Anthropology is the holistic and comparative study of human beings. Anthropologists study people from a variety of perspectives–historical, biological, social, and cultural.
At Haverford we teach socio-cultural anthropology: the comparative study of social organization, family life, subsistence, exchange, politics, ritual, religion, and expressive culture in diverse human communities. Socio-cultural anthropologists promote knowledge and broaden intercultural understanding through sustained participant-observation fieldwork; they study small-scale indigenous and rural communities, state societies and urban populations, and transnational polities and cultures.
The Haverford Department of Anthropology does not teach archaeology or physical/biological anthropology. Courses in those areas may be taken at Bryn Mawr College.
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.
- 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.
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 103A or B, Introduction to Anthropology, preferably in the first or second year.
- ANTH 303A or B, 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 450/451).
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 minor in anthropology consists of six courses, including:
- ANTH 103A or B, Introduction to Anthropology
- ANTH 303A or B 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.
The senior thesis consists of two courses, Anthropology 450 and Anthropology 451 for which the student receives two credits. Anthropology 450 is a once a week seminar course taught during the fall semester by one faculty member. In this course all seniors will meet together to define their research questions, write a research prospectus, do ethnographic exercises, study professional ethics, familiarize themselves with IRBs, and do a literature review of their topic. Anthropology 451 in the spring semester is run as a supervised independent research and writing course in which each student works on their own to complete the research and writing of their thesis. During Anthropology 451, each student does guided research on their topic, drafts and writes a thesis, and does a public presentation of their thesis research.
A detailed description of the format, goals, and assessment criteria for the senior experience can be found in the complete departmental catalog statement (PDF).
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.