It just sounds cool.
OK, maybe “cool” isn’t the best word to use when describing an academic discipline that involves classes like “Introduction to Anthropological Statistics” or “Current Issues in Anthropological Methodology”. I can concede that.
But you’ve got to admit, “anthropology” does have a certain ring to it, conjuring up mental images of primates in the wild, strange and wonderful artifacts, mysterious rituals, and the sound of distant drums. You can just see yourself doing a field study, living with an ancient tribe along the Amazon or walking towards a group of gorillas through the mist. Or dusting off relics in a field camp somewhere much hotter than where you live now.
Who knows? Maybe you could even end up treasure-hunting, Indiana Jones-style.
Here’s the real definition of anthropology:
Anthropology is the study of humankind and its culture in the past, present and future.
And in reality, anthropology involves a lot more than drums and gorillas – everything from archaeology (human cultures in the past, that is) to cultural anthropology (modern cultures) to linguistics (language, it’s history & development) and phsyical anthropology (primatology, evolution, paleoanthropology, and forensic science).
If you are fascinated by all things related to humankind (including primates!) and their culture, whether it’s ancient culture, present culture, or the way the world is headed, anthropology may well be the major of choice for you.
Once you take the plunge and declare an anthropology major, here are the types of classes you might be in for (these are taken from the University of Calgary calendar, so aren’t typical of every program. But an idea):
Interested in how humans interact in the present day businessworld? Take a class like Business in Cultural Context – find out ways in which differences in cultural values and practices affect the form and nature of interaction between business parties, especially those of differing national/cultural/ethnic backgrounds.
Of course, some businesspeople tend to engage in ape-like behaviours from time to time, but if you want to get a real idea of primate behaviour and to feel a little Jane Goodall vibe, Primate Behaviour is the class you want, covering things like primate social dynamics, dominance, aggression, kinship, sexual behaviour, learning, communication, ape language and conservation.
Ethnographic Survey classes will take you through studies of different societies in different parts of the world. These classes also cover some social anthropological fieldwork studies – meaning, studies by an anthropologist who lived traditionally among that society, recording everything he or she observed. Very cool job.
Classes can cover topics as varied as political anthropology, anthropology of gender, medical anthropology, urban anthropology, the anthropology of law, political anthropology, anthropological perspectives on religion, evolutionary anthropology, ecology of tropical forest societies, ritual and cultural performance and so on.
Some pretty interesting stuff, you have to admit. If you want a strong blend between science and humanity, if you are fascinated by how other people think, act, and live, and if you want to know why culture and societies are the way they are, then you’re in luck. You can study anthropology.
Word to the wise: A sense of adventure will help!
For more information on the anthropology department at Red Deer College, visit http://www.rdc.ab.ca/humss/disciplines/anthropology/