Anthropology is the science of humanity, examining human life and variation in the different forms in which they are found. Anthropology considers the variety of customs, languages, and civilizations that make up humanity. Uniting diverse sciences such as biology and geology, with humanistic endeavors such as religious studies, philosophy, and history, anthropology has often been called the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the scientific disciplines.

Modern nations use the knowledge that anthropology provides to understand their heritage, to serve the diverse peoples contained within their borders, and to find their place in the emerging global society. With its roots in the expansion of Europe during the 19th century, anthropology is now well placed at the outset of the 21st century to make  important contributions to human well-being, economic growth, and mutual understanding of peoples around the world.

Rapid changes in transportation and communication technologies are remaking the nations of the world into a global village. The ability of the many peoples, nations, religions, and societies to live in harmony will depend on the mutual and respectful understanding of custom, language, and heritage that anthropology seeks to foster.

Anthropology at Wayne State

The discipline of Anthropology consists of four sub-fields, each of which examines a separate facet of humanity.The Anthropology Department at Wayne State offers students comprehensive four-field training. Summaries of each field and their related sub-fields appear below. More information is provided through the links on the lefthand toolbar.

Archaeology, the study of the human past, examines early peoples and civilizations through the physical remains they have left behind. In addition to research focused on locating and excavating ancient/historical remains, archaeology overlaps with museum studies, cultural heritage management, and the socio-political and legal issues surrounding the presentation and ownership of the archaeological record. Many students have found participating in archaeological fieldwork projects, laboratory analysis, or community archaeology to be one of the high points of their academic careers.

Cultural Anthropology, also known as socio-cultural or social anthropology, attempts to explain the variations in custom and lifeways among contemporary peoples. Using the techniques of ethnographic fieldwork, cultural anthropologists live in the communities of the people they study, learn the language, and through extended observation develop an in-depth understanding of the culture and social organization. Cultural anthropologists are concerned with how different societies relate to and interact with each other economically, politically, and in other ways. Business and Organizational Anthropology and Medical Anthropology are two sub-specialties of cultural anthropology in which several faculty in the Anthropology Department specialize. These more recent areas of practicing and applied anthropology draw from the other fields of anthropology to solve contemporary problems in health, government, education, and global business. Practicing anthropologists have worked on such diverse problems as introducing new medical technology in remote villages, identifying user requirements for computer systems, and methods to guide economic aid programs in Third World nations.

Linguistic Anthropology studies the diversity of human languages and forms of communication. Thousands of languages and dialects are found around the globe today. Understanding the possibilities, limitations, and barriers to human communication is a vital issue for every member of a global society. 

Physical Anthropology (also known as biological anthropology) examines human origins and the physical variation of modern populations. By understanding our origins as a biological species, physical anthropology makes important contributions to improving human health, nutrition, and adaptation to diverse environments.


Anthropology of the City

The Anthropology Department's new Anthropology of the City initiative brings together faculty and students from multiple anthropological sub-fields and other disciplines by establishing an urban focus in our teaching, research, and theoretical perspectives. Although Anthropology of the City maintains a global perspective, Detroit serves as an important backdrop and training-ground for urban anthropology at Wayne State.

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