Scope and Objectives

Anthropology, the broadest of the social sciences, is the study of humankind. One of the strengths of anthropology as a discipline is its holistic or integrative approach; it links the life sciences and the humanities and has strong ties with disciplines ranging from biology and psychology to linguistics, political science, and the fine arts. Anthropological study is appropriate for people with a wide variety of interests: human cultures and civilizations both present and past, human and animal behavior, particular regions of the world such as Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, etc.

The Department of Anthropology recognizes the following four fields in anthropology:

Archaeology is the study of human cultures and the natural, social, ideological, economic, and political environments in which they operated in the recent and distant past. The graduate and undergraduate programs focus on methods of discovery (field and laboratory courses), strategies of analysis pertaining to long-term cultural evolution (theory, analytic, and topical courses), and the unfolding of prehistory in many regions of the world, including North America, Mesoamerica, South America, and several parts of the Old World (regional courses). Faculty members have long-standing interests in the origins and evolution of complexity, including early human adaptations, the political organization of complex hunters/gatherers, the origins of early village life, and the emergence and florescence of ancient cities and states. Faculty members maintain programs of field research involving many students in North America, Mesoamerica, South America, and East and South Asia.

Biological anthropology is the study of humans and other primates from a Darwinian point of view. The program focuses on the evolutionary ecology of early hominids, extant primates, and contemporary humans and includes training in evolutionary theory, behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, paleoanthropology, paleoecology, primate behavior, and mathematical modeling. Faculty members associated with the program have engaged in fieldwork in Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia where ongoing projects include work on primate behavior, hominid evolution, and evolutionary psychology.

Linguistic anthropology is an interdisciplinary field that addresses the manifold ways in which language, interaction, and culture mutually organize each other in different communities worldwide. Linguistic anthropologists at UCLA have a variety of backgrounds and research interests that include face-to-face communication, language contact and change, language and politics, language socialization across the lifespan, verbal art and performance, and the relation of language to ideology, mind, emotion, and identity. Courses are offered in ethnographic approaches to discourse analysis, field methods, language ideology, conversation analysis, language socialization, and communication in urban communities, as well as on cross-cultural language practices.

Sociocultural anthropology concerns the examination and understanding of social and cultural systems and processes, and the human capacities that enable them. Its goal is to understand their operation in specific settings and to understand the experience of individuals who live in these diverse systems. Faculty members have engaged in fieldwork in almost every area of the world, but most notably in Africa, Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, and Oceania. They have also engaged in ethnographic research among Americans with diverse ethnic identities and in various institutional settings.

Bridging the four primary subfields are several other dimensions of anthropological study, including psychocultural anthropology and medical anthropology. Courses are also offered in the history and theory of anthropology and a wide range of anthropological methods.

The department offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees and a minor in Anthropology for undergraduate students; the graduate program leads to the Master of Arts and PhD degrees. Studies in anthropology are particularly valuable for students planning careers in which an understanding of human behavior and cultural diversity is desirable, such as business, education, law, medicine, nursing, public health, social welfare, and urban planning. Because of its breadth of outlook, anthropology also offers an ideal basis for those seeking a general education in our increasingly interdependent world.