Welcome to the Grinnell College Department of Anthropology.
Chair of the department: Professor Monty Roper.
Anthropology, the study of humankind, strives to take the broadest possible perspective on the human condition. Anthropologists explore peoples and cultures around the world, past and present, to become familiar with and understand our common humanity, cultural diversity, the organization of social life, societal change, the evolution of our species, our place in the natural world, and our affinities with other species. Anthropology approaches culture holistically, studying the interrelationships among the many facets of human life: family, kinship, language, gender, exchange, ritual, myth, technology, socialization, power, privilege, and subsistence. Archaeologists concentrate on cultures of the past, ethnologists on those of the present, and biological anthropologists on the complex interrelationship between cultural and biological factors in human life, past and present. Anthropological research is often conducted outside the context of Western society, but increasingly anthropologists have applied their perspectives to the study of questions in the West.
Anthropology is conceptually rich, drawing on theories and methods from the sciences, the humanities, and other social sciences. As such, it constitutes a bridging discipline, itself interdisciplinary, and serves as an excellent basis for a liberal arts education. Anthropology is good preparation for further study in such diverse fields as law, social work, museology, medicine, urban and regional planning, journalism, and business. Many of the department's graduates have gone on to further study in anthropology at the top graduate researchers in universities, museums, and government agencies, but today anthropologists can also be found in industry, public health, education, and various kinds of social survey research and community organizing.
The first anthropology course was taught at Grinnell in 1957 and the Sociology Department became the Sociology and Anthropology Department in 1959, with one anthropologist added to the department. (Ralph A. Luebben [1921-2009]) In 1967, the Anthropology became an independent department with three members. Since that time, we have had occasional courses that could receive credit in either Sociology or Anthropology.
Four-field Anthropology has been taught in the department since 1968; that is, the introductory course usually encompassed a four-fields approach and there was at least one advanced (200 level) course available in each of the fields.
As the department grew we added members with primary training in archaeology, biological anthropology and, most recently, linguistic anthropology. Relatively few small liberal arts colleges have faculty whose primary scholarship is in each of the fields. Currently, we have four cultural anthropologists, two archaeologists, one biological anthropologist, one linguistic anthropologist, two emeritus professors and houses one linguist. The introductory course is four-fields and now we have several advanced courses and seminars in each of the fields. A recent study of the undergraduate origins of persons with Ph.D.s in science revealed that Grinnell is third in the nation, proportionate to enrollment, in the production of persons who complete Ph.D.s in Anthropology.