Anthropology: A Love Story

19 thoughts on “Anthropology: A Love Story”

  1. To me, anthropology represents a worldview that emphasizes contextual and holistic ideas of culture, circumstance, space and time. It is often easy to look at someone or something in a vacuum and pass a certain judgment on that person or thing from one’s own perspective. The discipline of anthropology allows me to see beyond these partial judgments and holistically examine people and practices keeping in mind that which constitutes my own perspective as well as the perspective of the practitioners in question.

    Furthermore, I think that anthropology allows for a strong level of reflection. By looking at the practices of another person or culture, I can better understand myself and my own culture, especially those notions that may otherwise go unnoticed. This encourages me to question the very assumptions and foundations that are often taken for granted in our society and better understand the complex manifestations of inequality. By comprehensively evaluating these problems, we can address creating better solutions that are long-sighted. All in all, an anthropological perspective provides a more complete way for me to see the world and hopefully change it for the better.

  2. I fell in love with anthropology at a young age. I wasn’t aware of this field, until a few years ago.

    I did some weird stuff as a kid. I was about 8 years old, and I would collect road kill, bury it, then wait weeks to months because I was curious about the rate of decomposition and the bones. Yes. Totally weird… I would also attempt to make stone flakes sharp enough to cut the apples in our backyard.

    I dug hundreds of holes, searching for pottery and arrowheads. Before I knew how to read, I’d stare at pictures of ancient Egyptian artifacts in high school history books (dad is a teacher). I’d do this for hours, always fascinated with mummified remains, curious as to what that particular persons story was. Who were they? How did they live? When were they alive? What did they eat? Etc.

    I discovered anthropology through my love of archaeology, and took a couple of college courses. That’s when I discovered physical anthropology. I fell in love all over again! The fact that my brain soaked up everything I learned in my physical anthropology class so easily, told me that this was my calling. I completed all my major prep courses for transfer within the first year and a half. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me. I know that I love anthropology, but now I need to figure out which career path is best for my field of study.

    Thank you for allowing us to share!

  3. I’ve always been a curious being. Punk rock culture really set me up for my love of anthropology early on. My thirst for knowledge grew more and more. Some peices of information always lead to others. It’s almost infinite! From physical to cultural there’s always something extremely interesting.
    So I took some anthropology classes in college and loved it! I didn’t always agree with certain teachings on the physical side but I loved to learn nonetheless. The more I read the more I researched the more I fell in love with anthropology. There is something for everyone in this type of study from the unknown esoteric knowledge to understanding different cultures past and present. Anthropology is a blast and never gets boring for me. I believe if more people studied anthropology the world wouldn’t be as closed minded as it could be. It really opens you up. Knowledge is a turn on !

  4. I love Anthropology because I am eager to understand and share many forms of humanity. I love anthropology because it teaches us to broaden our perspectives, to provoke close encounters with whom we consider “other” and them who consider us “different”, because it builds bridges and demands both courage and fascination, to overcome barriers of fears and stereotypes, to share and explore cultures, tastes, the poetry of life in the “elsewhere space” while nurturing deep humility. I love Anthropology because without it, I wouldn’t stand where I stand, I wouldn’t be who I am, I wouldn’t know who I know. I love Anthropology.

  5. I love anthropology because it gives me the tools to envision a world of peace, cooperation, and inclusivity, and the opportunity to share those tools and that vision with students, colleagues, and more.

  6. In one of A. L. Becker’s essays, he’s talking about the kind of wordplay used in Javanese puppet theater, and he compares it to the feminist alternate derivation of the word “history.” Yes, we know it comes from French histoire, from Latin historia; but at the same time, “history = his + story” has a different kind of substance that is no less real to the community where it originated, and that can enrich our own understanding of the world, helping us to notice that traditional historiography privileges male perspectives. What stuck with me about Becker’s explanation is this: he doesn’t say that the word “really” has derivation 1, but “some people say” it has derivation 2. Instead, he treats them as equally valid alternatives that come from different cultural contexts with different uses and different standards of evidence.

    What I love about anthropology is that it requires us to enter our participants’ communities with this kind of humility. They are always the experts on their own lives and cultures, and our task is to come in with readiness to learn, and with gratitude for the opportunity.

  7. Mohamed Magid is the Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia; he was expected to recite the adhaan, the Muslim call to prayer at Washington National Cathedral during an interfaith religious service amongst the inauguration festivities last month. Imam Magid was heavily criticized by members of the Muslim community for participating in the service, where Donald Trump and Mike Pence were present. However, instead of reciting the adhaan, Imam Magid flipped the script and recited two verses from the Qur’an along with the English translations.

    The first verse Imam Magid recited was from Surah Al Hujarat (49:13):
    “O mankind, We have created you from a single male and female, Adam and Eve, and made you into nations and tribes and communities, that you may know each another. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you, and God has all knowledge.”

    The second verse he recited was from Surah Al Rum (30:22):
    “And among the signs of God is the creation of heaven and earth, and the variation in your languages and your colors. Verily, in that are Signs for those who know.”

    I can only guess why Imam Magid picked these particular verses to recite at the interfaith service, but I imagine it was his act of resistance. Interestingly enough, it’s these same verses, along with Prophet Muhammad’s (S) final sermon that encouraged me to major in anthropology. The following passage is my favorite part of the Prophet’s (S) last sermon:

    “…an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”

    When you think about it, this passage is essentially saying don’t be ethnocentric. I first learned about ethnocentrism, the idea that one’s own culture, beliefs, or practices is superior to others, and its cousin, cultural relativism, when I haphazardly signed up for Stephen Selka’s introduction to cultural anthropology class at Tulane University the semester after Hurricane Katrina.

    Dr. Selka’s class, among others at Tulane, was why I decided to major in anthropology because it helped me make sense of the world I was living in, which was chaotic at the time. It helped me understand how history is connected to the present, it made the strange familiar, and the familiar strange, it connected the global with the local, and it was one of the few classes at Tulane where I felt comfortable being me.

    But I’m not afraid to critique anthropology either. We learn and teach about cultural relativism and ethnocentrism in our introductory classes, but somehow it’s forgotten later on in our discipline.

    The past three years, I have been doing research for my dissertation in New Orleans, a blue dot in a sea of red. Right next door to New Orleans is Jefferson Parish, where my parents live and where I grew up and graduated from high school; it’s also the parish in Louisiana that had the highest number of Trump voters. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people who participated in my dissertation research voted for Trump; I also know that I can’t homogenize everyone who voted for Trump into one group.

    As a visible Muslim woman of color, my colleagues often ask about my experience of conducting field work in Louisiana. Sure, I can point out the different forms of racism I see. But New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, or the places where I conduct my research are not where I experience the most microaggressions. The places where I experience the most microaggressions are in academia and at academic conferences, including the AAA annual meetings. Think about that for a second.

    Over the years, I’ve learned telling racists directly that they’re racists isn’t productive. But trying to understand why people think the way they do does get you somewhere. It’s a process, time-consuming, and not an easy one. I wish anthropologists would go back to the basics of what they teach in introductory classes and apply that at conferences instead of making assumptions about me, just as I wish my Muslim brothers and sisters would give Imam Magid the benefit of the doubt for participating in last month’s inauguration.

  8. Twas’ back in 2002, I was in 10th standard, there we studied about the story of one Anthropologist. That’s how I fell in love with Anthropology . And when I completed B.Sc I got a chance to study Anthropology and there I find myself interest in anthropology, the more I study, the more I did fieldwork , the more I love anthropology.

  9. I love finding out that the ordinary and mundane are so often extraordinary and exceptional. When Warner Lambert said, some years ago, that they wanted to understand oral care in six (or was it seven) countries, I was thinking, “what possible extraordinary things are there to learn about brushing your teeth?” After sending out some crack ethnographers to Mexico, Sweden, Japan, and England (now, there’s a story), and after a root canal at the Beijing University dental school, I fell in love again with anthropology’s close-up daily-life-lens. Families in Sweden and Japan brush their kid’s teeth for (and with) them. Chinese dental school professionals–all women–wore tennis shoes to lighten the day-long stand-up work on concrete floors. Mexican barrio kids brushed at least three times a day, often at the neighborhood tap. And new friends and colleagues at Warner Lambert joined us in the field, delighting in home cooked food from local respondents in Beijing and Tokyo. Anthropology is delight. What’s not to love?

  10. My love for anthropology is rooted in a desire to solve problems by first understanding them from every angle. We can’t develop effective solutions to pressing issues like climate change, or remedy issues with our criminal justice system without fully examining the cultural conditions that got us to this point in the first place. Anthropology provides a framework for creative and comprehensive problem solving that is, in my opinion, unlike any other discipline. It changes the way you see the world.

  11. Anthropology offers me insights into the past & present! It always amazes me how we adapted to planet earth with so much variety of worldview, language & culture….I fell in love with anthropology back in the 1980’s.

  12. I love anthropology because it is a discipline that embraces difference. Growing up, most of the people I was surrounded by saw the world in black and white, and that never felt quite comfortable to me. So when I first encountered anthropology in my sophomore year in college (I had never heard of the discipline before then), I was introduced to a discipline that embraced complexity, cross-cultural difference, and empathy. This was a very powerful moment in my life, as I found a set of tools I could take with me to understand and navigate all contexts of social life.

  13. When I was a young child, my family moved from a small inland town in Sweden to the big cosmopolitan city of London. This was a formative change for my little sisters and me. Memories from this formative period are plenty and colorful. I remember sitting by the window in our apartment in the Docklands area, looking with amazement at the congested morning traffic, cloaked in heavy fog. I recall my first day at the East End primary school—the friendly schoolmates and the firm, yet welcoming, teacher, Mrs. Wright, and how I learnt my first English words out of sheer necessity. Perhaps most of all, I remember the gift my parents gave me on my seventh birthday soon after our arrival: a book entitled, My First Journey Around the World (Swedish original: Min första resa runt jorden). This educational journey in text and pictures gave me a peephole into the world. It fed my fantasy and imagination and broadened the context of my cultural encounters in the London East End neighborhood school with a new language, new habits, and other perspectives. It opened my eyes to the world and invited me to engage with it, in all its beauty and complexity. This is, I believe, where my love story with anthropology began. And it’s a never-ending story.

  14. What I love about anthropology is the perspective. The urge to go deep to seek understanding of people and places that goes beyond the surface. It sounds cliché, but the holism, respect for difference, attention to history and context, are truly important and meaningful elements of anthropology. And, perhaps, above all, the recognition that social relations are fundamental to understanding human beings, is what I value about anthropology. This was brought home to me early on when I first went to Kenya on a study abroad program in college in 1986. The country was recovering from the devastating drought of 1984. As part of my program, I spent a month with a pastoralist community—the Gabbra– in the far north, near the Ethiopian border. I talked with men and women in the community about what they had done during the drought. They explained that their community was organized into kinship-based sections, and that they had a council with representatives from all the sections that organized and coordinated migrations during the drought. In this way, they were able to make best use of the available pasture and water. Social relations and cooperation got them through this very difficult period. That hooked me. I wanted to understand more about those kinds of social relationships–cooperative, conflictual—and in between—and the difference that they make for human communities. The anthropological perspective, that’s what I love about anthropology.

  15. I did a college course over the summer and was blown away by the breadth but also the depth of the subject. It gave a name to my curiosity behind why people did and do what they did and do.
    I now can’t wait until summer to do another in the US and university when I can finally do it with archeology!

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