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Why Study Anthropology?

The range of variations in human ways of life is staggering. The study of anthropology is
holistic -- the study of humans as biological, cultural, and social beings. Anthropologists study
alternative ways in which human beings meet their needs and examine overall integration and
dissonance within a culture. Refusing to reduce the primary motives of human behavior to any
single factor-whether it be biological, economic, structural, political, technological, or
geographic-anthropologists analyze the interrelationship of all of these factors in trying to
understand human behavior.

Anthropologists study the person both as an individual and as a member of society.


Anthropologists study, for example, religion and belief systems, the arts, music, gender roles,
politics and work. Because of the breadth of topical interests, anthropology, it is said, is both a
social science and a humanity. We share the "big questions" with other disciplines: Who are we?
Why are we here? What is our purpose? By looking at other cultures and societies,
anthropologists are able to reflect on various ways of being human. Thus, anthropology teaches
respect for other ways of life, while using a variety of cross-cultural human behavior as a mirror
from which we can reflect on the things we do in our own culture.

Multiculturalism and diversity are the very essence of anthropology. The field is not only
innately cross-cultural, but global in its scope. Anthropology also has extraordinary disciplinary
breadth. The field of archeology has much in common with history, as it uses artifacts from the
past to reconstruct the cultural character of a society. Physical anthropology is very closely
aligned with biology, emphasizing physical characteristics of human beings and investigating
the evidence for human evolution. Linguistics is a field of anthropology focusing on analysis of
language development and language variations. Socio-cultural anthropology studies culture
and the relationship of culture to other aspects of social life; it shares much in common with
each of the other social sciences, and especially sociology. Many sociological theories have
evolved from anthropological research and vice versa. Applied anthropology uses
anthropological knowledge to solve contemporary problems ranging from world hunger to AIDS
prevention. Anthropologists may be involved in a wide range of activities such as research of
evolutionary theory, addressing gender inequality in society, solving a homicide case in a
forensics lab, international trade, advertising, museum and historical preservation. Other than
the broad introductory course, the anthropology courses at Hanover are socio-cultural in focus.

http://sociology.hanover.edu/studying/whyanthropology.php

Why Study Sociology?

Individuality and independence are highly valued in our society. It is sometimes easy to forget
that everything we do, including our private thoughts and fantasies, grows out of or is shaped
through our interactions with others, especially others close to us. Whether we like it or not we
are born into groups and spend most of our social lives in those same groups. All of us
assimilate, at least in part, the perspectives of these groups and thereby acquire our language,
values, attitudes, beliefs and sense of identity. The most basic sociological premise is that
humans are social beings, shaped in many ways by the groups to which we belong. Whether
they be families, athletic teams, clubs (such as sororities and fraternities), religious groups,
socioeconomic classes, complex bureaucratic organizations, or nations, much of human life is
guided by group norms. Much of human life is also consumed with conflicts between groups,
each of which tries to defend its own self interests.

As a discipline, Sociology involves the description


and explanation of social structures and
processes. These range from two-person
interactions to relations between large social
institutions, such as politics and the economy, to
relations between nations. Sociology also ranges
across time and serves as a useful complement to
history. Changes in the social arrangements that
people create are of special interest to the
sociologist for a number of reasons.

First, Sociology increases our understanding of


ourselves and our society by providing us with
concepts that describe and explain our social
creations and how they influence us. We learn who we are and why, and how we are similar to
and different from people with different social arrangements. Second, exposure to Sociology
opens our minds, prompts us to review the taken-for-granted, and encourages us to entertain
alternatives. Third, it is important to be aware that the organization and institutions of our
society evolved through social processes operating in a social environment. We need to learn
how to collect and analyze representative information about society and its members rather
than to rely on information we encounter haphazardly. We also need ideas that we can use to
classify social behavior systematically and ideas that we can use to explain the trends and
relationships observed. Sociology addresses all of these issues and more.

Sociological research also reveals the multifaceted nature of social reality, its multiple causes
and multiple effects, and provides us with sets of methods suitable for unraveling the
complexities of social life. Sociological study helps us to determine which steps are most likely
to lead toward a given goal and provides ways of assessing the extent to which a given goal
may be realized. In these ways Sociology helps us move beyond common sense to describe and
explain more accurately the classes of social behavior and the relations between them. In short,
the study of Sociology gives a view of social reality that fosters an understanding of social
arrangements.

http://sociology.hanover.edu/studying/whysociology.php