Anthropology Courses

Anthropology is the study of humanity. Its subject of study encompasses the range of human experience among the peoples of the world, and its aims are to understand what people do or have done, and why. Every aspect of human beings, from their DNA molecules to their beliefs about the supernatural, in every part of the world, from the beginnings of primate evolution to the present, poses anthropological questions. Some of the most interesting of these questions remain to be answered. For these and many other reasons, anthropology is central to the liberal arts. The anthropology program is designed to cultivate a lively curiosity about the human experience, a deeper understanding of cultures and diverse ways of life, including our own. It works toward developing an informed, comparative sense of the human experience, past and present, and of the many ways of knowing, understanding and communicating. These studies encourage critical reasoning abilities and skills that promote a life of continuous learning, which are of immeasurable value in pursuing a range of careers and goals in a world in which global diversity has become, more than ever, an inescapable aspect of life.

102. Cultural Anthropology.
This course introduces students to the comparative study of human cultures and societies. We will learn important anthropological concepts, methods and theories as we explore topics like subsistence and exchange, kinship and marriage, and politics and law. Throughout the course, we will learn about differences and similarities between human populations, we will consider how cultures and societies have changed over time, and we will reflect on our own culture and society. Also offered through Global Studies and Peace Studies.

103. Introduction to Archaeology.
A general overview of the branch of anthropology that investigates ancient societies through the material remains they have left behind. Students learn that archaeologists engage in detailed, systematic detective work aimed at answering a wide range of questions about human behavior. The course introduces students to the history of archaeology, the main goals of archaeological research and the basic techniques of excavation, site survey and artifact analysis, as well as the famous discoveries and excavations that have broadened our knowledge about the human past. Fulfills social science distribution requirement.

201. Introduction to Human Origins.
This course explores the nature of humanity using a bio-cultural approach. Students learn about the history and basic concepts of evolutionary thought, the fossil and genetic evidence for human evolution, the origins of language and culture, and human biological diversification. We analyze the human species with the rest of the primates by formulating explanations concerning the biological and cultural development of the primate order over the last 65 million years. Fulfills science studies distribution requirement.

205. Language and Human Experience.
Introduction to the anthropological study of language as a peculiarly human trait. We compare and contrast human vocal language with non-human forms of communication to ask, What is language? What separates human language from other forms of communication? What is the range of human communicative skills (e.g., sounds, gestures, body language, silence)? What is the relationship among language, society and culture? Between language and perception? How do the use, non-use and/or misuse of language communicate aspects of cultural and/or personal identity? How do anthropologists go about studying these things? Fulfills social science and diversity distribution requirements. Also offered through Global Studies.

208. Ancient Civilizations.Students will learn how and why relatively simple egalitarian societies made the transition to state-level civilizations, via an overview of several “primary” civilizations of the Old and New Worlds, chosen from among Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, the Indus Valley, Mesoamerica and the central Andes. In comparing and contrasting these case studies, students explore key issues from an anthropological perspective: how archaeologists investigate these early social formations, what the material remains tell us about how they functioned and flourished, the critical role of the environment and geography, and how and why the civilizations declined. Offered annually. Also offered through Asian Studies and Global Studies.

215. Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.
Lost continents, ancient astronauts, mysterious giants: In the mass media, archaeology has often been the subject of fantastic myths, frauds and endless speculation about what “really” happened in the past. This course critically examines various popular and pseudoscientific claims about the human past, including the search for Atlantis, the shroud of Turin, psychic archaeology and the Piltdown Man, and introduces students to the scientific goals, methodology and techniques of archaeology. How do archaeologists “know” things — how do they work within logistical theoretical frameworks, systematically explore the patterns and contexts of archaeological remains, and interpret the material and scientific evidence to draw educated conclusions about past human experiences? Offered annually. Fulfills science studies distribution requirement.

220. The Neanderthals.
Who were the Neanderthals? Some scientists argue that Neanderthals were an evolutionary dead-end. Others disagree and propose that, despite their unique genetic, skeletal and cultural adaptations to an extreme glacial environment, Neanderthals should still be considered members of humanity. This course explores the debate surrounding the evolutionary position of the Neanderthals and what happened to them by examining fossil, genetic, cultural and linguistic evidence concerning their evolution, culture, and diversification. Offered annually. Fulfills science studies distribution requirement.

224. Caribbean Literature in English.
A survey of literature by authors from formerly British colonies; Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts and Dominica. This course considers colonial and postcolonial fiction, poetry and non-fiction by writers from various ethnic groups, including people of African, East Indian, Chinese and European descent. Representative authors are Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, George Lamming, Edgar Mittelholzer, Olive Senior, Erna Brodber and Michelle Cliff. Offered annually. Fulfills humanities and diversity distribution requirements. Also offered through English and Caribbean and Latin American Studies.

225. Peoples and Cultures of Africa.
This course surveys contemporary peoples and cultures in sub-Saharan Africa through the lens of three major themes. We will study the enduring importance and flexibility of African systems of social organization, and their relationship to religious beliefs and practices. We will learn about patterns of production and consumption in African economies, and about power, authority, and conflict in African politics. Throughout, we note the centrality of social relationships to everyday life on the continent, and the ways that mobility and migration—forced or voluntary, temporary or permanent—have shaped African identities and communities. Offered annually. Also offered through African Studies.

230. Introduction to African-American Literature.
Beginning with a consideration of Frederick Douglass and the slave narratives of the 19th century, the course concentrates on the writers of the Harlem Renaissance and follows the development of African-American writing in poetry, fiction and drama to the present day. Representative authors are Douglass, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison, Connie Porter and August Wilson. Fulfills humanities and diversity distribution requirements. Offered annually. Also offered through English and African-American Studies.

238. The Pacific Islands.
This course surveys the peoples and cultures of the Island Pacific, called Oceania: the lush semitropical islands of Hawai’i through the mountains of New Guinea. The culture areas of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia are defined according to differences in geography, human physical features, languages and systems of religion, politics, economics and social organization. We pursue selected problems in cultural anthropological fieldwork, modernization and development as these cultures struggle with worldwide political and economic processes. Offered annually. Fulfills social science and diversity distribution requirements. Also offered through Asian Studies and Global Studies.

240. Environment and Resource Use in Kenya.
The contrast in Kenya’s physical and human environment is addressed, between highland and lowland, cropland and rangeland, domestic livestock and wildlife, modern and traditional ways of life, and land-use systems. The impact of the colonial regime on land ownership and resource use is studied with reference to certain ethnic groups. Responses to changing economic and political conditions in the postcolonial era are also discussed. Offered annually. Fulfills diversity distribution requirement. Also offered as Environmental Studies 240 and through African Studies.

242. Dealing with the Dead.
Ever wonder how ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Mayans viewed and treated their dead? Curious about cemeteries, mummification, trophy heads, and sacrifice? Through an examination of death, burial, and ritual this course will explore the treatment of the dead by ancient and living cultures around the world. In addition, this course will examine what types of information can be obtained from burials and human skeletal remains, including health and disease, violence, and status. Recommended for students interested in how archaeology relates to death, dying, and survivors.

245. Women and Land in Africa.
An analysis of the position of women with reference to ethnic groups from different parts of Africa. Their significant role in food production and fuel wood and water collection creates a heavy labor burden for women with few ownership rights to land or livestock. Trends in colonial and post-colonial Africa provided education to some women but decreased property rights and increased their responsibilities. Through films and biographies, African women speak in their own words about the realities of their lives. Also offered through African Studies.

255. Environmental Perception and Indigenous Knowledge.
People in different cultures perceive their environment in different ways and have bodies of systematic knowledge relating to land, water, soil, plants and animals upon which they base their use of these resources. This course attempts to show how indigenous people understand the interrelationship of the different elements of their environments and have used them for sustainable livelihood. The impact of Western knowledge systems and commercial interests on indigenous communities is discussed, with reference to African and American case studies. Also offered as Environmental Studies 255 and through African Studies and Native American Studies.

275. Aboriginal Australia.
This course examines the richness and diversity of traditional Australian Aboriginal cultures from perspectives including archaeology, ecology, economics, social organization, politics, religion, gender relations and modern problems that come with urbanization, economic development and incorporation into an Anglo-European state system. We describe and analyze dominant Aboriginal themes within a broader framework of anthropological theory and inquiry through time. Students learn about the nature of social and cultural forms as they are thought to have been prior to the European invasion and during colonization and how these have been adapted (or resisted adaptation) to the contemporary Australian socio-cultural system. Recommended for students applying to study in Australia. Offered annually. Fulfills social science and diversity distribution requirements. Also offered through Global Studies.

290. Bones of Contention.
Did people in the past practice body modification? How do diseases affect the human skeleton? How were ancient surgical procedures performed? What can the human skeleton tell us about past ways of life? How do anthropologists go about answering these questions? In this course, students learn about the bones of the human body; how to identify, reconstruct, and analyze human bones; and how to place the human skeleton in anthropological context, to analyze the interactions among biology, culture and the environment through time. Recommended for students interested in forensics, law, anthropology and health-related fields. Offered annually. Fulfills natural science (without lab) distribution requirement.

304. Language, Culture and Society.
Ever notice that some people talk funny? Ever feel confused when someone thinks you talk funny? Why does everyone but you have an accent? And what’s really wrong, with, like, saying “like” like that? This course examines social and cultural aspects of language use, misuse and abuse, concentrating on issues such as ethnicity, social class, gender and power in language access and use patterns both across cultures and within the United States, and examines different genres of language performance (jokes, gossip, cursing behavior, proverbs, etc.) as linguistic vehicles of social control. Prerequisite: Anthropology 102 or 205 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation. Also offered through Global Studies.

318. Archaeology and Identity.
How do archaeologists define identity? How do they recognize it “on the ground”? This course considers whether identity — based on gender, “race,” ethnicity, religious affiliation or class — is passively reflected in material culture or if it is imposed on ancient peoples by modern thinkers. We will also explore the issue from a contemporary perspective, by examining the intersections among archaeology, nationalist agendas and the social constructions of the past. We will examine a number of archaeological case studies, including gender roles in early Mayan and Mesopotamian societies, caste affiliations in ancient India and the politics of archaeology in Nazi Germany. Offered on rotation. Also offered through Gender and Sexuality Studies.

325. Evolution, Culture and Human Diversity.
What are the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for human diversity? Throughout evolutionary history, humans have been able to occupy virtually every region on the planet. In doing so, humans have undergone a process of cultural and biological diversification. This course offers a bio-cultural perspective to study the evolution and diversification of humanity. Students learn about the relationship among biology, culture and the environment, and discuss topics such as human differences in blood type, lactose intolerance, adaptation to hot and cold environments, adaptation to ultraviolet radiation, and eugenics. Offered occasionally. Recommended for students interested in biomedical sciences, anthropology and related fields.

341. Popular Culture in Africa.
This course focuses on the many different forms of popular culture, such as songs, plays, films, and paintings, produced and circulated by amateur and professional artists, musicians, actors, and directors in Africa. We will study these productions as forms of entertainment and artistic expression, but more importantly as efforts to make sense of the world, offer critical commentaries, construct social identities, and take political action. In addition to developing a theoretical understanding of popular culture, we will address themes such as gender, ethnicity and nationality, wealth and power, globalization, protest and resistance, and war.

350. The Anthropology of Sex and Gender.
Westerners tend to think of male and female as fixed and unambiguous biological categories determined by nature. But non-Western societies interpret sexual difference in myriad cultural ways. This course examines cross-cultural variations in the perception and elaboration of sexual difference. We focus on non-Western hunting, gathering, pastoral and horticultural societies, but compare and contrast these cultural forms with Western, industrialized societies as appropriate. We explore the interplay among ideology, childhood socialization and gender roles; differential status, power and prestige; symbolic connotations and reinforcement of gender imagery; and cross-cultural comparison of practices and attributes associated with sex and gender classification. Prerequisite: Anthropology 102, Gender Studies 103 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation. Also offered through Gender Studies and Global Studies.

365. Forensic Anthropology.
How can bones help forensic scientists identify long-dead people? What is the role of forensic anthropologists in mass disaster and human rights investigations? Do shows such as “Bones” and “CSI” accurately reflect the role of forensic investigators? Through hands-on experience, students will learn how forensic anthropologists use skeletal materials and biological principles to recover, identify and evaluate human skeletal remains. By the end of the course, students will have basic knowledge of the history and goals of forensic anthropology, human osteology, and an awareness of issues relating to the search, discovery and recovery of human skeletal remains. Offered on rotation.

379. Body, Mind and “Personhood” in Anthropological Perspective.
What does it mean to be “human”? How do different cultures define human/non-human/other-than-human beings in the experiential world? This seminar explores the role of culture in the symbolic and psychological shaping of individual human experience from birth through death; conceptions and comparative valuations of bodily features; ideal types; gender identity; and individual goals for achievement and culturally accepted routes to achieving them. We will analyze cases from Africa, Native America and the Pacific islands, and draw comparisons with “Western” ideas. Some background in cultural anthropology or psychology is desirable. Not open to first-year students. Offered on rotation.

415. Great Debates in Archaeology.
When faced with wondrous yet puzzling archaeological remains that cover the globe, what were the reactions of scholars and lay people 100 or 500 or 1,000 years ago? This course traces the intriguing history of archaeological investigation, from its antiquarian, “treasure hunt” origins to its modern incarnation as a systematic, scientifically driven discipline. We examine how the practice of archaeology has been shaped by social and political climates; explore the impact of changing notions toward historical time, human progress and the “other”; and evaluate contemporary theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of the human past. Offered in the fall semester.

420. Views of Human Nature.
What is “Human Nature”? This course explores the history of scholarly attempts to understand human social and cultural phenomena, from early European efforts to account for human diversity to the spectrum of modern anthropological thought. Each scholar has a particular view of human nature, even if it amounts to the assertion that there is no such thing. We explore the implications of these views and try to understand them in the social and political contexts in which they arose. Serves as the capstone seminar for all anthropology majors. Offered in the spring semester. Also offered through Peace Studies.

430. Human Evolution.
What does it mean to be human? How did humans become what we are today? These two questions lie at the heart of all anthropological discourse. This course explores the bio-cultural nature of the human species through a detailed examination of the various areas of study within biological anthropology. In doing so, the course presents a critical examination of the current issues, methods, and theory in biological anthropology, approached from the following perspectives: paleo-anthropology and evolutionary theory; skeletal biology and osteology; primatology; human biology; and population genetics. We will consider each of these approaches in their larger social, historical, and intellectual contexts. Offered occasionally.

445. Magic, Religion and Myth.
We are born, we live and we die. Only humans are aware of the precariousness of life and the inevitability of death, and worry about life here and in the hereafter. Only humans create elaborate symbolic mechanisms to cope with these universal unknowns. This course examines how people cope with the trials and tribulations caused by the uncertainties of life through symbolic systems such as magic, sorcery, religion, myth and ritual by comparing ethnographic examples from non-Western cultures in Africa, the Island Pacific, India and Southeast Asia, with comparative discussion of contemporary Western cultural traditions. Recommended: Anthropology 102 or 205, or permission of the instructor. Offered occasionally. Also offered through African Studies and Global Studies.

447,448. Anthropology Topical Seminars.
These seminars deal with significant topics in anthropology on an advanced level. Recent offerings have been African belief systems, nationalism and the post-colonial experience in South Asia, the anthropology of war and raiding, Apache studies and environmental conservation in Africa. Prerequisites: previous relevant course work to be specified in the Class Schedule or permission of the instructor. Offered occasionally.

489,490. SYE: Senior Projects.
Open to qualified students who wish to pursue more specialized or advanced anthropological study and research on a specific topic under the direction of a faculty sponsor. Prerequisite: at least two anthropology courses and permission of the instructor.

498,499. SYE: Honors in Anthropology.
Open to anthropology majors with a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all courses taken within the department. Requires completion of a long-term project beginning late in the junior year under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Details are available from the department. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.