Sociology & Anthropology
Why study Sociology and Anthropology at Westminster?
- To gain a better understanding of your world and the behaviors and cultures of other people worldwide.
- To recognize the intricate forces operating behind social movements and to learn to step out of your own cultural blinders (that you might not even know you have!) and understand events through the eyes of other cultures.
- All of us have our ideas about how groups form, why people behave the way that they do, or the meaning of a particular ritual. The academic study of sociology and anthropology simply helps us examine these insights about society in order to make them more critically sound, systematic, informed, and theoretically sophisticated.
Art, bureaucracy, conflict, death, education, family, gangs, housing, ideology, Judaism, know-nothings, law, music, nationalism, occupations, politics, Quebec, religion, sport, technology, values, Xhosa, youth, and Zulu. From A to Z, that’s a sampling of the breadth of sociology and anthropology. This list also shows that both sociology and anthropology are holistic disciplines. That is to say, we are always trying to see the bigger picture. Consequently, we try to look for the larger context of human behavior. It would be difficult for us to say that we truly understood the religion of a people without knowledge of their economy, politics, or way of forming their families. All of these things influence one another.
At Westminster College we have gone so far as to house both sociology and anthropology in one department. Traditionally, sociology is interested in the modern, urban, and civilized world, while anthropology is concerned with tribal, traditional, and general non-western society. At Westminster, we believe that to truly understand modern America in the 21st century, it is helpful to know something about modern China,
Ancient Rome and even about foraging societies from 10,000 years ago.
Some courses you might find yourself taking could include Sociology of Literature; Sociology of Sport; Tribal Survival; Native American Cultures; Shamanism and Spirit Possession; Folklore; Fieldwork; Sociology of the Emotions; Sociology of Religion; and Japanese Culture.
As a senior, students have the option of taking a Senior Seminar course. The students themselves create a topic for study, devise a method of inquiry and can even decide how they want to be evaluated. In recent years, senior majors have chosen topics like “War and Peace in the Middle East,” “Racism,” “Intentional Communities,” and “Women in Afghanistan.”
Most employers these days are looking for employees with a well-rounded background like that provided by the liberal arts education at Westminster College. A Sociology and Anthropology major adds value to the liberal arts education including critical insights into the ways in which organizations and groups operate, how cultural and social settings can be analyzed, and what kind of forces motivate human behavior. These perspectives, and others gained through the major, are of considerable value to anyone in a position of responsibility. Looking at the actual “track record” of the department’s graduates we can see the variety of career opportunities that our students have entered into in their professional and post-graduate careers. Fifteen of our majors went into business careers of various sorts; nine received Masters of Social Work degrees; eight acquired law degrees; seven earned graduate degrees in sociology; four earned graduate degrees in cultural anthropology; three earned graduate degrees in archaeology; three earned graduate degrees in museum studies; three went into the Peace Corps; three went into religious studies; three went on in English; three in law enforcement; and three in computer sciences. Others went on in such careers as journalism, Industrial Psychology, Russian Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, economic development, government service, nursing, public health/biostatistics, social research, philosophy, the armed forces, and high school teaching. You can go in many directions with a background in sociology and anthropology. In fact, a number of our graduates have fashioned careers which are intriguing and somewhat off-the-beaten-path such as an airline attendant, a casino dealer, a beverage manager, a private art dealer, an owner of a Native American/Western store, and an organic farmer. Two even started a rock group and their own record company!
“Greater even than my knowledge of the habits, religions, and mannerisms of foreign cultures that I have gained, I will be taking away an improved understanding of the world itself. Not to discount the importance of the scientific knowledge I have gained, but I feel that the true treasure of my time here is the greater capacity for understanding that I have obtained. I have studied religions and cultures that at first glance I would have found disturbing and ridiculous, but in time I have come to be able to see the hidden rationality in them, and the disturbing and ridiculous features of my own society. I have learned to look past the surface of the society and culture (and subgroups thereof) and understand them at a deeper level. This understanding opens the door to a deeper wisdom that I plan to keep with me for the rest of my life.”
For more information on the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Westminster College please contact:
Dr. William Guinee
Dr. Ken Muse