Anthropology is the holistic and comparative study of human beings from a variety of perspectives—historical, linguistic, biological, social, and cultural—in pursuit of a deeper understanding of humankind and the promotion of informed social policy. Anthropologists:
- conduct “participant-observation” ethnographic research with diverse social groups in different parts of the world, examining how people imagine and structure their lives and aspirations.
- study social life and organization, modes of subsistence, exchange practices, the family, politics and power, ritual and religion, gender, and all forms of expressive culture.
- study social, economic, cultural, and political systems: how these systems are inhabited, contested, changed and reproduced over time.
- pay particular attention to the relationships between local contexts and broader global social, geographic and historical regimes and ideas.
- aim to address through ethnographic and documentary research the most pressing issues of our times, especially with reference to the effects of globalization, the challenges of social and ethnic diversity, and the pursuit of social justice in the domains of health, the environment, and human rights.
At Haverford we teach socio-cultural anthropology, which has three central traits:
- It is comparative: we compare social and cultural phenomena in one place to those in another and in relation to general theories about humans and human societies. This comparative method allows us to tease out what is unique and distinctive about the subject we are studying and what more generally tends to be true.
- It is holistic. We study practices and institutions as they are embedded in context.
- It involves participant-observation fieldwork. Social and cultural anthropologists live in the communities they are studying for extended periods of time, to build a perspective that integrates an insider’s and an outsider’s points of view.
Anthropologists have long studied both Western and non-Western civilizations, including people and social institutions re-imagining modernity in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, paying particular attention to the value and diversity of the full human cultural record as well as to the contemporary predicaments of marginalized peoples. Ethnographers work on small-scale communities as well as processes of globalization. More recently scholars in anthropology have begun to focus their work also on powerful metropolitan and cosmopolitan social actors, both in the United States and globally. As ethnographers study the work of business people, planners, state officials, doctors, artists, and professionals in transnational institutions such as Wall Street and the World Bank, the discipline has made key contributions in critical debates about globalization, financial reform, public health, education, environment, and urbanization. Our curriculum is fully engaged with these areas of research and study.
The anthropology major teaches students the methods of social and cultural research and analysis and introduces them to the history of anthropology. Students are encouraged to think critically and self-reflectively about several areas of intellectual inquiry, including:
- The discipline of anthropology:
- To understand the unique contribution of anthropology to the study of the social, and the ways in which it addresses the most pressing issues of our times.
- To learn how to situate strange and familiar social practices and cultural categories in shifting and contingent historical, economic, and political formations and structures.
- To recognize the impact of the position of the scholar in the production of knowledge.
- To know the key figures in anthropology and their specific theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to the history and development of the discipline.
- To understand key contemporary debates in the field and how older categories of race, culture, nation, and language have shaped recent theoretical innovations.
- To be familiar with the subfields of the discipline (e.g., political and legal anthropology, medical anthropology, the anthropology of religion, environmental anthropology, visual anthropology, etc.) and their contributions to interdisciplinary knowledge production.
- The craft and theory of anthropological research:
- To have first-hand experience of data-collection methods, including ethnographic field research, interviewing, and archival research.
- To understand the ethical obligations of an ethnographic researcher and to be able to engage others with respect and compassion.
- To be versed in the ethnographic record of more than one society; to develop a capacity to think comparatively across cultures; to problematize and analyze familiar practice and “common sense” in a new light.
- To understand the relationship between theory and empirical data, i.e.:
- how specific anthropologists have used theory to interpret and explain social and cultural formations, and
- how particular ethnographic situations and circumstances have allowed or required specific anthropologists to revise, critique, and improve theoretical models.
- To understand ethnography as a methodology and a genre of writing.
- The basic skills of anthropological writing and communicating anthropological knowledge:
- To be able to write a critical essay, a fieldnote, an academic book review, and a review of the literature for a topic of anthropological interest.
- To understand the difference between a scholarly argument that proves a particular point (interpretive, explanatory), and an argument that advocates an attitude or action.
- To be able to construct a sound argument supported by evidence and to be able to engage in scholarly debate.
- To understand the diverse media and forums through which anthropological knowledge is communicated to the public.
Haverford’s Institutional Learning Goals are available on the President’s website, at http://hav.to/learninggoals.
Students are required to take a total of 11 courses in the major, including 6 required courses within the department. Individual programs require the advisor’s approval.
- ANTH H103, Introduction to Anthropology, preferably in the first or second year.
- ANTH H303, History and Theory of Anthropology, before the senior year.
- One course focused on an ethnographic or geographic area or a cohesive non-geographically specific field.
- One other 200-level course in this department.
- One other 300-level course in this department.
- Four additional courses approved by your major advisor.
- A two-credit, intensive Senior Thesis Seminar, during the fall and spring semesters of the senior year (ANTH H450 and ANTH H451).
All major programs require the approval of the major advisor. Students may count no more than one biological anthropology or archaeology course for the Haverford major. Students must take the remaining courses in the Haverford Anthropology Department, in an anthropology department within the Tri-Co or at Penn. Taking courses to count toward the major outside of Haverford’s Anthropology Department, outside of the discipline, or while studying abroad requires approval of the student’s advisor. Typically no more than two courses from outside of Tri-Co anthropology that relate to the student’s specific interests are counted towards the major though this can be discussed with the advisor in special cases.
The anthropology thesis is a year-long, two-credit independent research project designed and implemented by each senior anthropology major. Each student selects a research topic, defines a specific research question, describes how that question relates to a broader field of ethnographic and anthropological writing on the topic, conducts independent, original research with primary source materials that can be ethnographic, archival, and/or material, and develops and writes up an original argument, supported by evidence, about the primary source materials. This argument is informed by the relevant theory and by ethnographic and anthropological scholarship. Thus, a successful anthropology thesis will provide substantial evidence that students are able to conduct independent research and synthesize theoretical arguments with ethnographic materials, as well as displaying strong skills in presenting their research, and entering into intellectual dialogue with peers and faculty.
The senior thesis consists of two courses, ANTH H450 and ANTH H451. Anthropology 450 is a seminar course taught during the fall semester, typically by one faculty member who receives one teaching credit. For ANTH H450, students define their research question, write and rewrite a research prospectus, do ethnographic exercises, study professional ethics, familiarize themselves with IRBs, and conclude with a literature review of their topic. ANTH H451 is supervised research and writing. A faculty member receives one credit for supervising four to six senior theses. During ANTH H450, each student does guided research on their topic, drafts and writes a thesis, and does a public presentation of their thesis research, and takes an oral comprehensive exam.
Senior Project Learning Goals
- Define an anthropological research question.
- Situate their research question in a broader field of anthropological and scholarly inquiry.
- Conduct research with primary source materials (archival, ethnographic, and/or material).
- Develop an original argument about their primary source materials that is informed by relevant theory and anthropological literature.
Senior Project Assessment
For ANTH H450, students are assessed on a preliminary research proposal, a research prospectus, a literature review draft, a research presentation, and a literature review, as well as short in-class methodological exercises. For ANTH H451, students are assessed on their final thesis, public presentation, and oral exam. Two faculty members read and comment on each thesis. All faculty attend and evaluate the public presentations and the oral exams. The faculty collectively assign each student’s final grade for the course, as well as each of the three components (thesis, public presentation, and oral exam). The thesis also plays an important role in whether or not a student receives honors or highest honors in Anthropology.
Requirements for Honors
The faculty in the Department of Anthropology decides honors based upon overall excellence in the major:
- Outstanding work in the senior thesis (final written work and oral presentation).
- Strong cumulative performance in all anthropological coursework (typically a grade point average of 3.7 or higher).
- A record of consistent intellectual commitment and participation in the department.
Faculty awards high honors upon occasion, for exceptional contributions in all three areas.
The minor in anthropology consists of six courses, including:
- ANTH H103, Introduction to Anthropology
- ANTH H303, History and Theory of Anthropology
- An ethnographic area course
- Three other courses at the 200 or 300 level, including one course at the 300 level.
Minors must take a minimum of three courses in the Haverford department. All minor programs require approval of the minor advisor.