Anthropology is a discipline that encompasses many subjects of study, all related to understanding human beings and their cultures. A student may organize a major in one or more of anthropology's principal fields or may combine a major in anthropology with one in another discipline.
The goal of anthropology is to understand and interpret cultural and biological differences among human societies, both past and present. The department at Rice includes diverse offerings in all major subfields of the subject. In archaeology there are courses on the rise and decline of past civilizations and cultures, as well as practical courses that permit students to participate in excavations. In biological anthropology there are courses in human evolution, human nutrition, and on the practice of medicine in our own and other cultures. Cultural anthropology surveys the diversity of world cultures, and offers courses on particular culture areas and provides critical perspectives on the study of contemporary culture changes globally.
Social anthropology courses focus upon the study of myth, ritual, and religion among traditional and complex societies and the idea of history as cultural myth. We also offer courses that explore the relationships between language, culture, and modes of thought in a number of societies. For those interested in the history of anthropology and its current concerns, there are a number of courses offered, including the art of ethnography and the study of the historical, political, and literary roots of anthropological ideas.
For undergraduates, the emphasis is on a comprehensive exposure to the range of interests that anthropologists pursue in their research.