Anthropologists seek a holistic understanding of human social life through complex accounts of histories, societies, and cultures. Anthropologists do ethnographic, linguistic, biological and archaeological research on various aspects of individual and collective experience in all time periods and parts of the world.
A central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Historically, anthropologists in the United States have been trained in one of four subdisciplines: sociocultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology. Vassar Anthropology is a four-field department with professors who specialize in each.
Sociocultural anthropology forms the core of our major, with all three required courses focusing on cultural method and theory. This includes ANTH 140 Cultural Anthropology, ANTH 201 Anthropological Theory, and ANTH 301 Senior Seminar. Many other cultural courses explore regions, methods, and topics like ANTH 244 Indian Ocean, ANTH 245 Ethnographers Craft, ANTH 364 Travelers and Tourists, and ANTH 376 Asian Diasporas. Cultural courses are usually numbered in the 140s, 240s, 260s, and 360s.
Linguistic anthropology can be explored at the 100, 200, and 300 levels through courses such as the introductory ANTH 150 Linguistics and Anthropology, ANTH 255 Language, Gender, and Media, and ANTH 352 Indigenous Literatures of the Americas. Linguistic anthropology courses generally do not have prerequisites, and their course numbers are general (but not always) in the 150s, 250s, and 350s.
Archaeology courses have no prerequisites at the 100 and 200 levels, but the 300-level archaeology seminars, such as ANTH 332 Ruins and Haunting Heritage, do require previous coursework in archaeology. That can be satisfied through ANTH 130 Archaeology Lessons From the Past, ANTH 233 Museums, Collections, Ethics, and ANTH 236 Native North America. All archaeology courses have numbers in the 130s, 230s, and 330s. The archaeology intensive, ANTH 210 The Dead, also requires previous archaeology coursework as the intensive is a group independent study that applies method and theory to a student’s original research question.
Biological anthropology courses also have no prerequisites at the 100 and 200 levels, but the 300-level biological anthropology seminars, such as ANTH 322 Human Evolutionary Developmental Biology, do require previous coursework in biological anthropology. All archaeology courses have numbers in the 120s, 220s, and 320s. The biological intensive, ANTH 211 Virtual Anthropology, requires special permission to enroll. Skeletal biology and forensic anthropology are taught in two 6-week courses ANTH 229 and ANTH 239. The former is a prerequisite or corequisite of the latter.
Our major requires students to explore at least three of these four subfields, and the correlate sequence allows students to focus on just one. We also have an interdepartmental Geography and Anthropology major that allows students to combine two fields of anthropology with geography, and an interdepartmental Biology and Culture correlate in which students develop expertise in biological anthropology using courses from both the Anthropology and Biology departments.