The ancient studies program acknowledges the importance of approaching the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean world from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Students are encouraged to create for themselves—through related courses in history, classics, religion, art, government, philosophy and archaeology—a comprehensive understanding of the dynamic cultures bordering on the Mediterranean Sea (including the Near East) from antiquity to the time of the Muslim conquests in the seventh century.
The anthropology department's offerings promote awareness and understanding of human variation on a global scale, as well as in reference to the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States. The program aims to challenge students' taken-for-granted assumptions about their cultures by introducing them to societies and social groups whose "principles and prejudices" (Bowen, Return to Laughter) are different from their own.
Archaeology is a method for learning about the human past through the study of artifacts and other material remains. The interdepartmental archaeology program is offered as a minor to supplement work in a major field such as art, classical languages and literatures, geology, anthropology or history.
Comparative literature is about crossing borders: exploring the ways different languages shape the perceptions and thought patterns of the people who speak them, the ways writers in one location read others distant in time or place, the ways cultural movements link up poets and artists from different countries, the ways regional identities play against national unities, the ways people scattered throughout the world celebrate their origins and redefine their culture.
The government department examines public opinion, political development and political economy; addresses the concerns of ethnic, racial and political minorities, and the role of gender in politics, campaigns and elections, and foreign policy; and examines such fundamental and controversial concepts as justice, democracy, revolution and equality.
The history department endeavors to cultivate in its students a critical understanding of past and present human societies that will help them become informed, thoughtful and engaged citizens of the world. By offering our students the opportunity to discover historical inquiry as a meaningful part of their humanistic formation, history contributes directly to the highest intellectual mission of the college.
The interdepartmental major and minor in medieval studies provide students with an opportunity to study the civilization of medieval Europe from a multidisciplinary perspective. The great diversity of regional cultures in medieval Europe was balanced by a conscious attempt to hold to a unified view of the world that embraced religious and social ideals, Latin and vernacular literature, and music and the visual arts.
Religion courses at Smith are critical and comparative, interdisciplinary and cross-cultural. They examine the nature and function of religious phenomena in the past and present of many cultures. They provide opportunities to analyze systems of belief and patterns of religious behavior, the history of religious traditions, the functions of religion in society and various forms of religious expression such as myth, ritual, sacred story, sacred texts, liturgy and theological and philosophical reflection.
Smith's program in landscape studies is the first of its kind in a liberal arts college in the United States. Landscape studies is the multidisciplinary field that brings together studies in architecture and landscape architecture, landscape history and theory, art, art history and literature to join the sciences and social sciences in thinking about how we understand and interact with our environment. Landscape studies courses cover history of all periods and places to complement just about any major, such as anthropology, art, biological sciences, literary and cultural studies, engineering, environmental sciences and government, among others.
The Program for the Study of Women and Gender examines the experiences, ideologies, works and actions of women in a variety of national, cultural, historical and political contexts. As an interdisciplinary endeavor, the Program for the Study of Women and Gender shows students how different academic disciplines view the operation of gender in the labor market, the family, political systems and cultural production.
Cities are physical environments; they are social settings; they are economic phenomena; they are political arenas. An understanding of these complex social structures can come only from an analysis that transcends the narrow perspective of any single discipline. The interdepartmental urban studies minor offers an opportunity to explore the urban experience from a variety of perspectives.