What is Anthropology?


Anthropology is the study of human diversity in the distant past and the present and teaches us to recognize the remarkable array of circumstances in which human beings live their lives and make meaning from them.

But anthropology is more than just a catalog of diversity. There is an oft-cited phrase that anthropology “makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar.” What does this mean? At the very least, it means stepping back and seeing ourselves the way others might see us – a shift in perspective that is foundational to human empathy and humility.

Anthropology also invites deeper analysis of behaviors that we might think we fully understand but that have histories and complexities that only reveal themselves to careful investigation. We seek to understand the full context of people's actions and all that they impact. This is why we do long term field research in local languages, and excavate artifacts in their complicated contexts -- to understand social life in all its richness and depth..... Read more.


Standing Committee for a Supportive Departmental Community

On May 29 and June 5, 2020, our community was deeply shaken by two articles published in the Harvard Crimson that reported allegations of misconduct and inappropriate behavior by faculty associated with the Anthropology Department. The alleged misconduct is an affront to our core values as a department and our mission to educate tomorrow’s scholars and leaders. While the mechanisms for investigating the allegations and imposing sanctions fall outside the purview of the department, there is much that we can do to strengthen our department, rebuild trust within our community, and empower our most vulnerable members to speak out. We are fully committed to the support and success of our students, and we are dedicated to repairing and rebuilding our relationships over the long term to create a more supportive and equitable departmental culture.

Here we establish a Standing Committee with representatives from all departmental constituencies – undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, and alumni – to conduct a year-long self-study that will allow us to identify our strengths and weaknesses and make meaningful and lasting departmental improvements so that we may reach our full potential. Within this standing committee, we have formed eight subcommittees whose mission is to evaluate in detail the core aspects of our departmental structure, processes, history, and trajectory, and to recommend measures that will enable us to strengthen our mission and to foster a supportive departmental community in which our students, faculty, and staff can thrive.