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About the Department

In the United States, the discipline of anthropology has traditionally included four subfields: cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology and anthropological linguistics. The anthropology department at Smith College focuses on ethnographic approaches to contemporary cultures. Anthropology students also have access to faculty in the Five Colleges who offer courses in archaeology and biological anthropology.

Smith's anthropology offerings promote awareness and understanding of ethnic and cultural diversity on a global scale as well as in the United States. We challenge students' assumptions about their cultures by introducing them to societies and social groups whose principles and prejudices are different from their own. As a result, students carry a greater sensitivity to the cultural dimension of human experience in their work.

Anthropology majors gain a balanced view of the range of intellectual concerns and research priorities that mark the subdisciplines of cultural anthropology. We emphasize a commitment to the value of the ethnographic method as the prerequisite to a comparative analysis of human cultures. Direct observation of ongoing social systems and their cultural frameworks is at the forefront of our studies. Students gain an appreciation for the importance of anthropological methods and ethnographic texts in relation to other academic disciplines and many contemporary issues.