Anthropology: Something for Everyone

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Anthropology: the study of all people, in all places, at all times. Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Maybe it sounds confusing, or even boring. I know I was pretty scared the first day of class. ‘Why did I sign up for this? This isn’t going to go well at all. Well, it’ll help me graduate, so whatever. It is what it is.’ It turned out to be so much more.
When I entered the classroom, one of the first things I saw was a large glass display case filled with spears and bones and rocks with info cards explaining what they were and did. The class was greeted by a professor who was all smiles and clearly filled with passion about her work. The only thought I really had was ‘Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought.’ And I was right.

Anthropology, it was explained to us, was the study of all people in all places at all times, but that was just a general definition of what all anthropology did. You might be thinking ‘All anthropology? There’s more than one thing in this craziness?’ Yes, indeed; there are actually quite a few types of anthropology:

-Cultural: The study of beliefs, creations and inventions, and behaviors. Cultural anthropologists study (surprise!) the cultures of different people around the world. Culture is learned behavior, so on top of learning what a people’s culture is, this type of anthropologist also strive to learn how the culture is taught.

-Archaeology: Everyone is at least a little familiar with this one. Indiana Jones was one himself, if you recall. Hollywood aside, archaeologists try to see how people live or lived in an area. They study material culture, which includes weapons, pottery, tools, jewelry, and the foundations of houses. In fact, even garbage is included. The University of Arizona saw archaeologist William L. Rathje start the ongoing “Garbage Project” to study the trash of what we would call “modern civilization.”

-Applied: Simply put, it’s anthropology put to good use. This type focuses on using anthropology to help people with their problems. They’re involved with the governments of countries, business corporations, and politics to solve real world problems, like lack of irrigation systems and helping to better law enforcement. Applied anthropology is being put to use in our very own Jamestown, NY, with a proposed “urban farm” to help promote local farmer’s markets and teach sustainable agricultural methods. You can check out their website to learn more.

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Piecing together a hand

-Physical: Sometimes called biological anthropology, this type studies people as biological organisms, human evolution (including primatology, the study of non-human primates), how humans adapted to their environment, and the variations of genes and traits. Forensics (anyone watch “CSI” or “Bones”?) is also included as a sub-category, studying trauma, skeletal material, how people lived, and (naturally) how they died.

-Linguistics: This is the study of symbolic communications. This type of study came about when the desire to preserve endangered languages emerged. K. David Harrison, a published author, researcher, and teacher at Swarthmore, is dedicated to investigating the phonetics (sound structure. Think back to how English teachers would always talk about syntax and vocabulary) of languages of Inner Asia; Siberia and Western Mongolia specifically. You can check out some of his work in this video:

About the author

Casey Bobek

Hey, guys! I’m bad at introductions, but allow me to tell you a little about myself. My name is Casey Bobek, and I am majoring in Liberal Arts, with a special interest in English. When I first came to JCC, I saw it as a necessary stepping stone to use; an obstacle to overcome to reach a career in the literary world. Turns out, college wasn’t this big problem I needed to deal with, but an opportunity to enjoy, especially as I began my second year. Growing up with a passion to write and a love of learning, and with a little friendly pushing from my best friend and my mom to do something with my time, I decided to take a leap and get into blogging. Anthropology wasn’t ever really touched on in my high school, and I’d wager it wasn’t really touched on in many high schools in the county. A shame, really, because it’s quite an interesting subject to learn, which is why I want to let you know a little bit about it. My writing could never replace a full-blown Anthropology class, but if any luck, it’ll catch your attention. Never too late to learn something new!