ANTHROPOLOGY AND GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP
Before “globalization,” anthropology was a global science. Over the past century and a half it has become known as the comprehensive study of the human condition throughout the world, past and present, socio-cultural and physical. We began with the study of other peoples, and from others’ perspectives looked back at ourselves. After mapping the global distribution of peoples “without history,” anthropology moved from the comparative study of cultural data-sets in their geographical distribution to research on particular dimensions of cultural process in order to clarify the various historical, political and economic dynamics that created the global interrelationships that earlier research often obscured. In both the contemporary world and in the past we can reconstruct, we have always worked comparatively across populations, cultural traditions and historical periods as we document the particularities of human life. Now that geographical regions are no longer sufficient guides to cultural difference and differentiation, today’s global citizens must possess the intellectual tools for understanding and contributing to the full range of socio-cultural and historical complexity that surrounds us. Anthropology provides an overarching approach that produces real data for these purposes.
Anthropology has been called the natural history of humankind – from the beginning down to the globalizing present. As populations have grown, anthropological interests have spread. We continue to value comprehensive training, but we now focus on particular dimensions: the prehistoric into the historical (in Archaeology); the evolutionary, genetic and biological (in Biological Anthropology); and the social, cultural, ethno-historical and linguistic (in Social, Cultural, and Linguistic Anthropology). Archaeologists reconstruct the past, from the earliest prehistory down to recent history, where it enriches the work of historians. Biological Anthropologists investigate evolutionary origins and continuities, and modern genetic and biological diversity. Socio-Cultural and Linguistic Anthropologists focus on contemporary processes of cultural and linguistic practice. Our work and methods transcend the intellectual boundaries that have segregated the humanities, the social and natural sciences, and the professional schools. We engage both theory and practice. As we observe, record, analyze, and interpret people’s reactions, motivations and understandings in particular situations, we develop arguments that move beyond the particulars of place in order to address broader problems across historical and geographical space. Because the world – as well as our understanding of it – keeps changing, we also continue to update and develop our methods and the theory that guides our research and structures our curriculum.
Anthropology is the key to the contemporary curriculum. Our courses are cross-listed in a wide range of other departments: areal, such as African Studies, Africana Studies, East Asian Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Near East Studies, and South Asian Studies; disciplinary, such as English, History, Linguistics, Biology, Psychology, and Religious Studies; and several professional schools, including the Schools of Education, Medicine, and Design, the School of Social Policy and Practice, the Law School, Wharton, the Nursing School, the Annenberg School for Communication, and The Center for Public Health. We also have joint degree programs with numerous other departments and schools, and we offer distinct concentrations, such as Medical Anthropology and Global Health, and courses that go beyond the disciplinary boundaries of anthropology, on topics such as Globalization. Our individual research topics bear on a wide variety of modern issues, such as corporations and finance, violence and social control, conflict and negotiation, media and communication, migration and demographics, science and technology, race and gender, HIV and homelessness, food and health, heritage and identity, poverty and rights, and political and economic development, and our research data feed directly into our courses.
The Penn Anthropology Program is based on the proposition that in order to responsibly and constructively engage the contemporary world, to be a global citizen, you must understand: 1) the historical trajectories that have given rise to the different cultural and social forms of the modern world; 2) logics of biological change and diversity; and, 3) the rubrics of social, economic, and political interaction as they shape contemporary human life. The Program equips students with the intellectual skills they need to work in the contemporary world. For this reason alone, whether students plan to pursue a career in business, government, medicine, law, or any other profession, a background in anthropology is increasingly valuable.
Anthropology is the involved social science. It is both scientifically rooted and actively engaged. It moves with the times. It makes a difference, and it produces global awareness.