What is Anthropology?

Visitors to Laal Shabaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan Pakistan (Photo Credit: Salwa Tareen, PhD student)

All Things Human

Anthropology is the comparative study of human biological and cultural diversity—as seen over time in human evolution and around the globe in contemporary cultures and societies. In other words, nothing human is outside of the scope of anthropology.

In order to understand the complexity and diversity of human life, our department is committed to a four-field approach to anthropology. Not only do our undergraduate and graduate students receive an introduction to these subfields in their coursework, we also encourage dialogue and collaboration between specialists across the department.

Biological Anthropology
Biological anthropology is the study of humans and related non-human primates as viewed from an evolutionary perspective. Biological anthropologists examine human biological and behavioral evolution as well as the way that environment and life experience shape living humans and non-human primates as a means to understanding the human condition.

Sociocultural Anthropology
Sociocultural anthropology attends to how and why people – both as individuals and as groups – live in and with the world in particular and dramatically variable ways. Sociocultural anthropologists study the whole spectrum of human life, from the ways people enter and leave the world to kinship and gender relations, religious practices, economic systems, political processes, and more.

Archaeology is the study of the human past from prehistory to recent times, primarily through the study of the material remains of past societies. By its nature, archaeology is an interdisciplinary enterprise, and archaeologists explore the past from a variety of perspectives, drawing upon a wide array of disciplines to advance the study of past cultures around the world.

Linguistic Anthropology
Linguistic anthropology is dedicated to the study of the role of language in the many activities that make up the social life of individuals and communities. Linguistic anthropologists explore the varied ways that individuals and groups use language to negotiate, contest, and reproduce cultural forms and social relations.

In addition to these traditional subfields, our department offers a joint major in Anthropology and Religion, minors in Anthropology and in Medical Anthropology, and a Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology.

Gain perspective

Learn more about our degree tracks and career possibilities in anthropology