Why Study Anthropology?

The range of variations in human ways of life is staggering. The study of anthropology is holistic -- the study of humans as biological, cultural, and social beings. Anthropologists study alternative ways in which human beings meet their needs and examine overall integration and dissonance within a culture. Refusing to reduce the primary motives of human behavior to any single factor-whether it be biological, economic, structural, political, technological, or geographic-anthropologists analyze the interrelationship of all of these factors in trying to understand human behavior.

Anthropologists study the person both as an individual and as a member of society. Anthropologists study, for example, religion and belief systems, the arts, music, gender roles, politics and work. Because of the breadth of topical interests, anthropology, it is said, is both a social science and a humanity. We share the "big questions" with other disciplines: Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose? By looking at other cultures and societies, anthropologists are able to reflect on various ways of being human. Thus, anthropology teaches respect for other ways of life, while using a variety of cross-cultural human behavior as a mirror from which we can reflect on the things we do in our own culture.

Multiculturalism and diversity are the very essence of anthropology. The field is not only innately cross-cultural, but global in its scope. Anthropology also has extraordinary disciplinary breadth. The field of archeology has much in common with history, as it uses artifacts from the past to reconstruct the cultural character of a society. Physical anthropology is very closely aligned with biology, emphasizing physical characteristics of human beings and investigating the evidence for human evolution. Linguistics is a field of anthropology focusing on analysis of language development and language variations. Socio-cultural anthropology studies culture and the relationship of culture to other aspects of social life; it shares much in common with each of the other social sciences, and especially sociology. Many sociological theories have evolved from anthropological research and vice versa. Applied anthropology uses anthropological knowledge to solve contemporary problems ranging from world hunger to AIDS prevention. Anthropologists may be involved in a wide range of activities such as research of evolutionary theory, addressing gender inequality in society, solving a homicide case in a forensics lab, international trade, advertising, museum and historical preservation. Other than the broad introductory course, the anthropology courses at Hanover are socio-cultural in focus.