Department of Anthropology
Welcome, future Wildcats. Thank you for considering Northwestern and for having an interest in our department! To help you make all of the important decisions that face you right now, we try below to answer some questions you might have about the study of Anthropology at Northwestern. If there is anything else you would like to know, please do not hesitate to contact us: email@example.com. We will put you in touch with our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Helen Schwartzman, or with whomever else might be able to help. Good luck, and thanks again!
What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is a holistic discipline that uniquely draws on the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to look for answers to the most compelling questions. How did the human species evolve? What is its basic nature, and in what ways is it manifested in different places and times? How have biology, language and culture become the defining characteristics of our species? How and why do cultures change over time?
Why study Anthropology?
It is no exaggeration to say that the world is changing and shrinking. The goal of an undergraduate education in Anthropology is to develop an understanding of the diversity of cultures around the world and across time. Understanding cultural, biological and linguistic differences and similarities is central to almost any career. Please explore our website to see if Anthropology might be the major for you!
Why study Anthropology at Northwestern?
At Northwestern, the Department has long played a leading role in the development of the field. Founded in 1938 by Melville Herskovits, a student of Franz Boas and an early builder of four-field American anthropology, the Department has always had a strong emphasis on an integrative approach to the discipline. Unlike most other American anthropologists in the 1930s, Herskovits focused on Africa and the African Diaspora, rather than on native Americans. In 1948, Herskovits also founded the Program of African Studies (the first formally instituted African Studies program at a research university in the US) and he encouraged the development of what has become the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, the largest separate Africana collection in the world.
Today, the Department continues to be strong in the field of African ethnography including research in West, South, and North Africa, Anglophone and Francophone Africa, Islamic and non-Islamic groups, and urban and rural populations. In the Americas, we have a concentration in urban United States that complements our urban focus in Africa. A focus on political economy along with a comparative perspective on race, gender and youth culture is emphasized in the work of several faculty.
In archaeology we have specialties in complex societies and urbanism, in subsistence and political economies, and in gender identity with regional specialities in Mesoamerica, the Caribbean and African diaspora and England and Europe (AD1200-1800).
Our program in biological anthropology emphasizes work in human biology and in particular research on human biological variation, global health, the interaction of biology and culture and medical anthropology. The Department houses the Laboratory for Human Biology Research (LHBR) which is a state of the art laboratory for the study of human population biology. The lab supports primary research as well as the teaching/training of advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Members of the lab have ongoing research in Latin America (Bolivia), Africa (Kenya), Asia (Siberia), the Pacific (Samoa and the Philippines) and urban US.
The program in Linguistic Anthropology at Northwestern emphasizes qualitative approaches to the study of language in society, with particular attention to the roles of verbal and written expression in social inequality, political economy, language ideology, immigration, law, colonialism, race, ethnicity, gender, generation, and class. Student training emphasizes both methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of language and culture. Students working in this concentration have access to the Linguistic Anthropology Lab.
In addition, the Geography Program is embedded within the Department of Anthropology and provides key resources for research in environmental studies, settlement patterns, geographic information systems, and map making.
How do I study Anthropology at Northwestern?
How does Anthropology fit at Northwestern and in Chicago?
The Department has a special interdisciplinary and cross-school role to play in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) and the larger University. Some of the major linkages that exist between the Department and other programs include:
In the Chicago community our students have worked actively with anthropology curators at the Field Museum. We have established a joint program between the Departments of Anthropology at Northwestern and the Field Museum that provides opportunities for faculty and students to participate in field and collections projects directed by Northwestern University and/or Field Museum anthropologists.