Frequently Asked Questions

What is anthropology?

Anthropology studies the complexity and diversity of human and nonhuman life in an interconnected world. The Anthropology Department at Wesleyan offers courses on anthropological theories and methods, and topics including urban anthropology, globalization, media studies, consumer culture, archaeology, social movements and activism, development and humanitarianism, and race, gender, and sexuality. Social justice and ethical concerns have always been central to the discipline of anthropology.

 What is the difference between anthropology and sociology?

 Anthropology and sociology have a number of common ancestors, and use broadly similar theoretical toolkits. However, there are a number of distinctions between the two disciplines’ histories, methodologies, and approaches. Historically, sociologists studied “modern” (Western) societies and social institutions, and anthropologists focused on “primitive” (non-Western) cultures and practices. However, since the 1970s, anthropologists have questioned the very distinction between the primitive and modern, taking the power relations between the West and the so-called Rest as an object of study. Today, anthropological research is conducted across the world, yet is united by a distinctive methodology: “ethnography,” “participant observation,” or what has been called “deep hanging out.” In contrast to sociology, which primarily uses quantitative (statistical) methods, anthropology relies on long-term intensive ethnographic research in specific locations. Ethnographic research is immersive, holistic, and reflexive; it produces richly textured studies of the particular. Anthropology draws on these studies of the particular to illuminate the global, the macro forces—history, colonialism, capitalism, development—that link people across place and time, but also shape local lives differently.

Are there specific courses I should take if I want to become a major?

Yes, you should take ANTH101 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology) in your first or second year. A minimum grade of B is a condition of acceptance into the major. Students enrolled in ANTH101 during the spring of their sophomore year may declare the major if their midterm grade is a B or higher.

How many courses do I need to take in order to complete the major?

 In addition to ANTH101, majors are required to take at least 9 anthropology courses, 8 of which must be numbered 201 or higher. These include two core courses in anthropological theory (any 2 of ANTH 295A, 295B, 295C, or 295D) and the ethnographic methods course (ANTH 208: “Crafting Ethnography”).

 What is the “concentration”?

Concentrations are flexible specializations that reflect your particular area of interest within anthropology. Working with your faculty advisor, you decide on a coherent set of 4 courses as your concentration. We encourage you to include 1 course from outside anthropology. There are 3 standing concentrations: 1) Difference, Inequality, and Social Justice, 2) Local Distinctions, Global Connections, and 3) Producing, Consuming, and Performing Culture. You can also design your own concentration in consultation with your major advisor. Full descriptions of our concentrations are on our website.

Can I double major in anthropology and another discipline?

 Absolutely! Our majors have combined anthropology with a range of other majors, including Science in Society; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; American Studies; Environmental Studies; English; Dance; Music; African American Studies; Film; and both Art History and Studio Arts; as well as the Certificates in Writing and in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory. While many choose to major in anthropology alone, others find that the critical skills they learn in anthropology enrich their studies in other disciplines.

 Can I count study-abroad courses toward the anthropology major?

Yes, majors are encouraged to take advantage of study-abroad programs. You may count up to 3 study-abroad courses toward the major. The theory and method courses must be taken at Wesleyan. A grade of B or higher is required for study-abroad courses to count toward the major.

 Do I have to complete a capstone project?

 Yes. Senior majors are required to write a thesis, an essay, or a senior seminar paper as part of their capstone experience. Only theses are eligible for honors in the major.

 Where is the anthropology department?

 281 High Street, at the corner of High and Wyllys.