How, when, and where did human life arise, how have environmental conditions and social institutions shaped human society, what is the role of learned versus innate behavior, and how are humans adapting to rapidly changing contexts? These, among many, are the sorts of questions anthropologists ask. Anthropology, the appreciation of and commitment to understanding all aspects of human diversity past and present, is devoted to the proposition that the diversity among humankind is comprehensible and enriching. In today’s global era, Anthropology is increasingly relevant as we seek to explore and explain differences and similarities among the world's cultures. Research, teaching, and service are the foundations of anthropology at Washington University.
The Department of Anthropology at Washington University is comprised of world class scholars whose research interests represent three subfields of the discipline: sociocultural anthropology (including linguistics), archaeology, and physical anthropology. Our scholars work around the globe and study topics ranging from skeletal biology to today's most pressing social issues. Faculty bring field-changing research home to the classroom every day. Priscilla Song, PhD conducts ethnographic research on the urban Chinese health care system, Gayle Fritz, PhD studies the processes of plant domestication and sequences leading to the development of agricultural systems, and EA Quinn, PhD measures metabolic hormones, growth factors, and immunoproteins in human milk to better understand how it contributes to human developmental plasticity. Students are also passionately engaged in important research, whether studying the religious and economic structures as complex hunter-gatherers transition to a heavier reliance on domesticated food production (Edward Henry, PhD candidate), navigating the moral dilemnas around decisions about abortions in present-day urban Mexico (Elyse Singer, PhD candidate), studying the mechanisms and outcomes of hybridization through baboons in Zambia (Kenneth Chiou, PhD candidate), or pursuing Senior Honors Theses research on diverse topics ranging from Navajo reproductive health to the alternative food movement.
Excellence in teaching and attention to undergraduates is a hallmark of the Anthropology Department. The department offers a major and minor in anthropology, as well as optional global health and environment tracks. Our department enjoys a strong sense of community among students and faculty. We provide a diverse array of vibrant, intellectually challenging courses for undergraduates and graduates alike. A consistently large cohort of 300 plus undergraduate majors is trained across subfields, enjoying small class sizes and wide access to leading researchers in their respective fields. Full-time faculty contribute superb mentoring and hands-on advising. Students find that our program provides one of the most flexible and well-rounded undergraduate majors in the liberal arts, and that it is an unrivaled preparation for professional study (law, business, medicine) and a springboard to careers in wide ranging fields.
We have a relatively small, highly selective, and top-ranked graduate program that trains scholars for the PhD (students are not admitted for a terminal master's degree) and which gives students a high level of support. Graduate students are increasingly pursuing interdisciplinary research and are encouraged to develop course work that expands interaction within the department and across departments and schools in the university.
Faculty, staff, students, and alums live their values through community service at the University, in St. Louis, and around the world. This kind of service is not unusual among anthropologists, who have direct information about the challenges facing the people with whom they work and live. Professor Geoff Childs, PhD, for example, is involved with Nepal SEEDS, a nonprofit organization that supports traditional medical practitioners, women’s health programs, and a secular education system that promotes the indigenous language. Other examples include, Professor Shanti Parikh, PhD, 2011 co-recipient of Washington University's Rosa L. Parks Award and Professor Lewis Wall, PhD, MD, founder of the Worldwide Fistula Fund. More news about Washington University students, faculty and alumni can be found in the annual department newsletter.