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, linguistic anthropologists on the variety of and variation in human languages, 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. They can be found working at the top graduate research universities, in museums, and for government agencies. However, today anthropologists are also active in settings such as industries, public health, education, and various kinds of social survey research and community service. Anthropology 104 is the general introduction to the field and is normally a student’s first course and a prerequisite for upper-level courses. Students with special interests who wish to enroll in upper-level courses, but who have not taken Anthropology 104, should consult with the department about the preparation that will be assumed. Anthropology, as an integrative science, has links with many other disciplines, such as biology, history, linguistics, religion, and other social-behavioral sciences. Anthropology students should select other offerings appropriate for an interdisciplinary program of study. Because of the importance of language in the study of any culture, qualified students are recommended to do work in a foreign language within designated courses in the department.
A minimum of 32 credits. With permission, up to eight of the 32 credits may be taken in related studies outside the department. Required are:
- Anthropology 104 Introduction to Anthropology
- Anthropology 280 Theories of Culture
At least four credits at the 200 level from each of the following areas:
- Archaeology and Biological Anthropology
- Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics
a) Two 300-level courses in anthropology
b) One 300-level course in anthropology and a departmentally approved 499 MAP for which the student will write and present a thesis
In addition; complete both of these requirements:
a) One year of a non-native language (or demonstration of equivalent competence by examination)
b) Mathematics 115 or 209
NOTE: Courses listed under Methods may not be used to satisfy the distribution requirement for Archaeology and Biological Anthropology or Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics.
Field research—such as that offered in the Archaeological Field School, Costa Rica: Tropical Field Research, and Grinnell-in-London—or an internship is strongly recommended. Because of the breadth of the discipline, majors are expected to demonstrate some familiarity with subdisciplines of anthropology and with research methods and techniques before they take a synthesizing seminar.
To be considered for honors in anthropology, graduating seniors, in addition to meeting the College’s general requirements for honors, must exemplify professionalism in fulfilling commitments voluntarily undertaken within the department. In addition, they must have conducted original research judged worthy of honors.
General Introductory Course
Anthropology as a holistic discipline embracing human biological and cultural evolution and the differences and similarities among human cultures. The subfields of anthropology are surveyed.
Archaeology and Biological Anthropology
An in-depth examination of the evolution of humankind as part of an evolutionary continuum of primates stretching back approximately 65 million years, with an emphasis on the hominids of the past 4 million years. There is a heavy emphasis on comparative anatomy. Topics covered include bipedalism, molecular data, the brain and language, and various interpretations of hominid origins.
A comparative survey of the taxonomy, behavior, and ecology of nonhuman primates. Topics include demography and life-history patterns, feeding behavior and competition, social organization, sexual behavior, infant development, communication, and cognition.
This course explores the interaction of genetics and culture with our understanding of human evolution through: a) an examination of human differentiation and genetic variation between and within human groups; and b) an exploration of how human evolution has been shaped by this interaction. Possible topics include: simple and complex inheritance, population genetics, human migration, gene frequencies, genetics and disease, genetics and IQ, race, gene therapy, designer babies, cloning, and the Human Genome Project.
In this course, we will examine mothers, mother-infant relationships and infant development across the primate order and cross-culturally from an evolutionary perspective and with focus on biology. Topics will include but are not limited to: parental investment theory, parent-offspring conflict theory, attachment theory, conception, pregnancy, gestation, lactation, human and nonhuman primate infant development and trajectories, infant sex differences, and infanticide.
An archaeological perspective on major themes and trends in the development of Old World civilizations: agricultural origins, trade and migration, metal and other technological innovations, role of ideology and symbol systems in social change, religion as a power base, rise of elite leadership, and state-level society. Covers much of Old World with emphasis on particular areas.
Archaeological record from human entry into the area to European domination: hunting, gathering, and agricultural developments. Geographical and physical anthropological backgrounds presented.
An examination of Aztec, Inca, and Maya cultures, including economics, politics, and religion. Concentrates on the dynamics of early states and explores reasons for their rise and fall.
In this course we will explore: 1) the evolutionary bases for human behavior;
2) how to observe, record, and study human behavior; and 3) the benefits and shortcomings of an ethological approach through both readings and hands-on projects. Each student will design and conduct a short ethological study of human behavior. This course will be research-centered.
An assessment of biological factors in human social behavior through an examination of the social behavior of nonhuman primates and evidence from human ethnology and sociobiology. Topics include reproductive behavior, aggression, dominance, sex roles, and altruism.
Experiments with artifacts and observations of living peoples provide archaeologists with the basis for interpreting the remains of past cultures. This course examines the theoretical basis and practice of experimental archaeology and ethnoarchaeology. Course includes lab work and projects.
Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics
This course examines anthropology’s contribution to the taxonomy and representations of “race” and “culture” and its role in prescribing and proscribing the idea of interracial intimacy. Over the course of the semester, we will examine how the topic of mixing and miscegenation was invented, elaborated, and obsessed over by anthropologists, philosophers, judges, policymakers, film directors, and people raced as “mixed.” Primary attention will be given to ideas about mixing in the United States as a location from which to compare perspectives of social difference, “purity,” and “hybridity” in other countries.
This course examines beliefs about illness, healing, and the body across cultures. We will examine how the body, illness, health, and medicine are shaped not only by cultural values, but also by social, political, and historical factors. The class will draw attention to how biomedicine is only one among many culturally constructed systems of medicine.
Also listed as American Studies 235. Focus on the U.S. American cultural meanings about national identity and citizenship, intersections of race and class consciousness, and the power of media to shape social attitudes, values, lifestyles, and political opinions.
Reviews various cultural anthropology approaches to understanding human/environment interactions. Focus placed on case studies of small-scale societies from distinct environmental regions, the adaptations to those environments, how subsistence practices relate to other aspects of culture, and how these cultures and environments are affected by increasing integration into the world system (e.g., through globalization).
A cross-cultural and historical survey of attempts to achieve social harmony by creating small communities. Topics include: ideological foundations, alternative economic and political arrangements, experiments with sexuality and gender roles, responses of the wider society, and reasons for success and failure. Groups include the first-century Essenes, the Shakers, Amana, the Hutterites, the Amish, the kibbutzim, Japanese communes, hip communes, monastic groups, and New Age communities.
Peoples and cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. Emphasis on the thought systems that underlie specific economic, political, and religious expressions in agricultural, pastoral, and gathering and hunting cultures. An overview of the continent and its peoples along with close study of a few peoples.
The modern Middle East in anthropological and historical perspective. Topics include nomadic, village, and urban lifestyles; ethnic interactions; Islam and its role in the social and political systems; the role of women; and cultural change.
A survey of community and regional studies on such topics as gender relations, rural depopulation, ethnic relations, regionalism, urbanization, and urban planning. Appropriate for student preparing for off-campus program in Britain or Europe.
Historical and ethnological survey of aboriginal cultures of North American Indians and the impact of European civilization. Indian history, ethnography, and the contemporary situation.
An overview of the relationship of agriculture to other aspects of culture, through time and cross-culturally. The origins of agriculture, the role of agriculture in subsistence and trade, and its connection to social structure, religion, and values. The rise of industrial agriculture and agriculture in Iowa.
Examination of shifts in theory and approach to studies of ethnicities. Topics include history of key concepts, including “ethnicity,” “ethnic identities,” and “culture,” as well as perspectives on racism as a system, education and acculturation, class and ethnicity, and nationalism.
Ethnographic and historic study of Latin American cultures. Description and analysis of native cultures and colonialism’s impact on native peoples’ lives. Current trends in Latin America analyzed, including family, economy, religion, environment, urbanism, and social issues. Women and gender issues in Latin America also considered.
Language in its sociocultural context. Cultural behavior as communication. Language in relation to cultural systems of cognition, values, and symbols.
This course explores human communication from an ethnographic perspective. It does so from a “discourse-centered” approach that conceptualizes language as meaningful social action situated in particular contexts used strategically by social actors. Building upon this framework, we will engage the ethnography of communication as both a particular theoretical orientation and a specific methodological approach to language use. Areas of emphasis include: relationships between linguistic forms and social functions, ethnography of speaking, communicative competence, multiple layering of context, performer/audience relationships, intentionality, and ideology.
This course explores the meanings of postmodernism, including the historical moment in which the concept emerged to describe a crisis in the social sciences. We will read anthropologists’ comments on the impact of postmodernist approaches on methodologies and theories in the discipline and examine texts that interrogate the relationship between power and knowledge, representations and ethnographic authority, the question of subjectivity and objectification, and the consequences of globalization on dominant concepts that ground the discipline of anthropology. This course includes ethnographic films and commercial movies that register the condition of postmodernity.
Also listed as Religious Studies 326. The role and nature of religion. Origin of religious beliefs and customs. Structure and function of religious systems: beliefs, practitioners, supernatural power, totemism, and ritual change.
Archaeological survey, excavation, and artifact analysis as tools for reconstructing the lifestyles of extinct societies. Lab work includes lithic, faunal, and ceramic analysis. Field labs provide practice in finding, mapping, recording, and interpreting archaeological sites.
Also listed as Sociology 292. The processes by which ethnographers construct an understanding of human behavior; what questions they ask and how they answer them. Students engage in ethnographic field studies.
A six-week field course in archaeological method and theory emphasizing practical experience. Intensive field research in the American Southwest, including both excavation and preliminary processing of artifacts in the field lab. Field trips to areas of ethnographic and archaeological interest.
A survey of the history of anthropological theory from the Enlightenment to the present.
The preparation, writing, and public presentation of a piece of theoretical anthropological research in any of the subfields of anthropology. Students must obtain department approval the semester before thesis credits are taken. Two advisers/readers will supervise each thesis.
- College Catalog