Department of Anthropology
STATEMENT FROM THE DEPARTMENT CHAIR
R. Scott Wilson, PhD
The Department of Anthropology at CSULB is a vibrant, four-field department offering courses and research opportunities in Cultural Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, Biological Anthropology and Archaeology. Students who choose Anthropology as their major will engage in one of the most exciting, engaging and impactful disciplines in all of academia. As a wholistic discipline focused on human evolution, culture, language and (pre)history, Anthropology gives students the tools they need to understand and interact with an increasingly globalized and complex world.
Our current historical moment is a uniquely challenging one – in which a global pandemic and its associated economic disruptions poses a myriad of difficulties for people around the world. At the same time, the US’ awakening to the continuing impact of socio-economic and racial inequalities asks the question of what individuals and communities can do to resolve the centuries-old structures that America was built upon. Various courses in our department address these issues head-on, featuring community-based ethnographic studies that are grounded in cutting-edge, inclusive theoretical perspectives.
Anthropology provides the tools needed to analyze and diagnose the issues we collectively face. At the core of the anthropological perspective is an understanding of how human ideas and behavior are shaped by – and also shape – the structures that we interact with on a daily basis. Faculty teach and research in our department, for example, look at topics that explore this dynamic in a range of different fields, often integrating the approaches of the four fields in productive ways. Our courses that cover community health integrate biological and cultural anthropology to explore how health outcomes involve a complex interaction between racial and economic inequalities, environmental conditions, genetic predispositions, and politics at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Our courses in cultural anthropology cover a range of human behaviors and experiences in a multitude of different contexts. But they are not limited to cultural explanations for the phenomena they examine. For example, some of these courses integrate cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology and biological anthropology to look at how contemporary senses of self and identity have emerged from historical configurations and encounters over time, and how they continue to interact with these structures through narratives and representations in mythology, the arts, popular culture and political movements.
Courses in linguistic anthropology look at how much of human behavior is shaped by the ever-changing structures of language; and how language reflects the interests, inequalities and struggles of those who speak them. Gender, religion, race, socio-economic class and other aspects of people’s lives are filtered through and shaped by language, and our courses in this areas explore these dynamics in depth.
Our archaeology courses explore the cultural aspects of human pre-history in a range of regions and areas around the world. Combining anthropological principles with methods and techniques from the physical and biological sciences, archaeology courses provide a firm foundation for future careers in areas such as contract archaeology, museum work, or cultural resource management.
Our offerings in biological anthropology look at the human body in evolutionary, historical and cultural context. Unique in comparison with other primates, the biology of the human species is entertained with behavioral, linguistic and cultural adaptations and innovations. These courses explore the multi-faceted development of human anatomy and physiology over time.
At the graduate level, our two Masters of Arts programs – in Anthropology and Applied Anthropology – approach many of the similar issues, though from slightly different perspectives. The MA in Anthropology explores all aspects of anthropology as discipline – supporting student research in any of the four traditional sub-fields. MA theses and visual projects in Anthropology are designed to be exploratory in nature, with more of a purely academic focus. The MA in Applied Anthropology focuses on projects that evaluate socio-cultural inequalities and seek solutions grounded in the cultural and social specifics of the communities involved. Projects and theses in Applied Anthropology are necessarily collaborative, and the solutions derived in them are as unique as the communities on which they are based.
Anthropology may not have all of the answers to the challenges we face in our most interesting of times, but it can provide the tools that students need to understand them. These tools are a first important step in establishing long-lasting, substantial solutions in a rapidly changing world. Please feel free to contact us for further information. We look forward to meeting you and talking to you about anthropology.
Statement on Inclusion and Respect for Diversity
In solidarity with vulnerable members of our campus and local communities, members of the Department of Anthropology support the Society for Applied Anthropology’s statement on Diversity and Respect: “We as members of the Board of the Society for Applied Anthropology affirm our ongoing commitment to value human diversity in all its myriad forms and to encourage all of our members to provide safety and basic human rights for everyone. Anthropological perspective and practice are grounded in respect for all persons, civility, and thoughtful examination of ideas and policies. It is especially critical at times of uncertainty and change. We recognize a common responsibility to support community members who may feel threatened and to counter hostility toward immigrants and other marginalized groups. We pledge to continue to exercise and guard academic freedoms to examine and address such issues as perpetuation of inequalities and policies that oppress or degrade. We urge involvement of everyone in learning and working together to create positive social change, promote humane understandings, and encourage a variety of shared actions to further these goals.” http://sfaa.net/~sfaanet/news/index.php/2016/nov-2016/sfaa/sfaa-statement-diversity-and-respect/
We further endorse both the American Anthropological Association (http://www.americananthro.org/ParticipateAndAdvocate/AdvocacyDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=21061) and the American Ethnological Society (http://americanethnologist.org/features/news/american-ethnological-society-statement-on-president-trumps-immigration-executive-order) statements calling for an immediate reversal of the Immigration Executive Order.