Letter from the chair

Welcome to the homepage for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology!  This is  a good place to browse if you want to meet our faculty, see what we teach, learn  about our major, and find further information about the fields of anthropology and  sociology. 

 As academic disciplines, sociology and anthropology have different histories,  special theoretical traditions, and a different focus–anthropology more on the  societies and cultures outside Europe and the U.S., and sociology more on modern,  industrial societies and their problems.  But both disciplines share an interest  in understanding how societies work, the meaning of culture, the process of social  change, and the relationship between us as individuals and the groups and  societies of which we are a part.

We also share a concern about the social issues and problems we face today, both  in the United States and the world.  Why have American families changed so much in  the past couple of generations?  What role does religion play for people, and for  societies as a whole?  How does something as intensely personal as death and  grieving get shaped by the culture they’re found in?  How is immigration changing  the shape of race relations in America?  What’s hard about being a male in today’s  society, and what inequalities do women still face?

What do we stand to lose if the small “endangered” cultures and languages around  the world die out?  Who benefits from “modernization,” and who loses out?  Should  we be fearful of “globalization,” or welcome it?  How are human rights understood  differently in various cultures?  Should we be concerned about what seems to be  inequality for women in some cultures around the world, or feel that they are just  doing what their culture values?  How do we balance the belief in our own values  and ethical standards with a tolerance for cultures which value other standards?

 We have a strong faculty, with a lot of international experience.  Among us, we  have people who speak Spanish, Arabic, French, Dutch, Malay, Thai, and some  Hebrew.  We have done research in Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands, Thailand,  Lithuania, Egypt, Malaysia, as well as Indian reservations in Minnesota, Nebraska,  Montana, and Colorado.  We have taken students with us for study in Ireland,  Thailand, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, India, and China.   

Thank you for your visit to our homepage.  Happy browsing!  Please contact me or our Administrative Assistant, Lori Middeldorp, if you have questions we can answer.

Chair of the Department of Sociology/Anthropology