Our Vision of Anthropology
Sri Lankan drummer boy
NASA satellite image of ancient footpaths, Tilarán, Costa Rica (Photo/NASA)
Doucs, endangered Vietnamese primates (Photo/Bert Covert)
Anthropology is the study of people, both ancient and modern, in their cultural, biological, and environmental contexts. The discipline incorporates a wide range of theoretical and methodological traditions, drawing on and contributing to approaches in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. We assert that the diversity of anthropology is the source of both its uniqueness and its greatest strength as a discipline.
As the only field to address all aspects of the human experience - cultural, biological, historical - anthropology provides both a broad vision of what it is to be human as well as creative synergies unavailable to other disciplines within the human sciences and humanities. We view the subdisciplines of cultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological anthropology as important foundations of our program because of their well-defined fields of study. Yet we also believe that recent trends in anthropological thought offer creative new directions that cut across and bridge the subdisciplines.
We see our long-term vision as a department coalescing around the theme of local/global dynamics; that is, the relationship between the small-scale of the lives of our subjects of study as cultural and biological beings, and the large-scale patterns of society and history. While addressed from different theoretical orientations and methodologies, all anthropologists struggle with the problem of understanding the relationship of the local to the global.
We have identified four perspectives that address local/global dynamics in ways that cut across the subdisciplines: ecology and evolution, power and practice, globalization, and landscape and space. These intellectual bridges will create powerful new collaborations within the department and with other programs that will advance our research and teaching missions as well as create a more integrated departmental vision.