables students to gain preparation and grounding in some particular facet of the discipline, without fulfilling the full range of requirements of the major. The minor should be a coherent course of study; it may focus on: a) one of the four subfields of anthropology (cultural, linguistic, biological, or archaeological); or b) the past and present cultures of some specific region of the world (e.g., Latin America, Europe), or a topical specialty that cross-cuts the subdisciplines of anthropology (e.g., medical anthropology, cultural ecology, non-state societies). The range of minors in Anthropology is sufficient to allow a program of study with maximum compatibility with the student’s major, interests, and career goals. There are no prerequisites for the minor.

In consultation with the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, each student selects a set of courses tailored to individual focus and needs. Each minor must conform to the following stipulations about the distribution and number of courses:
1. Five courses (total 15 credits) in Anthropology constitute the minimum required for the minor, with none of these taken Pass/Fail.
2. Of those courses, one must be at the 100 or 200 level (3 credits).
3. Four of the five courses must be at the 200 level or above (12 credits).

Education Abroad

Students are encouraged to take one or two semesters studying abroad as part of the major or minor in Anthropology. Study abroad offers a valuable opportunity to experience another culture in all its complexity as well as an opportunity to gain a different vantage point on one’s own cultural heritage. The academic and personal challenges of such an experience can make a significant contribution to the study of anthropology as a field, as well as providing a unique experience and developing a level of maturity often sought after by employers. The International Programs Office, located on the fourth Floor of Hills South, tel. (413) 545-2710, provides information on opportunities in 25 countries through university-sponsored programs and additional information on programs around the world through a variety of institutions both here and abroad.

Experiential Education: Internships, Practica, Community Service

Anthropology majors benefit by acquiring as much practical experience in their majors as possible. The department encourages students to do internships, carry out practica, and to engage in the new Community Service Learning options. Such experiences help students to see what being an anthropologist is like and helps prepare them for employment or graduate study. Opportunities for this practical training are usually negotiated with the help of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the student’s adviser, or the department’s Experiential Education Coordinator.

Anthropology | Courses | Faculty