The academic catalog is currently being updated for the 2022-23 year. View the Catalog Archive to access the 2021-22 catalog as well as catalogs from previous years.
Britt Rhodes (department head) Maryna Nading (program director)
Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures across space and time. In the spirit of the North American tradition, our program draws upon a four-field approach that includes attention to cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Anthropology strives to understand cultural and biological diversity in a holistic way, inspired by the humanities and the social and natural sciences. This anthropological approach is enriched by Luther's liberal arts education with its emphasis on interdisciplinarity, commitment to community, and ample opportunities for study and research abroad.
The four-field emphasis of Luther's anthropology program provides the opportunity to examine central questions concerning the human condition today and in the past. These include a range of contemporary issues, such as the impacts of extractive industries on the sustainability of the natural environment and local communities, language death and linguistic diversity, the self-determination of indigenous peoples, gender ideologies, and cultural influences on health and illness around the globe. Further, archaeological and biological perspectives provide insights into the dynamic nature of ethnic and cultural identity and technological change in prehistoric North America and the ways that our evolutionary heritage has shaped our modern physiology.
The anthropology major is founded upon five core courses that define the holistic nature of the discipline. The 100-level core courses introduce students to the major subfields of anthropology; cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. The 200-level research methods courses are designed to equip students with the tools and framework needed to conduct anthropological research and are intended as preparation for the senior project. Anthropological theory, taken in the junior year, is an exploration of the theoretical perspectives that shape the discipline. Electives should build upon the 5-course core and emphasize personal interests and goals. Majors and minors in anthropology are encouraged to have a field experience, accomplished through regular course offerings, an internship, or study abroad. Students planning on pursuing graduate work in the discipline should consider taking all four introductory courses as well as both methods courses.
Required for a major: minimum of 8 courses in anthropology, including ANTH 101 and 104, ANTH 102 or 103, ANTH 210 or 211, and ANTH 401. In addition, students are required to take at least three elective courses, two of which must be at the 300 level or above. The senior project, if completed in anthropology, will be in addition to the eight courses required for the major. Writing requirement completed with ANTH 401.
Required for a minor: minimum of five courses, including ANTH 101; one of 102, 103, or 104; ANTH 210 or 211; and two electives, one of which must be at the 300 level or above.
Students interested in teaching should see the education department for secondary education minor requirements.
View program learning goals for an explanation of learning outcomes in Anthropology.
A study in what it means to be human, this course uses the concept of culture to account for the tremendous variety of practices and beliefs throughout the world. Students will also examine patterns in human behavior, addressing cultural similarities as well as cultural differences. Course content provides insight into how cultural anthropologists do what they do - what methods they use to study culture and what ethical issues they may encounter while doing so. Students will be expected to engage some of these anthropological methods by completing a series of ethnographic exercises. Through the study of anthropological works and practice with ethnographic methods, the course will prepare students to apply the anthropological approach as they navigate an increasingly diverse and globalized world.
Biological anthropology focuses primarily on the physical development of the human species. This course serves as an introduction to the various lines of inquiry that comprise this sub-field of anthropology. Primary topics include a survey of human biological and cultural evolution, genetics and the mechanics of evolution, non-human primates, and forensic anthropology.
An introduction to human language, with an emphasis on the relationship between language and culture. Topics include the origin and evolution of language, primate communication, language acquisition, language and society, and current issues in linguistic anthropology, such as linguistic human rights and language death. Students will gain hands-on-experience with the methods and techniques of descriptive and historical-comparative linguistics.
Archaeology is the study of the human past through material remains. This course introduces students to the fundamental techniques employed by archaeologists to reconstruct the past. In addition to exploring the basic methodological foundations of archaeology this course provides an overview of world archaeology, including major developments in human prehistory and significant archaeological sites.
This course will prepare you to travel to another country and immerse yourself in another culture. Successful study abroad involves ethical, culturally sensitive, active engagement with your host culture and requires developing habits of purposeful self-reflection. Together we will critically examine our motivations and goals for studying abroad, explore visible and invisible dimensions of culture, enhance our understanding of cultural self-identity, and raise awareness of the lens through which we view others and others view us. Ultimately you will learn important skills that will empower you to become a culturally sensitive and self-reflective traveler in life rather than just a tourist.
The study of the environment in anthropology addresses problems that not only threaten our ecology but also human existence on the planet. This course will demonstrate the importance of anthropological theory and practice for solving environmental problems and for understanding people's responses to them. The course will begin by laying the theoretical foundations of environmental/ecological anthropology. Then it will be structured around what are seen in anthropology as the key environmental questions arising from increased interaction and unequal exchange among widely different cultures: population growth, economic development and underdevelopment, the loss of biodiversity, environmental management, the future of indigenous peoples, environmental campaigns and collaborations within the context of the politics of natural resources, and the connections between consumption and globalization.
This course captures the broadest possible spectrum of the migration experience, from the violence and suffering caused by the practices of social, economic, political, and cultural exclusion, to the sympathy, solidarity, and respect expressed in practices of social inclusion. Students will engage in critical reading of contemporary ethnographies of migration to explore: (1) how global migration flows are shaping the lives of persons who move across national borders, and (2) how these people are affected by the practices of social exclusion or invisible borders. The case studies will mainly focus on undocumented migration between Latin America and the United States, but other world areas will also be considered.
What is religion? When and how did it develop? Is religion a human universal? What features, if any, are common to all religions? How and why do religions change, and what happens when different systems of religious belief and practice come into contact? This introduction to the anthropology of religion explores these questions and others through in-depth case studies from the ethnographic literature, comparisons made across cultures, and the theoretical works of anthropologists and other scholars. Though some attention is given to the world's major religions, the course emphasizes the religious traditions of indigenous peoples around the globe.(Students may use this course to fulfill either the second Religion requirement or the Human Behavior requirement, but not both.)
Medical Anthropology explores health, illness, disease and medicine across the globe. Using anthropological principles, we explore interactions between various ethnomedical systems, including biomedicine; healers, healing professions and the production of medical knowledge; ideologies of the body; beginnings and ends of life; the role of new biomedical technologies and the pharmaceutical industry; the social construction of disease and disability; political and moral economics of health in the global context, among other topics. We will discover how medical knowledge and practices are constructed culturally. We will also learn to recognize how transnational exchanges of people, goods, ideas and capital influence our health and healing practices. Our course will focus on some key texts in medical anthropology theory as well as new ethnographies that address intercultural encounters in medical settings.
Humans possess a capacity for endurance running that is virtually unmatched in the natural world. Understanding this capacity requires consideration of its biological and cultural dimensions. The physiology of long distance running can only be understood by studying the larger environmental and behavioral conditions under which it evolved. Similarly, ethnographic accounts from diverse cultural groups provide essential insights for understanding the meanings of and reasons for running among modern humans. This course uses each perspective to provide insight into the "how" and "why" of this phenomenon and will examine associated topics such as barefoot running, optimal running speed, and the relationship between genetics, gender, and running performance.
This course will introduce students to qualitative research methods in anthropology. The goal is to provide training and hands-on experience in designing a research project, carrying out ethnographic fieldwork, and analyzing the data. Students will get an opportunity to work on projects of their choice and select appropriate methodologies, including participant observation, different types of interviewing, and other systematic observation techniques. Students will learn how to construct interview schedules, administer sorting and ranking surveys, use time recall questionnaires, ethnographic taxonomies, life histories, genealogies, and focus groups. The writing component will include field notes, reports, and personal journals. Students will engage in multiple re-writes of their final reports, aided by peer review. In this process, we will pay special attention to ethics involving research with human subjects. Offered alternate years.
Effectively understanding cultural behavior requires asking the right questions and correctly interpreting the resulting answers. Often, the best way to address these questions requires the collection of quantitative data. This course will use case studies from cultural anthropology, archaeology, and physical anthropology, as well as student-generated research as means for learning how to design anthropologically relevant research questions, identifying the appropriate ways of acquiring the data required to successfully address these questions, and evaluating the results. Finally, we will address the ethics of anthropological research.
The Maasai pastoralists of Tanzania and Kenya are experiencing rapid culture change in response to global, national, and local forces. In this course we will study "traditional" Maasai culture and examine the ways in which the Maasai of northern Tanzania are adapting to changing social, political, economic, and environmental conditions. Topics to be explored include the shift from herding to agropastoralism; the tension between traditional and formal modes of education; the adoption of Christianity in place of or alongside traditional religion; changes in coming-of-age rituals; cultural dimensions of health, illness and healing; challenges to traditional gender ideology; the Maasai relationship to their environment; and the impacts of ecotourism, cultural tourism, and wildlife conservation programs on the pastoral way of life. From bases near the city of Arusha and the small town of Monduli students will interact with Maasai people in urban and rural marketplaces; in schools, medical facilities, and places of worship; and at Maasai bomas (family compounds) in the bush. We will also visit the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area and the Oldoinyo Lengai volcano and pilgrimage routes in in order to explore the tension between pastoralism, wildlife conservation programs, and tourism. Offered January term. (Same as AFRS 221 and IDS 221)
This course will examine the diverse artistic traditions of the Americas from the pre-contact period to the present day. Emphasis will be placed on situating artistic production within its cultural context and examining how pre-contact practices continue to inform contemporary artistic production. (Same as ART 264)
The anthropological study of material culture and technology provides a wealth of information about human behavior. This course will use ethnographic analogy and experimental archaeology as tools for reconstructing a specific example of prehistoric technology. We will search for and analyze relevant ethnographic data, design and implement replicative experiments based on this data, and evaluate the effectiveness of the results for interpreting the archaeological record. In the process of recreating past technology we will explore how the analysis of material culture and technology can be used to understand topics such as cognition, social boundaries, gender, and symbolism.
This is a hands-on experience in archaeological field techniques offered in the summer. Students will be instructed in the fundamental skills required to do field archaeology while conducting surveys, mapping, and excavations on real archaeological sites. This is a labor intensive course that requires students to participate in field work and data management procedures daily, possibly including some evenings (depending on weather conditions). This course is the equivalent of a full-time job and synthesizes classroom study with real world experiences. Offered alternate summers (even years).
Consumerism and Sustainability: An Anthropological Perspective. The world is in the midst of unprecedented social and cultural changes. One important dimension of this global change is the dramatic increase in the consumption of goods manufactured, designed and/or marketed by corporations based mainly in Europe and North America. The consumption of 'northern'goods of all kinds threatens the stability and diversity of the natural environment in many ways. Some also argue that, at the local level, consumption constitutes the greatest contemporary threat to the continued existence of local traditions, local cultures and local economic autonomy. In this course, we will pay special attention to some of the linkages between consumer culture and environmental problems, tracing the chains of cause and effect that connect particular kinds of consumption to specific places, resources, people, and interests. At the end of the course, we will discuss about the anti-consumption, sustainable consumption and other activist strategies for changing the direction of consumer society, possibly including a field visit to an off-the-grid farm in the Decorah area.
The use of technology to remotely detect and investigate archaeological data in a noninvasive manner is an increasingly important component of modern archaeological research. This class examines the history, theory, and application of various remote sensing methods, with an emphasis on near surface geophysical and aerial photography methods. Students will apply this knowledge to design and implement a remote sensing nvestigation of a local archaeological site and learn how to analyze, interpret, and present the resulting data.
Our class will embark on an exploration of social histories of commodity chains, such as sugar, oil, diamonds, coffee, strawberries, pharmaceuticals, and others. We will explore the ways in which commodity flows connect people, places, images, ideologies, and capital around the globe in multidirectional, hierarchical, and uneven exchange. We will contextualize the large-scale political, economic, and cultural processes in the everyday realities of particular societies and everyday experiences of regular people. In other words, this course will study globalization from below. We will address questions such as: how do men and women around the world engage with various commodities? How is globalization implicated in people's wellbeing, occupations, family lives, intimacies, futures? Our class will challenge you to think about the interactions between the issues of social justice, human rights, and the anthropological dedication to cultural rights. Ultimately, we will consider what the commodity chains mean to stability and prosperity of various communities around the world, as well as challenge us to see where we are positioned in the flow of certain commodities.
This course explores the rise of modern anthropology and the various schools of thought that have shaped the discipline, including an in-depth treatment of contemporary anthropological discourse. We will discuss the issues and approaches that define the anthropological approach as well as the ethical considerations involved in anthropological inquiry. The ultimate goal of this course is to provide students with comprehensive understanding of the field of anthropology and the skills required to negotiate current trends in the discipline. This course should be taken during the junior year.