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Haverford College
Department of Anthropology
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Learning Goals

The Anthropology Major at Haverford 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:

  1. The discipline of anthropology:
    • To understand the unique contribution that anthropology makes to the study of the social, and the ways that it addresses the most pressing issues of our times, especially in relation to globalization, diversity/multiculturalism, and the scalar relations between local contexts and broad social, geographic and historical movements
    • To learn how to situate strange and familiar social practices and cultural categories in shifting and contingent historical, economic and political formations/structures, and 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 notions of race, culture, nation, and language have shaped recent theoretical innovations; to be familiar with the range of subfields of the discipline (e.g. political and legal anthropology, medical anthropology, the anthropology of religion, environmental anthropology, etc.) and their different contributions to knowledge
  2. The craft and theory of anthropological research:
    • To have first-hand experience of data-collection methods central to anthropology, 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., 1) how specific anthropologists have used theory to interpret and explain social and cultural formations, and 2) 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
  3. 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
  4. The final original project:
    • To write a senior thesis, by 1) defining a research question, 2) situating that research question within a broader field of anthropological and scholarly inquiry, 3) conducting research with primary source materials (ethnographic, archival, and/or material), and 4) developing an original argument about the primary source materials that is informed by the relevant theory and anthropological literature