What is Anthropology? A Brief Introduction
The word "anthropology" comes from the Greek anthropos ("human") and logia ("study of” or “discourse”). Anthropology begins with the powerful idea that human behavior can only be fully understood when it is seen in the context of humanity as a whole – the totality and diversity of human life and experience. This means adopting a holistic and cross-cultural perspective.
Anthropology has four subfields:
- cultural anthropology – the study of contemporary human societies;
- linguistic anthropology – the study of the structure and practice of languages and communication throughout the world;
- archaeology – the study of societies of the past (primarily from the material remains they leave behind); and
- biological anthropology – the study of human evolution and primate behavior.
Lindsay Gifford interviewing Sheikh Jawdat Said in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Lindsay Gifford with activists and followers of the Sheikh Jawdat Said's teachings on nonviolent social change.
Inupiaq elder, Dwight Arnold, maps hunting territories with Sharon Gmelch
At Redoubt Bay, Alaska during Culture, the Environment and Tourism course.
Learning about the importance of salmon and protecting their habitat in Sitka, Alaska.
Buddhist monks create a mandala
Noatak, an Inupiaq village north of the Arctic Circle
USF students in Women's Lives Accross Cultures course.
Tlingit basketmakers in Sitka, Alaska in early 20th century.
Tlingit woman and seal skins in Sitka, Alaska in early 20th century.
Local schoolchildren greet tourists on Amazon river cruise.
USF Students participate in Culture and the Environment course in Tasmania, Australia.
Citizens protest going to war in Iraq in New York City.
Village festival in Peru
Machu Pichu in Peru
Shaman and his two apprentices in the Peruvian Amazon
The Urubamba valley in Peru
Village vendor sells fruit in Peru's highlands
Black Hmong women stare at tourists through window in Supa, Vietnam
Black Hmong family in highlands of northern Vietnam
Village scene in highlands of northern Vietnam.
Cambodian guide tells part of his life story to Sharon Gmelch.
Chattel house in Barbados.
Produce at local market in Sapa, Vietnam
Red Dao women near Sapa, Vietnam
Cultural anthropology is the core subfield and the specialization of all of the University of San Francisco’s anthropologists. We have conducted research in a broad range of societies—Albania, Japan, Italy, India, Panama, Kenya, Morocco, Barbados, England, Ireland, Newfoundland, and the United States--with a broad range of people including Buddhist priests and practitioners, Gypsies and Travellers, peasants and fishers, urban migrants, asylum seekers, racketeers, tourists, and professional baseball players. The topics we have studied are equally diverse: gender roles, language use, music and popular culture, art and religious practice, the change from nomadism to settled life, conflicts over natural resources, the cultural impact of tourism, the adaptation to urban life, and more.
Why Study Cultural Anthropology?
Studying cultural anthropology helps us understand the internal logic of other societies and make sense of behavior that at first glance may seem senseless or wrong to us. It helps us avoid ethnocentrism which is the tendency to judge other people's customs and behavior solely on the basis of our own values and background. It also helps us see our own society through new, more analytical eyes.
A minor in anthropology signifies that you have a special awareness and understanding of ethnic and cultural differences -- skills which help qualify you for many careers and jobs in today's globally competitive world. Anthropology’s cross-cultural perspective is increasingly attractive to many employers, from social service organizations to multinational corporations. Its distinctive data collecting method (i.e., participant-observation) teaches you to observe, record and describe complex social behavior as it happens, giving you analytical and problem solving skills valued by many employers.
Most anthropologists with advanced degrees—MAs and PhDs in anthropology--hold research and teaching positions at universities, colleges, and museums. Others use their training in nonacademic occupations with federal and state government, international agencies (e.g., AID, Oxfam, World Bank), research firms, school systems, and businesses.
Read More “About Anthropology”
Career Information for Anthropology Students