The undergraduate concentration in Anthropology involves core training in the four fields of anthropology: socio-cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology. Some concentrators choose to explore the full breadth of anthropology, while others focus on one of the particular fields or even one of the curricular strengths of the department, such as medical anthropology or Mayanist archaeology. Many of the department's courses are also appropriate for non-concentrators and we encourage students from throughout the Brown community to take advantage of our courses and other programmatic offerings.
Socio-cultural anthropology engages the full breadth of the modern human experience through the lens of ethnography, the longterm qualitative study of social processes in a particular context or setting. Socio-cultural anthropology works at the crossroads of the social sciences and the humanities in order to understand human experience in all of its fullness. The discipline does not restrict itself to a single aspect of human social life, such as the political or the aesthetic. Conversations in our classrooms and seminar rooms attempt to put behavior in the broadest contexts of meaning, power, institutions, and history. In a time of increasing specialization and fragmentation of knowledge, Anthropology provides an opportunity to look at the big picture and find it in the locally meaningful. In a world of manifold crises, it provides opportunities for applying the knowledge it produces, and in a world of increasingly global connection, the discipline provides many roadmaps.
The socio-cultural anthropological curriculum at Brown is both deep and broad. Core training considers the distinct lens by which anthropologists understand the modern world, especially the nebulous concept of "culture," a topic that defines yet continues to challenge anthropologists. Specialized courses engage with particular theoretical, methodological, and topical issues of importance, such as medical anthropology, war and violence, human trafficking, and transnationalism. Courses are also offered that focus on particular societies around the world.
Anthropological archaeologists study the human past through the medium of material culture and are especially interested in exploring social processes through time and throughout the world. In that regard, anthropological archaeologists not only reconstruct the nuances of a particular past society but situate their studies in a greater comparative perspective to more broadly contribute to our understanding of the human experience.
The undergraduate curriculum in anthropological archaeology emphasizes firm theoretical and methodological training in the discipline, while capitalizing on the department's focus on the archaeology of the Americas, especially the indigenous New England, the American Southwest, and the Maya. The vast majority of archaeologists conducting field and laboratory work in North and South America and employed in the United States are trained in anthropology.
Linguistic anthropology is the study of language in social context, both past and present. Like anthropology as a whole, it is methodologically comparative. While many disciplines – linguistics, among others – take language as an object of study, what sets linguistic anthropology apart is the way it places the ethnography of language in use at the center of its analysis. Linguistic anthropology aims to use the insights gained from such an approach to illuminate human societies in their complexity and variability.
Linguistic anthropology at Brown emphasizes a semiotic approach to language, and the importance of studying language in social context. Both approaches allow students specializing in other areas of anthropology, or even other disciplines, to apply the insights of linguistic anthropology to their own interests. Course offerings include both introductory courses and more advanced offerings. More specialized courses include those that examine how language intersects with some of Brown's broader strengths, including the study of Latin America, society and the media, politics and inequality, and medicine and science studies.
Biological anthropology focuses on the biological aspects of the human condition, emphasizing especially our evolutionary legacy and the role of social processes in shaping biological phenemona. The Department of Anthropology offers a core course in biological anthropology (Human Evolution) as well as advanced courses on the human skeleton and other select topics.