Department of Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of human culture, society, and difference. The discipline emerged in the twentieth century as a critical response to explanations of human difference in terms of 'race'. Although Social and Cultural Anthropology shares much of its theory and method with Sociology and Cultural Studies, it remains distinct in its emphasis on human social diversity and long term field research - ethnography - in specific social settings. Other aspects of Anthropology, such as Ethno-linguistics and Prehistory, are taught in other departments of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The Faculty has the distinction of hosting the first Department of Anthropology in Australia, founded in 1925 by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. Many leading anthropologists in Australia and internationally have received their training at the University of Sydney.

Anthropology's study of difference allows students to adopt discerning views on major issues in the world today. As well as studying small-scale societies and groups, anthropology is concerned with the understanding of modern nation states and transnational relations. This includes diverse ethnic and religious conflicts, gender relations in different cultures, consumer and youth culture, migration and multiculturalism, capitalism's impact on isolated groups, poverty and international development, and the importance of Indigenous peoples in national and international politics.

Anthropology is a comparative discipline. It begins from the shared human condition on which difference is built. It is vitally concerned with human cognition and communication, with religion, representation and performance, and with the material bases of everyday social life.

Anthropology is, by definition, a critical discipline. A genuine understanding of another culture requires an awareness that one's own culture, and its 'taken for granted' attitudes, are only one possibility in the field of human diversity.



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