The Catholic University of America

Our banner is not quite a logo, more a "back story." It represents a traditional concept of Anthropology as a discipline of four fields - cultural and social anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, human biology - and a primary association with the non-Western world.

The tradition is rooted in the 19th century, when anthropology came to be conducted on expeditions to what was then called the "primitive" and later the "third" world.  The most famous, and formative, were a Cambridge University expedition to the Torres Straits in 1898 and the Jessup Expedition to the Northwest Coast of Canada and the US (1897-1902) by the American Museum of Natural History.  They moved anthropology from "armchair" speculation similar to philologists comparing words from different languages to comprehensive "fieldwork" that, in the US, combined biological, cultural, linguistic and archaeological studies around a "wholistic" methodology.  Analytically, that meant focusing on connections, and scientific anthropology ever since takes humans whole rather than in their separable aspects.

Like most traditions, the conception of a four-fields discipline was formulated later and obliterates its actual history.  Some find it in the exhortations of Franz Boas (1858-1942), who took part in the Jessup Expedition and trained many anthropologists at Columbia University.  Its most formal exposition was in the textbook, Anthropology (1923, 1948), by his first student, Alfred Kroeber (1876-1960), who established anthropology at the University of California. 

Its practical impact has been to make anthropology multi-disciplinary from the beginning and routinely open to inter-disciplinary work. Those expeditions included a range of scientists such as anthropologists continue to work with and to incorporate into their own work - archaeologists with soils and materials scientists, linguists with cognitive psychology, physical anthropologists with paleontology and genetics, cultural anthropologists with everything from sociology and politics to "cultural" studies from art and media to philosophy. 

Here, ANTH 105 - Human Evolution, ANTH 108 - Introduction to Archaeology, ANTH 218 - Environmental Degradation, and ANTH 354 - Archaeology of Settlements & Landscapes satisfy "natural science" distribution requirements.  All other courses fit "social science" requirements for majors in other departments.  The distinction is amorphous because anthropology in practical terms is fundamentally an integrative science of human diversity, prehistory, culture and societies around the world.  It is not primarily study of ourselves, like other social sciences and humanities, although with globalization anthropological studies have "come home" with research conducted in and focused on the US, its cultures and policy issues.

So, for example, we offer courses on Identity & Community in America (ANTH 366) and Latino/a in the USA (ANTH 355) as well as on Globalization & the Culture of Capitalism (ANTH 315) and Latin America in the New Millennium (ANTH 371) or Islam in the Modern World (ANTH 310).  The Incas (ANTH 334) and Archaeology of the Bible Lands (ANTH 215) mix archaeology and ethnohistory, while Ancient Art & Architecture (ANTH 259) or Lost Cities & Ancient Empires (ANTH 322) are more comparative and comparable to art history, even macro-sociology.  Then, there is Anthropology of Food (ANTH 214), Migrants & Refugees (ANTH 217), Health & Culture (ANTH 541) and courses that deconstruct gender (ANTH 202), politics (ANTH 250) and the Information Society (ANTH 270) to get beyond conventional wisdoms about those.  Each offers anthropological "takes" that are generally wholistic, comparative, and based on data from multiple disciplines and around the world.  Majors learn about anthropological perspectives in ANTH 200 and about methods anthropologists use in ANTH 201. Actually, anyone can.  Our courses are open to all, and only senior seminars have prerequisites.

That's what we do - and teach - here. In the banner at the top, the picture on the left shows a computer shop and Internet cafe in Jordan ("Abode of Wisdom" in the Arabic), one of the places where Dr. Anderson has researched the spread of the Information Technologies and their cultures.  Next is Katie Beatty (BA 2008) with a basin she found during an excavation also in Jordan, then a chart showing how sounds are articulated, which is part of phonology, one of the bases of anthropological linguistics (ANTH 110), and finally Dr. Clark, a specialist in forensics who teaches human biology. More on what we do is available here, and the full range of courses we teach are listed here. There are additional opportunities for students to get hands-on experience, which anthropologists particularly value, and examples of where our students have gone plus books they have written.

What survives from the "four fields" tradition are methods that integrate different kinds of data and draw from many societies, cultures and periods. What you can expect to learn about here are cultures in a global society (starting with ANTH 101) and ancient civilizations (starting with ANTH 108).  Now that you've found this backstory, find out more by exploring the rest of this site.