Anthropology as a major
ANTHROPOLOGY is the study of human diversity in all times and places. It brings together perspectives from the sciences and humanities, and from non-Western as well as Western societies, to illuminate different aspects of the human past, the human body, and contemporary social life. Global perspectives, field research and experiential learning, and concerns with justice, ethics, and social well-being are hallmarks of anthropology. Vanderbilt’s faculty have a strong research focus on Latin America and historically marginalized groups, especially indigenous people.
Students majoring in anthropology take courses in several subfields, each of which looks at humanity from a different perspective. Cultural anthropology examines the relationships, beliefs, values, and political-economic conditions that shape individual behavior and community life. Archaeology studies past cultures through their material remains. Linguistics explores relations between language and culture. Biological anthropology examines topics such as bodily development, genetics, disease, and evolution. Courses cluster around themes of cross-cultural health, biology, food, and medical systems; inequality, power, and social-political relations; material culture, environmental relations, and spatial analysis; religion and politics; and worldviews, language, and cognition. Unless indicated otherwise in the course description, anthropology courses have no prerequisites and are open to all majors and non-majors.
In a world of cascading injustices, ecological crises, impoverishments, and ethical blind-spots, leadership and social competence require understanding how race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion, and other forms of difference and inequality operate. Knowledge of the diversity of human histories and lifeways is vital to imagine alternative paths to a better society. Anthropology develops these understandings with experiential learning that challenges students to go beyond the familiar, to see, understand, and create in new ways. This preparation is useful in all professional careers that involve understanding human behavior, working with people from different backgrounds, analyzing complex information, and thinking holistically.