Life Lessons in Anthropology

By: Eva

When I tell people I am an Anthropology major their first comment is always “Oh, so you learn about dinosaurs?”

Not that dinosaurs aren’t cool, but anthropologists learn a lot more than just how to identify fossils. We learn a lot about ourselves, too.

My emotions are valid.
Anthropology has several different fields, and I focus on cultural anthropology. This means I study what people say, what people do, and what people say they do. To understand all of this involves a lot of talking and interacting with people and recording all of it, and this includes my personal reaction. In a way, anthropologists have to study their own emotions when they’re in the field with just as much care they would give to the people they are working with. In-depth self-reflection has become very important for anthropologists in the last few decades to make sure that the safety and well-being of every participant is looked after. I think this self-study, combined with gentleness and patience, is important for everyone.

Life lessons learned through Anthropology; water surface

Everyone has biases.
Anthropology is a science, but it’s not the kind where you can throw all the data into an algorithm and have it figured out. There is simply too much “humanness” for that to work. Before I switched to Anthropology from Biology I associated bias with weakness. After all, how can you have bias when balancing a chemistry formula? My Anth classes have strongly emphasized the fact that we all have biases and that it is important to acknowledge them, and that bias is not inherently bad. When you do this, you can see how you may have influenced a situation or why you may have reacted in a certain way. This opened my eyes to better understand myself and the people around me and helped me gain more empathy.

Everyone is interesting.
Everyone has cool stories. They just need to be asked. We tend to think that we’re not that interesting because we don’t have a 4.0, don’t have plans to become the next Malala or Obama, or aren’t going into a career that will make millions. But to be honest, that’s most people, including myself. Anthropology has taught me to celebrate the everyday experiences of everyday people. If most people know what it’s like to feel a certain way or experience a certain thing, then those ordinary stories also have the answers for a lot of the worlds’ problems. It just takes someone who wants to listen and find out what those answers are.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Eva’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Tyler Yarbrough

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