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Anthropology

Understanding cultural diversity in a changing  world

Anthropologists examine the diversity and unity of human experiences in a complex, interconnected world by immersing themselves in people’s lives in different communities.

The world’s biggest problems are global in nature. They affect everyone, but in different ways. To solve these kinds of problems, the world needs people who understand humanity in all its diversity, complexity, and potential. Since its establishment in 1925, the Discipline of Anthropology has maintained a reputation for its critical insights into the contemporary world, for the breadth and variety of our ethnographic research, and for our outstanding commitment to the training of postgraduate research students.

Our members and students use in-depth fieldwork and ethnographic description to capture the perspectives and experiences of people across a wide range of situations and communities in which people live today, from the global scale of transnational movements and organizations, to the rhythms of life in urban environments, rural landscapes, and nation states.

The Discipline seeks to represent the breadth and diversity of contemporary social and cultural anthropology today. We have long focused our research and teaching on the regions of Oceania, Indigenous Australia, South-East Asia, and Latin America. We are continuously deepening and expanding our ethnographic and theoretical inquiries within and beyond these geographical settings.

Students in anthropology encounter and learn to analyze the influence of culture and the unseen dimensions of social life through the comparative study of different societies and situations. Topics investigated by our students include economic systems, gender and sexuality, experiences of illness and healing, the nature of racial and ethnic identities, questions of poverty and development, environmental and social justice struggles, and the local and global effects of climate change.

Undergraduate 

*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.  

Research

We offer four research degrees in Anthropology and you will need to have a substantial background in this area to be eligible to enrol. 

As a part of the Masters of Social Justice, students grapple with the challenges of achieving sustainable human development on local, national, and global scales. This concentration brings the unique perspective of anthropology and its methodologies to bear on practical problems and the policies and programs that address them.

Postgraduate 

 

Our research

Our members and students study questions and carry out research that connects with one or more of these major themes in anthropology:

Diversity is the defining characteristic of humanity. Each society creates its own alternative way of living and being in the world as an expression of its unique values. How we each do this, and how and why a society is able to sustain its own way of life, is examined both through sustained ethnographic research and through dialogue with many other social science and humanities disciplines, including history, philosophy, political theory, critical race studies, and Indigenous studies. Our theories of culture, mind, and experience and our methodological frameworks of relativism and interpretivism serve as foundations for research in our other themes.

For generations, anthropologists have studied the ways humans live with and transform the environment. Today, anthropologists increasingly center their inquiries on the roots and effects of human industrial activity on the planet, in an epoch known as the “Anthropocene.” Our research continues the discipline’s historical focus on the impact of environmental change on small-scale, marginalised and rural communities around the world, and also explores the larger transnational dynamics of environmental degradation and activist movements. We seek to understand the perspectives and experiences of actors involved in industrial processes, as well as the people, politics, laws, social movements and more-than-human discourses that produce and challenge the Anthropocene.

How are capitalism, socialism, and democracy reproduced, experienced and contested in the household, the school, the factory, the office, the prison, the rural village, the urban slum or the street? When these ideas enter into settings like these, they often encounter alternatives, and the encounter itself also gives rise to new possibilities. The ethnographic study of systems of value, forms of power, and structures of domination reveals capacities for continuity and transformation. By focusing on the small things, anthropology reveals how big things not only grow, but how they decline and how, amidst it all, humans and their relationships prevail and form the bedrock of any social system.

Wellbeing embodies physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as the pursuit of a meaningful and happy life. However, healthcare around the world continues to face challenges such as ageing populations, rising chronic diseases, emerging infectious diseases, and growing health inequality.

Our members are interested in how human beings understand themselves and others as embodied, gendered beings, who are born, get sick, and die. We explore these questions through research on infant and maternal health, indigenous disadvantage, childhood development, poverty and malnutrition and the cultures of death, dying and mortuary rituals in Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Indigenous Australia. We conduct leading research on critical health issues contributing new perspectives to multidisciplinary research and to local and global health policies.

Our people

Honorary Senior Lecturer Gaynor Macdonald

Events

For a full listing of our upcoming events, please visit the School's events calendar.

We hold regular seminars on Thursdays for the general public, staff, students, visiting anthropologists and colleagues from related fields to exchange ideas and discuss new research. Join our mailing list for upcoming seminars and other events.

Discipline Chair

Dr Ryan Schram

School of Social and Political Sciences

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