BA in Anthropology

As an anthropology major, you will take courses that look at people from evolutionary, historical, and cultural perspectives and will develop critical thinking in areas like globalization, politics, race, and cultural diversity. In order to maximize your understanding of anthropology, we encourage students to take courses in cultural, biological, archaeological, and linguistic anthropologies.

Students planning a professional career in anthropology generally concentrate on a specialty within the field, like medical anthropology, human evolution, or North American historical archaeology.

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Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of human history through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains. Generally, archaeologists recover material culture—the buildings, tools, and other artifacts that are the residue of former societies—through site excavation. (A site is a place that has evidence of past human activity.) Archaeologists are interested in the organization of past societies (social archaeology), the manner in which people once made and used tools (technology), how people thought about the world and each other (cognitive archaeology), the nature of pre-modern environments (environmental archaeology), and the processes that effect the formation of sites (taphonomy), among many other interests.

Although some positions may require further training, students who graduate with a degree in archaeology gain skills that may be appled to professions  such as museum curation, cultural resource management, archival work, field work, and heritage management.

If you are considering focusing your coursework in archaeology, here is a sample plan you may refer to:

Our professors who specialize in archaeology include Gilliane Monnier, Martha Tappen, Gilbert Tostevin, Peter Wells, and Katherine Hayes.
Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is the study of human biology and behavior, related non-human primates, and extinct hominin ancestors. This track relies heavily on the theory of evolution, with an emphasis on the interaction between biology, behavior, and ecology.

Within this branch of anthropology there are areas of further specialization:

  • Genetics: the study of gene structure and action and the patterns of inheritance of traits from parent to offspring
  • Primatology: the study of the biology and behavior of primates (prosimians, monkeys, apes, and humans)
  • Paleopathology: the study of the traces of disease and injury in human skeletal remains
  • Forensic anthropology: an anthropological approach that deals with legal matters. Forensic anthropologists are commonly called on to work with coroners and others in the analysis and identification of human remains.

Another subfield, which is considered to fall within both biological anthropology and archaeology, is paleoanthropology: the study of fossil hominids. 

Although some positions may require further training, students who graduate with a degree in biological anthropology gain skills that may be applied to professions such as forensics, consultation, collections management, museum administration, endangered animal research, or medicine.

If you are considering focusing your coursework in biological or paleoanthropology, here are sample plans you may refer to:

Our professors who specialize in biological anthropology include Kieran McNulty, Martha Tappen, and Michael Wilson.
Sociocultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology is the study of human society and culture, with an emphasis on describing, analyzing, interpreting, and explaining social and cultural similarities and differences. With the notion of culture as their principle, organizing concept, cultural anthropologists are interested in the whole of the human condition.

Topics of study may include:

  • Ethnicity
  • Kinship and descent
  • Religion
  • Art
  • The social context of “race” 
  • The relation between the self, culture, and society
  • Colonialism and postcolonialism
  • Consumption and exchange  
  • Political systems
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Sociocultural context of disease and illness

Cultural anthropology has many possible subfield concentrations, some of which include:

  • Medical anthropology
  • Philosophical anthropology
  • Economic anthropology
  • Applied anthropology

While this subfield of anthropology once focused on the ethnographic study of isolated, less-complex societies, cultural anthropologists today are more likely to be engaged in understanding global issues, aiding in intercultural communications, and utilizing cultural sensitivity and understanding to offer solutions to conflicts that may arise between different cultural groups.

Although some positions may require further training, students who graduate with a degree in cultural anthropology gain skills that may be applied to professions such as business, law, marketing, advertising, public policy, consultation, market research and analysis, communications, medicine, and non-profit work.

If you are considering focusing your coursework in sociocultural or medical anthropoogy, here are sample plans you may refer to:

Our professors who specialize in sociocultural anthropology include William BeemanStephen GudemanKaren HoJean LangfordDavid LipsetStuart McLeanGloria RahejaHoon SongKaren-Sue Taussig, and David Valentine.
Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic anthropology is the study of communication and language in their social and cultural context. Since only humans speak, anthropologists are keenly interested in language use, structure, and change, and the relations among language, society, and culture.

In general, anthropologists working in this subfield of anthropology are interested in:

  • Sociolinguistics: how language is used in social contexts
  • Formal linguistics: how contemporary languages differ, particularly in their construction
  • Historical linguistics: how languages change over time and how they may be related
  • Nonverbal communication: how people communicate nonverbally through facial expressions, bodily stances, gestures, and movements
  • Animal communication: the natural communication systems of nonhuman animals, especially that of monkeys and apes

Although some positions may require further training, students who graduate with a degree in linguistic anthropology gain skills that may be applied to professions such as advertising, communications, translation, language teaching, lexicography, language consulting, text-to-speech synthesis, technical writing, user research, and computer-mediated language learning, among many other areas.

Our professors who specialize in linguistic anthropology include William Beeman and David Valentine.
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