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Is majoring in anthropology right for you?

Updated: Feb 22

One of the most exciting–yet often challenging– parts of college is choosing your major! Choosing a major is an important step in cultivating your academic and personal interests. As we continue our blog series discussing the different college major options, today we will be discussing anthropology!

What is anthropology?

The American Anthropological Association defines anthropology as “the study of what makes us human.” Anthropology studies human societies, both past, and present, in order to understand changes and continuities in the way people live. This includes human biology and genetics, as well as social and cultural aspects of human living. These comparisons across societies and people are useful in developing a deeper understanding of one’s own society, as well as in enhancing public policy in education, economics, medicine, and more.

Using methods from a variety of academic disciplines, anthropology effectively combines the natural sciences and social sciences in order to explore human social organization and culture. Anthropology is guided by cultural relativism: the practice of understanding how one’s own cultural norms influence the perspective through which we study other cultures and societies. Anthropology also engages with studies of evolution and evolutionary biology to discover more about past human societies.

Overall, anthropology is a comprehensive field of study serving as an intersection between the natural sciences and the humanities.

Here are a few of the many different areas of anthropological study:

Biological Anthropology: Also known as physical anthropology, biological anthropology shares quite a bit in common with traditional biological science. Researchers in this field study biological aspects of humans and animals, contributing greatly to understandings of human evolution and biological development. This field relies heavily on fossils in order to understand the past, but also studies the variations among contemporary human populations, and the biological impact of this variation.

Interested? Read: Our Origins by Clark Spencer Larsen

Current Research: Biological Anthropology Labs at UGA

Medical Anthropology: This subfield of anthropology explores social determinants of health. Research in this field explores how race, class, and culture impact the practice of medicine and the quality of healthcare that patients receive. Many pre-med students decide to pursue this as a major in undergrad in order to gain a more holistic understanding of health and human beings.

Interested? Read: Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies by Phillipe Bourgois

Current Research: Psychological-Medical Anthropology Labs at UC San Diego