When someone says the word anthropology, most people think of ancient tribes, lost civilizations or the evolution of man. The dictionary defines anthropology as the study of where human beings began and their cultures worldwide. Besides culture, anthropologists also look at how and why people change. While anthropology is the study of humans, it isn't necessarily the study of only ancient people but also includes people and culture in the modern world, how people interact, communicate and exist in their environment.
A career in anthropology can be really rewarding and amazing says Assistant Professor Andrea Walsh, Ph.D., from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria.
Walsh's background is visual anthropology, how we see ourselves through visual media including film and art. For Walsh, throughout her career, "the privilege of witnessing the production of culture in an everyday way is an incredible thing to watch". For the last four years, Walsh has been working with a native band in the Okanagan. The project involved researching Okanagan children's drawings of the 30s and 40s and bringing information back to the community. The project included researching the history of drawings through archives in museums and libraries and trying to find out about the school and the kids that went there.
Being an anthropologist is much like being a detective when it comes to finding information about people. Walsh explains that, "what we've done with the community through mutual work and working with the elders is bring information that had been archived in museums and libraries elsewhere and give it to the next generation as their own cultural knowledge and history was pretty amazing."
In addition to her research Walsh is also an Assistant Professor and sees students sign up for anthropology for the wrong reasons. She cautions that, "a lot of people go in to anthropology to help people but you can't go in with a mercy attitude." Anthropology is about observing, going in to a community or someone else's space and being able to adapt to their way, even if it is different.
The field of anthropology is often misunderstood because it is such a huge area of study. From forensic to linguistics to biological to archaeological, anthropology has many specialized fields that can cover a few million years of culture, from the time of the first Homo sapien over two million years ago to modern day man.
If you're considering an anthropology program, most post secondary institutions provide four areas of specialization: sociological, biological, linguistical and archeological. From here you can choose more specialized areas. "Because anthropology is so interdisciplinary, says Walsh, there are very few anthropologists that work in all of those areas, " electives tend to reflect their interest as to the type of anthropology they are doing".
Social or cultural anthropology is the largest field where researchers help make sense of behaviours in different societies. What might seem odd or bizarre in one culture might be considered normal in another. For example, tattoos and piercing are