What is anthropology?

In the very broadest sense, anthropology is the study of human cultural diversity. Unlike most units which deal with specialised aspects of humanity, anthropology remains dedicated to studying the diversity of human expression through space and time.

Anthropologists are concerned with their own society, but only as one among many. When anthropology seeks to understand economics, politics, religion, violence, child-rearing or art, it aims eventually at a broad comparative knowledge which does not assume that the contemporary Western expressions are the most important, or even the most revealing, in the quest for an understanding of human cultures and societies. In fact, anthropologists have been led to examine in detail societies which are very different from their own, where ideas about beauty, morality, authority and dignity vary markedly from those with which they are familiar.

Why study anthropology?

Anthropology’s comparative approach to understanding humanity is becoming increasingly important. In recent years, there has been a growth of major social and political movements throughout the world in which people are stressing a sense of community, shared identity, and assertions of difference on the basis of factors such as ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and status as indigenous peoples, which cut across national boundaries. At the same time, many people are expressing concerns for social justice issues, environmental degradation and so on. Anthropology is a vital discipline because it is the only one which deals with the importance of cultural difference in these diverse expressions of humanity.

Where does Anthropology lead?

Those who qualify as anthropologists, after undergraduate and graduate studies, may be in a position to engage in first-hand research, become advisers or consultants to industry, government and non-government organisations on a diverse range of matters, and teach. But our principal aim is to impart to all our students, regardless of the occupations they hope to pursue, an informed and culturally-sensitive awareness of their involvement in their own and other societies and cultures.