Rotting skeletons. Stories of long dead people. Abandoned ruins. That’s what students and professors talk about in the Anthropology Department. What is anthropology?
It is, says Michael Rogers, anthropology chairperson, a social science that studies humanity around the globe, as far back as when our early ancestors more closely resembled chimpanzees than the modern Homo sapiens of today. That’s from four different perspectives: archaeology, linguistics, biology and culture.
If that explanation was difficult to wrap your head around, you’re not alone. Rogers put it best: “We lose people in the second line of the Tweet.”
Representation of anthropology leaves much to be desired in both news and fiction. People frame anthropology to be the exploits of the action-adventure series, “Indiana Jones.” However, while movies may not be a good representation of anthropology, they can be inspirations.
Samantha Tonan, president of the Anthropology Society, says that she watched “The Mummy” as a child, which was her first introduction into archaeology. After watching that movie, Tonan, a sophomore anthropology major, says: “That’s what I wanted to do.”
Rogers, too, discovered his passion for archaeology in his adolescence. He recalls how he wandered his neighborhood after school, looking for discarded scraps of other people’s lives. Little did he know then that he was practicing how to find and analyze artifacts.
Rogers, in his chair position, pushes campus recognition for anthropology. He has hosted several events for students to share what anthropology has to offer, including an Archaeology Day during fall semesters.
Additionally, anthropology hosts an open house that has been especially important, giving professors and students a chance to share their research and discuss interesting classes for the next semester.
“We’re trying to increase students’ awareness of what [anthropology] is,” says Rogers.
Tonan says that the event gets students interested, and they ask questions about how to get involved with the major. The open house, along with its tables, flyers and posters, offers students a glimpse into a major they may not have heard of before or had never thought of exploring.
“One thing that’s so important about doing events is the department is fantastic…it deserves recognition,” Tonan says.
Weeks of effort are required to organize these events throughout the semester. Tonan says that she feels empowered by and grateful to the department for opportunities to spread her love of anthropology and wanting to give back to it.
Annually, the department hosts a pottery smash event before finals in May. Tonan says that pottery was crafted specifically for this fundraising event. Students smash the pottery to release stress and achieve catharsis by destroying it.
Cooperating with other departments is also an option to gain more student interest. As a vast social science, anthropology lends itself to supporting or being supported by other subjects.
“We’re always looking to work with other groups,” Rogers says.
Rogers points to the Multicultural Center as a potential partner. The displays of dance, language, fashion, cuisine and festivities that the Center spotlights every semester are all aspects of anthropology. Students and faculty from the anthropology department could be useful to aid in educating others about the rich histories of these cultures.
Tonan encourages all students to explore some facet of anthropology, through taking a single class or declaring a major or minor in the study.
“If you really enjoy things like human culture, [anthropology is] so rewarding,” she says.
All of this starts with a single day, an open house or a course. The anthropology department welcomes any student who expresses curiosity or interest to see what the field of study is about.
“It’s not just about archaeology,” says Rogers. “It’s about interacting with others in a broad, global way.”
By Sabrina Rookasin
Contributed to Crescent from JRN 320, Writing Magazine Articles I with Prof. Jodi Amatulli