Anthropology as a Discipline

In the past, anthropology concentrated on documenting so-called “primitive” culture. Today it is better characterized as the study of contemporary social life from more complex industrial societies to technologically simpler ones, as well as those known only by way of the archaeological record. An emerging interest in anthropology is the transnational character of most human lives.

The discipline traditionally included four subfields:

  1. Social anthropology, which is concerned with institutionalized patterns of social life (e.g., economics, kinship, gender, politics, race, religion).
  2. Physical anthropology, which studies human beings as biological organisms, focusing on human genetics, race, and evolution.
  3. Archaeology, which investigates societies of the past by excavating and analyzing their material remains.
  4. Linguistics, which studies languages as systems of communication.

Some anthropology courses have a geographical focus and others a methodological or theoretical one. Besides our shared contemporary North Atlantic culture, the department emphasizes Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean, as well as the prehistoric and early historic cultures of North America.

Loring Danforth (Ph.D., Princeton), Professor of Anthropology. Professor Danforth’s research interests include folklore, psychological anthropology, and the study of ethnicity and nationalism. His fieldwork has been in Greece and Australia where he has studied Macedonian immigrants.

Elizabeth Eames (Ph.D., Harvard), Associate Professor of Anthropology. Professor Eames’ geographical area of specialization is Africa. Her interests include gender issues, economic anthropology, colonialism, and film.