Department Learning Goals

What Does It Mean to be Human?
An Anthropological Perspective


Anthropology offers a broad, comparative, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of human life in all its complexity, past and present. The major in anthropology is designed to nurture critical, intercultural, and reflexive perspectives as part of a liberal education and to prepare students for graduate study and for a wide range of careers in an increasingly complex and changing world. The major offers the opportunity to examine social problems and controversies through a historical and cross-cultural perspective in order to help anthropology majors become more informed citizens, both globally and locally.

Learning Goals for Anthropology

Students who successfully complete the major in anthropology will have made substantial progress towards these learning goals. Anthropology majors should be able to:

  • Compare the varieties and commonalities of human societies in different places and times.
  • Use a holistic perspective to understand how different facets of culture and society interrelate.
  • Problematize the meaning of identity and the concepts of race and ethnicity as meaningful cultural categories.
  • Theorize social difference, including gender, class, and global inequality.
  • Challenge stereotypes of “non-Western” and indigenous peoples while developing an awareness of ethnocentrism
  • Be able to critique common sense notions of progress, cultural superiority, and evolution.
  • Analyze the relationship between local lived realities and global political, economic, and social forces.
  • Understand the possibilities and constraints of a publicly minded anthropology that involves collaborative research, activism, engagement with stakeholders, applied work, or publication in popular venues.
  • Understand the kinds of questions anthropologists pose, the theoretical concepts they use, and the methods they employ to investigate these questions, gaining familiarity with ethnography, ethnology, participant observation, and archaeological fieldwork.
  • Conduct anthropological research in a professional manner that reflects an understanding of major ethical issues and debates.
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of cultural relativism.
  • Discuss the main intellectual trends and theoretical developments in anthropological thought and research methods.
  • Examine the ways that various forms of knowledge and practice are socially and culturally constructed.
  • Think analytically, synthetically, and critically.
  • Develop effective oral and written communication skills.


JAH, 02/22/12