Overview of the Department

The Department of Anthropology, which was founded in 1978, has established itself as one of the nation's foremost programs. Ranked in the top 10 of U.S. anthropology departments by the National Research Council, Emory's program in anthropology encourages a diversity of learning, teaching, and research opportunities in social and cultural anthropology as well as biological anthropology (including biocultural perspectives).

Anthropology is unique among academic departments in that our field of study is partly natural sciences, partly social sciences, and partly humanities. Just as many modern departments of psychology cut across the Natural Science and Social Science Divisions, and departments of government, political science, and history cut across the Social Science and Humanities Divisions, anthropology participates in the intellectual life of all three divisions. Faculty in our department here at Emory represent all sub-disciplines within anthropology, with the greatest number focusing on areas of social and cultural anthropology or on domains of biological anthropology.

trafficAnthropology is the only academic discipline that presents a unified conception of human nature and human experience. It is the only setting in which, for example, someone who works on patterns of language and communication in modern-day Africa or among contemporary American, Caribbean, or Japanese youth may have regular conversations with someone who specializes in comparative-historical patterns of political or religious culture in the Andes, Southeast Asia, or New Guinea; in which someone who understands the evolution, structure and function of the brain shares ideas on a regular basis with someone whose work focuses on human ritual; in which someone who studies economic decision making and underdevelopment in traditional and modern agricultural settings meets regularly with someone who has mastered the literature on food choice and behavior in nonhuman primates. Everyone who has experience of university life knows how difficult it is to promote such exchanges across departmental and divisional barriers; in our department they are a common occurrence. The value for students is inestimable as they face the challenge of the bewildering array of subjects that constitutes the liberal arts education. Anthropologists, more than any others in the university, help them to appreciate and to heed Emerson's warning, in his 1830 essay "The American Scholar," that "we have had enough of fingers and thumbs, what we need is a whole hand."