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Maple J. Razsa
Major in Anthropology
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The human social world—past and present—consists of diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural communities representing different ways of life and understandings of the world. Anthropology takes this human diversity as its point of departure and seeks to understand its basis.
The program at Colby investigates a wide range of social forms, from egalitarian foragers to class-stratified states. Throughout this exploration of the diversity of human experience, students probe questions that are fundamental to understanding themselves and their own cultural setting as well as other cultures. In other words, students investigate what is truly universal about the human condition, what is specific to particular cultures or groups, and why peoples of the world exhibit different cultural patterns.
In addition to grappling with these general issues, students learn the process of doing anthropological research, the practice of fieldwork. Fieldwork—sustained exposure to and participation in a community—is anthropology’s distinctive contribution to the human sciences. Students familiarize themselves with fieldwork through projects conducted in and around the Colby community. We also encourage our students to apply for Colby’s many opportunities to study abroad where students can further develop fieldwork methodologies.
The study of anthropology involves both an engagement with different cultural contexts and a careful assessment of the assumptions that guide our own actions and beliefs as members of particular social and cultural communities. Anthropology’s broad, cross-cultural perspective is invaluable in today’s globalizing world. We examine real-world communities from a range of perspectives, analyzing the different problems and challenges each faces. Studying anthropology encourages the development of holistic thinking, awareness of complex cultural differences, and a sophisticated understanding of the diverse processes at work in today’s global economy. These lessons are essential for better communication between societies, across class and ethnic boundaries. Such skills are, of course, invaluable in the contemporary workplace.
The knowledge acquired and the skills learned as a student of anthropology are stepping-stones to many great careers. Students leave the program fully prepared for graduate school, for work in social service organizations, education, humanitarian and human rights organizations, policy institutions, or for the career of their choice. Regardless of their life course, students of anthropology learn powerful new ways of understanding themselves and the world.
The Anthropology Department also offers a minor in Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. This is an interdisciplinary program that surveys the cultural diversity, history, literature, political status, and contemporary issues of the indigenous peoples of South, Central, and North America. The minor is often chosen to support majors in anthropology, sociology, history, or environmental policy, among others. Students gain multiple perspectives for understanding the historical and contemporary experiences of the original peoples of the western hemisphere. Fieldwork is often a part of the work in the minor.