Anthropology concerns itself with the holistic study of the human condition—socially, culturally, linguistically, and biologically in space and in time. Our faculty is committed to this fourfold approach, believing that anthropology is poised to examine what it means to be human.
We value comparative teaching and interdisciplinary research because anthropology is a field without clear borders. We emphasize the connection of anthropology to the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Because of this approach, students may double major and many have paired anthropology with archeological studies, English, biology, African American studies, and mathematics.
If you have traveled some, are interested in travel, or have experienced different societies, cultures, and foods; if you consider yourself adventurous and willing to engage in intense, hands-on learning within a liberal arts setting, Oberlin’s offerings in anthropology may be for you.
Skills gained through the study of anthropology complement the hallmarks of an Oberlin education: creative and critical thinking, oral expression, writing, problem solving, and social justice advocacy. Graduates are prepared to continue graduate-level study in almost any field and many pursue the doctorate in anthropology. Our students attain competitive fellowships and attend the University of Chicago, Indiana University, Temple University, George Mason University, and the University of Michigan, among others.
Our courses in cultural anthropology, archeology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology emphasize the role of fieldwork in contributing to the sum total of knowledge about the human career on Earth. In this way, we base our theories and interpretations of human differences and similarities across cultures and through time, and on continuing empirical investigations of anthropology.
The field research of each faculty member, accordingly, finds a central place in our classrooms. Majors develop critical thinking and research skills while demonstrating the continuing relevance of anthropology to an understanding of an increasingly transcultural world.
You will have opportunities to engage in participation/observation, a qualitative research method employed today as businesses, institutions, nonprofit organizations, and other groups seek nontraditional methods to gather and analyze data. You will learn about people and their lives by doing what they do and then through analysis and writing.
Students who want to study languages may study linguistic anthropology. Oberlin is one of the few schools of its size to offer coursework that involves the analysis of sign languages and Deaf cultures. This course supports our exchange program with Gallaudet University, the world leader in liberal education and career development for Deaf and hard of hearing undergraduate students. Located in Washington, D.C., the program provides a unique opportunity for Oberlin students interested in communication disorders, Deaf education, and related issues.
Students also have a distinct chance to study and use the department’s Ethnographic Collection, an online resource of about 1,000 objects collected by alumni who worked as missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly in southeast Africa. Students may conduct research, and perform data analysis as it pertains to the collection.
We offer an honors program for students interested in pursing original independent research. The college’s extensive library and computing facilities, as well as close supervision from a faculty member, will assist you in this process.