Anthropology Department Mission Statement

Anthropology is the study of the forms and functions of human diversity in the present and the past. Through intensive fieldwork and laboratory analysis, anthropologists compile detailed knowledge of particular populations, develop theoretical generalizations, and test theoretical claims against empirical evidence gathered in one or more locales. In its broad focus on humanity, anthropology is an integrative discipline, bringing together scholarly work in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

The Anthropology Department is committed to integrating the humanistic and scientific perspectives of our discipline while pursuing advanced research of the highest quality. We believe that research should be both rigorous and creative, and that it should be intrinsically connected to our activity as teachers. Moreover, research and teaching activities of Anthropology faculty members should resonate with and complement each other. We believe that our undergraduate and graduate students deserve outstanding classroom and practice-based training in four fields of archaeology, biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. A GW degree in anthropology should signal that the holder is experienced in synthesizing diverse kinds of data about human beings, a skill increasingly valued in a variety of professions as well as in academic settings.

Andaman Island healer

We encourage team-teaching and experimentation with new teaching methods and technologies because these approaches feed back directly into cutting-edge research. Similarly, we eagerly seek out professional collaboration within and beyond the University in order to create the kind of vibrant intellectual community that stands at the heart of any great research institution. Last but not least, we will continue to place our knowledge at the service of the local, national and international communities to support humanistic values and human rights.

Approved by the department faculty, fall 1998.


Images. Top:  Undergraduate Heather Dingwall doing survey work at the site of Ileret, Kenya, 2012.  Photo by undergraduate and Cotlow Award recipient Matt Ferry. Right: Traditional healer in the Andaman Islands, 2005.  Photo by Prof. Barbara Miller.

Working to Unmask Autism's Mystery

When Professor Roy Richard Grinker’s daughter was diagnosed with autism at age 2, he worked tirelessly to understand the mysteries surrounding this complex developmental disorder, which occurs in about one percent of the population. He quickly became an authority on the subject and wrote a critically acclaimed book that has stirred both interest and controversy.