Anthropology is the study of the human species from a
unique disciplinary perspective. Anthropology studies the history and evolution
of past human cultures, present-day cultures and languages, and the evolution of
the human species. This broad emphasis unites the study of social and cultural
aspects of the human species with the biological, and so a typical question that
an anthropologist might ask would be, how did prehistoric people survive, given
the limitations of their bodies and their environments? What kind of society did
they live in, and what were their beliefs?
Cultural anthropologists, who are concerned with the
scope of present-day cultures, might ask questions like this: How are the
customs and beliefs of a certain group of people changing as they come in
contact with the post- industrial and scientifically-based societies of Europe,
North America, and East Asia? Why do some cultures change very little, and
others undergo dramatic protest, and even revolution? Anthropologists believe
that many of the events happening around us can be explained by understanding
culture, and how cultures and people relate to each other.
The practical value of anthropology goes beyond
broadening our understanding of the human species and how we have changed
biologically and culturally. For any person seeking to understand and deal with
other ethnic groups in our own society, or in cultures around the world, for
travel, business or scientific pursuits, a background in anthropology is very
valuable. A key component of anthropology is learning to know and respect other
cultures. Anthropology makes an important contribution toward the modern goals
of peaceful relations between nations and ethnic groups. Racial slurs and
put-downs, ethnic jibes, and religious prejudice are more than just impolite and
discourteous - they cannot be justified by anthropologists, who have learned to
understand the history and dynamics of human cultures.
As a result, college graduates with training in
anthropology are increasingly being sought after in business and industry, the
sciences, and government. Anthropology is an excellent minor that complements
any number of other university programs; the recently redesigned anthropology
minor at UWSP allows students to use courses in other disciplines to fulfill a
portion of the requirements for the minor.