Anthropology courses offer a fascinating perspective on human experiences and a broad exploration of human issues relevant to other fields in the humanities, sciences, business, and medicine. Our faculty experts each bring unique specializations, which include cultural and political organization, biology and human adaptation, language and symbolism, archaeology, and materiality, and medical anthropology. Geographical specializations include cultures of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.
To search for a class and to view dozens of course descriptions for all anthropology courses please visit classsearch.nd.edu.
We offer dozens of small and medium-sized courses each semester at all levels, including the introductory courses highlighted below.
ANTH 10110 Mysteries of the Past
Can the secrets of the past help us solve our problems in the future? This course uncovers the clues that our ancestors left behind in ruins, abandoned cities, pyramids, and on the earth itself. We will discuss key issues facing humanity today through the lens of the past. How prone are we as a species to degrading our environment? How flexible are we in the face of environmental change?
Are humans basically violent, and are we destined to keep killing each other? These are some of the big questions that can be addressed using the archaeological record. The anthropological and archaeological study of past failure (and success) can help us understand the urgent challenges of our own age.
ANTH 20301 Blood, Guts, and Glory: The Anthropology of Sports
The anthropology of sports can help us gain valuable insights into broader social and cultural phenomena, the role of ritual in society, and illuminate how sports have been used to bring people together, but also to exclude people. We will begin by studying the evolutionary origins and non-human examples of play. We will then move into the prehistoric and historic foundations for sport. We will also discuss how people change their bodies, in good ways and dangerous ways, for a greater chance at success, and how those bodies are often more harshly judged by society. Finally, we will explore the ways in which contemporary sporting and fan practices are culturally ordered and/or challenge social norms.
Drawing on case studies from around the world, we will pay special attention to questions of gender, race, genetics, nationality, health, equality, and human variation. In addition, students will be encouraged to think critically about their own sporting experiences, both as active participants and as fans, and how sports impact their lives.
ANTH 30390 The European Dream
This course offers an ethnographically grounded understanding of contemporary European cultures and societies. We start by presenting a brief history of the idea of Europe. Then, we define its geographical focus: where are the boundaries of Europe? Are Israel and Turkey part of Europe? Who gets to decide? Are there European Muslims? We will then read recent works focusing on selected regions and on diverse urban populations. We will explore and discuss socio-cultural facets of European everyday life; trends and challenges in technology, the environment, popular culture, demography, and politics; and the diversity of urban/rural, north/south, and more generally intra-European ways of life.
ANTH 20201 Fundamentals of Biological Anthropology
This course approaches human evolution from a theoretical point of view that combines both biological and cultural processes into a cohesive bio-cultural model. It begins by tracing the development of modern evolutionary theory and the place of evolutionary studies in anthropology, especially in the sub-field of bioanthropology. These concepts provide the framework for understanding the many lines of evidence that anthropologists use to explore and explain human evolution. These include studies of our primate relatives, through the intricacies of the fossil record, to archaeological evidence for the invention of material culture from the simplest stone tools to the complex cultural world that we live in today. Modern human variation can only be explained as the result of evolutionary forces acting on the complex interplay of biology and culture over millions of years. We continue to be affected by these forces, and this course not only provides information about where we came from, it also provides the scientific backgrounds to help us understand where we might be going as our species continues to evolve.
ANTH 20202 Fundamentals of Archaeology
This course is an introduction to the methods, goals, and theoretical concepts of archaeology, with a primary focus on anthropological archaeology practiced in the Middle East, North America, and Europe. The field of archaeology is broadly concerned with material culture (at times combined with textual information) that can be employed to generate interpretations about past human societies. The challenge of this social science is to interpret past societies and anthropological behavior using the fragmentary, but nonetheless rich and complex, data base of the archaeological record.
Case studies of survey, excavation, and analytical techniques will focus on recent or ongoing investigations of archaeological sites in North America, Central America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
ANTH 10203/20203 Global Cultural Worlds: Fundamentals of Social and Cultural Anthropology
This course introduces students to the field of social-cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropologists are primarily interested in exploring issues of human cultural diversity across cultures and through time. This course will explore key theoretical, topical, and ethical issues of interest to cultural anthropologists. We will examine diverse ways in which people around the globe have constructed social organizations (such as kinship, and political and economic systems) and cultural identities (such as gender, ethnicity, nationality, race, and class) and we will consider the impact of increasing globalization on such processes. Throughout the course, we will consider how different anthropologists go about their work as they engage in research and as they represent others through the writing of ethnographies.
ANTH 20204 Fundamentals of Linguistic Anthropology
Language is fully embedded in human culture and society. It has both meaning and efficacy; that is, it both means things and does things. Our goal in this course is to become aware of some of the ways language functions in social life, often below the level of awareness of its users. Students will engage in a number of practical exercises that demonstrate some of the more astonishing features of language all around us. Topics include: the nature of language, including language origins, nonverbal communication, and electronic communication; language, culture, and thought (linguistic relativity); speech acts and what we do with words; conversational analysis; language and identity (class, race, gender); and language in the world (multilingualism, language endangerment and revitalization, language and education).
ANTH 40400 Perspectives in Anthropological Analysis
Anthropology attempts to make sense of an infinitely complicated world by organizing its observations, inquiries, and explanations. Some of these are grand, while others are modest. Still, all anthropological work involves some kind of analysis. All analysis stems from a view of what is basic and of what is related most centrally. This course introduces the most powerful analytic perspectives in the four subdisciplines of anthropology, preparing students to encounter and situate anthropological works of all sorts. The seminar format encourages student involvement not only in reading and writing but also in discussion and analysis of the works under consideration. Written and spoken assignments will permit students to try their hand at a wide range of anthropological practice. Required of all Anthropology majors. To provide a theoretical background for later courses, anthropology students and faculty highly recommend taking this course in Junior year.
ANTH 10311/20311 Health and Culture: Introduction to Medical Anthropology
This introductory course uses anthropological concepts to explore how different social groups experience health, illness, and healing. Our encounters with "traditional" healers, shamans, holistic practitioners, and medical doctors will prompt us to think about health and healing systems - including biomedicine or "Western" medicine - as social institutions, as well as sources of power and authority.
Through critical readings, class discussions, and hands-on health practices, we will also consider how transnational flows and historical inequities shape how we know and experience our bodies.
ANTH 10304/20304 Paleo Parenting
This course examines the origins, causes, environmental settings and cultural factors within which natural selective forces converged throughout human evolution to create the human infant, one of the most vulnerable, slowest developing, and energetically demanding mammal infants of all. We consider who the caregivers are, and how and why they might "share care" which was needed to keep our highly vulnerable infants and children alive, and to nurture them throughout their exceedingly long childhoods. Specifically, we trace the origins of modern parenting systems from their mammalian base paying special attention to the transaction between infant care practices themselves and how they relate to, if not depend on, the emergence of other characteristics that define us as human. These include bipedalism, empathy, learning, food sharing, and a "theory of mind". Here we will examine not only the unique roles that mothers and fathers and other important caregivers (allomothers) play but the underlying biology that both inclines that care but also responds to it biologically. We also emphasize the manner in which social values, ideologies, cultural expectations, social roles, and economic pressures assert critical influences on caregiver physiology and behavior.
ANTH 20307 The Politics of Health and Disease in Africa
When diseases emerge in Africa, the media presents a relentless tide of infection, with AIDS and Ebola, for example, claiming thousands of hapless victims of "backward" thinking about medicine. Western journalists express disbelief that people should suffer and die because they refuse to take appropriate steps to protect themselves, whether it is taking the sick to the hospital, or wearing condoms to avoid contracting HIV. Why are treatable or even preventable diseases claiming so many African lives, and why can't medical explanations change people's thinking about health and disease? This question is best tackled by anthropologists, who look beyond the simple medical answers to questions of sickness to examine the social and political frameworks in which people live. This course will introduce students to anthropology through an investigation of how Africans understand and experience illness, and why what appears to be simple medical knowledge is anything but simple when it arrives via untrustworthy politicians and foreigners. We will investigate the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa, examine why polio persists in Nigeria, and delve into the politics of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. In addition to infectious diseases, we will ask questions about the social experience of disability in Africa, and draw comparisons in all of these investigations with the west.
ANTH 40825 Gender and Health
This course examines the intersection of gender, health policy, and health care organization around the world. Gender is frequently a central contributing (though sometimes ignored) factor to people's health. Men and women have different biologies, and it thus stands to reason that their lives—social, economic, political, and biological—would have an effect on their health. What causes men to have different illnesses than women? What places one gender at greater risk for illness than the other? How do men and women across the world experience health policies? Are they affected and constrained by similar factors? How do their work lives affect their experiences with health? How is the body medically produced? How do poverty and development play a role in people's well-being? Through an inquiry-based approach, these and other topics will be addressed in this class.
ANTH 43100 Human Osteology
This is a lab-intensive course that explores the methods used in physical anthropology for studying individual human skeletal remains, as well as those employed to establish biocultural connections at the population level. Forensic techniques utilized in individual identification will be developed in the first third of the course.
ANTH 10109/20109 Introduction to Anthropology
This course deals with the nature of anthropology as a broad and diverse area of study. The anthropological study of humankind will be approached from the perspectives of physical anthropology; prehistory and archaeology; and linguistic anthropology and socio-cultural anthropology. The diversity of humankind will be explored in all its aspects from times past to the present.
ANTH 20323 The World in Rome: Pathways of Migration and Citizenship
How and why do some of the roads taken by migrants (including refugees) lead to Rome and Italy? What are the challenges faced by migrants upon their arrival, and on their path to citizenship? How does civil society intervene to mitigate those challenges, and to facilitate mutual integration and engagement? What are the distinctive features of Roman lay and Catholic approaches to migration? The course addresses such questions, building on contemporary Rome both as a compelling case study and as a gateway to the causes, lived experiences, and consequences of global migrations. Migrants' reception and integration happens at the local level, and in interaction with residents and existing communities. Attention to the realities of the host civil society is therefore fundamental: migration is not an issue that can simply be delegated to experts, bureaucrats, and politicians. Students investigate how the experience of the city is at the same time the experience of globalization, embodied in older and new residents' everyday life in the built environment; and they appreciate situated social engagement and its potentialities.
ANTH 23201 - Nasty, Brutish, and Short: The Archaeology of War
Organized violence between human communities is one of the unfortunate realities of human existence, and its causes and consequences have consequently been of great interest. Is war an inevitable outcome of human nature, or the result of specific social, historical, and environmental circumstances? Archaeology is uniquely positioned to provide concrete insights into the history of human violence through study of its direct material correlates?traumatic injuries on skeletons, fortified settlements, weaponry, and iconography. However, the archaeological record also documents the impacts of violence?reduced nutritional status and health, evidence for enslavement, cannibalism, and population decline?and can provide insights into why war occurred through examination of environment, population, and social conditions. In this course, we will explore what the archaeological record tells us about violence, human nature, and the veracity of claims for either a more violent or more peaceful past. We will examine theoretical models of war, anthropological studies of conflict, and archaeological case studies of both violent and peaceful times to understand the role that organized violence has played in human history and evolution.
ANTH 33210 Anthropology of Everyday Life
Have you ever pondered how people live(d) in a world without television, YouTube, iPhones, Lady GaGa, and cellphones? Why have bellbottoms come and gone twice in the last 50 years? Will we be forced to relive the fashion mistakes of the 1980s? What new stuff will people invent and sell next? In asking and answering these questions, we must focus on one underlying query: What does our stuff really say about who we are and who we want to be? This course combines lectures, discussions, and interactive small group activities to explore the nature and breadth of peoples' relationships with their things. We will investigate why and how people make and use different types of objects, and how the use of these material goods resonates with peoples' identities in the deep past, recent history, and today. Since everyone in the class will already be an expert user and consumer of things, we will consider how people today use material objects to assert, remake, reclaim, and create identities, and compare today's practices to those of people who lived long ago. Class members will learn about how anthropologists, including ethnographers (studying people today) and archaeologists (studying past peoples) think about and approach the material nature of our social, economic, and political lives. We will discuss why styles and technologies change through time, and why, in the end, there is very little new under the sun in terms of human behaviors and the way people produce and consume goods. The topical breadth of this workshop encompasses most social science disciplines, including history, economics, psychology, and anthropology, and resonates with classics, art history, and gender studies.
ANTH 33208/43208 Global Visual Culture
Visual anthropology involves the cross-cultural study of images in communication and the use of images as a method for doing anthropology. This course proceeds through a non-linear integration of visual themes including water, earth, light, fire, flesh and blood with analytical themes including aesthetics, poetics, violence, history, materiality and subjectivity. We explore still photography, film, and popular media in domains from ethnography, social documentary, war photojournalism, to high art. Students watch, read and write about, and generate visual products of their own in multiple media.