Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Overview

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology supports an interdisciplinary approach to the study of global, urban, historical, and cultural experience, practices, and change. Our faculty are scholarly experts in archaeology, cultural anthropology, economics, education, folklore, psychology, and sociology which represent academic disciplines dedicated to the understanding of human social life, past and present. We share a commitment to global justice, human rights, and sustainable futures. As faculty in historically related social science disciplines, our research and teaching crosscut important themes and social issues related to gender, class, race and ethnicity, exploitation, domination, and the multiple embodiments of power.

100%

of students complete an international experience or an experiential learning opportunity

26

countries and sovereign nations in which faculty conduct research

30

grants, fellowship, and awards received by department and program faculty, including NSF, NEH, ACLS, and Mellon Foundation, in 2017

Latest News

  • July 29, 2020

    aerial view of buildings on RIT campus.

    RIT and Syracuse University College of Law enter into 3+3 admissions agreement

    RIT has partnered with Syracuse University College of Law to establish a “3+3” program for students interested in earning a law degree. A memorandum of understanding between the two universities was recently signed to allow students to complete three years of liberal arts and other studies at RIT, then transfer to the College of Law for three years to complete their doctorate in law.

  • May 18, 2020

    LaVerne McQuiller Williams, interim dean, College of Liberal Arts.

    LaVerne McQuiller Williams named COLA interim dean

    LaVerne McQuiller Williams, senior associate dean of RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, has been named interim COLA dean effective June 1. McQuiller Williams succeeds Dean James Winebrake, who is leaving RIT on June 30 to become provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. 

  • April 22, 2020

    person writing in spiral-bound notebook.

    College of Liberal Arts honors students for writing excellence

    RIT’s College of Liberal Arts honored student achievement in writing with more than a dozen writing awards for essays varying from wasteful energy, maternal mortality, eyewitness testimony policies and seeking worth in a liberal arts degree. Each department within the college selected student awardees whose work embodies the ideals and standards of excellence, creative endeavor and scholarship.

Undergraduate Programs

Our programs emphasize the understanding and critique of social inequalities that exist around the world. You will explore the interconnectedness of human societies and their environments, the dynamics of human diversity, and how cultural practices are mediated on the global and local levels from prehistory to the present. Our hands-on programs include opportunities for ethnographic research, personal interviews, archaeological survey and excavation, laboratory characterization, archival research, media analysis, and quantitative data analysis. A unique area of specialization allows you to deepen your understanding of topics and themes that matter to you.

An international studies major that assesses critical issues connected to our global community, including consumer capitalism, media culture, economic development and migration, gender and health, political conflict, sustainable futures, and democracy and civil society.

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This sociology major pairs anthropology with global topics of critical importance, such as the economy, politics, society, gender and sexuality, ethnicity, urban studies, health, and culture.

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Minors and Immersions

The immersion in African studies enables students to gain knowledge about African societies, cultures, histories, and modern political realities, and diasporic communities in different parts of the world. 

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The immersion in American Indian and indigenous studies enhances students’ knowledge of the unique heritage of American Indian and indigenous peoples and their relationships with people from other communities and nations. This enhanced understanding is grounded in the study of the histories, collective memories, cultures, and languages of American Indian and indigenous peoples, and the representations, stereotypes, and pertinent laws and policies governing their lives. Immersion courses emphasize indigenous ways of knowing and learning in the past and present in the Americas and across the globe.  

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The minor in anthropology and sociology offers disciplinary insights on understanding human social life, both from local and global perspectives. Through anthropology we discover and appreciate the diversity of other cultural systems on a global scale. Through sociology we discover how our own lives are influenced by social relationships around us. Careful selection of courses provides insights into a wide range of topics such as human history and prehistory through archaeology, gender and sexuality, race, ethnicity, social class, inequality, health, urban life and cities, cultural images and mass media, war and violence, social movements, social and cultural change, and globalization.

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Archaeology is the study of the human past, principally by means of the physical residue of past human behavior. Archaeological science is the application of techniques from the physical sciences to research problems in archaeology and related disciplines. Over the past six decades archaeological science has provided powerful tools for understanding the past, ranging from absolute dating to bone chemistry. It has become an established sub-field within the discipline of archaeology, which itself has grown during the same period from a discipline largely focused on cultural history (the use of artifacts to reconstruct regional cultural sequences) and the validation of documentary history to the explanation of the processes of cultural change in the past.

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Archaeology is the study of the human past by means of the physical residues of past human behavior: for example, pottery, stone, and metal tools, and the remains of ancient dwelling sites. An archaeologist explains how human society has changed and developed over time using such physical evidence. Archaeology employs techniques from the physical sciences to build a more detailed picture of the human past. Students explore the worlds of the past through hands-on applications of physical science techniques in a diverse range of fields, including chemistry, metallurgy, biology, and material science, applying these disciplines in a novel and challenging context. 

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Examine the social construction of racial differences and their relation to the perpetuation of racism and racial domination. A key component of this minor is an investigation of the meanings and dimensions of blackness that reverberate from slavery and colonialism to the persistent political, social, and cultural implications in the 21st century. The minor emphasizes how blackness intersects with other ethnic identities and how it is shaped by gender, sexuality, and economic inequities. The aim is to refine and advance students’ knowledge of black life-worlds and experiences across the globe.

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Cultural anthropology is the study of culture, past and present, from a worldwide comparative perspective. As a disciplinary field, cultural anthropology attempts to provide insights on how human beings across the globe live and work and shape their cultural world in families, cities, societies, ethnic groups, nations, and networked solidarities through ideas, ideologies, beliefs, and values or world views. One of the goals of cultural anthropology is to promote understanding among peoples—an increasingly important venture in our vastly interconnected world communities.

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This immersion offers students a variety of academic perspectives on how diverse groups may share cultural or inherited characteristics, and how perceptions of difference influence their interactions. Race, ethnicity, gender, and sexualities are the main points of focus. Students examine differential power between groups, analyze the social structures used to maintain, moderate and alter power relations, as well as probe interpersonal relationships across social divides.

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The impact of global change is dramatic and far-reaching, altering the dynamics of everyday life on a planetary scale. The minor in globalization provides students with the opportunity to think creatively about a range of globalizing processes, theories, and practices (in cultural, political, social, biomedical, economic, and artistic contexts). Courses investigate issues pertinent to the phenomenon of globalization, including cultural exchange; multicultural communities; global governance; information transfer; and social, environmental, health, and labor issues. Accelerated by communication technologies, globalization redefines how individuals and communities experience and view the world.

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The immersion in globalization theory analyzes how linkages and interconnections across and beyond conventional borders and boundaries are forged by people, political regimes, social movements, corporate enterprise, and culture industries. The immersion's emphasis is on the causes, signs, and possibilities of globalization with view to mobile populations, permeable borders, transnational flows of capital, and the traffic of culture across space or historical time. Courses examine how global fluidities, mobilities, and connections have been forged, the various dynamic and unpredictable responses of people in diverse locations to global processes, and the implications of global processes for a shared future.

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This immersion in health and culture focuses on the shifting configurations of health and culture in a globalizing world. Health beliefs, including notions about bodily integrity or emotional well-being, illness causation, and diagnostic practices, and the experiences, expressions, and treatments of human ailments unfold in concrete cultural contexts. Every society has some form of health care system, which is minimally administered by community members or specialized practitioners. By moving beyond the lens of western biomedicine, the immersion provides students with a set of tools for analyzing the impact of culture on how health care is delivered, how health symptoms are interpreted and communicated by patients and health providers, and how costs for treatment are calculated and managed in relation to perceived benefits. Courses examine the interrelation between health and culture from a number of perspectives and contexts, including the cultural realities within which bodies are meaningfully constituted or in some cases enhanced by technology, the culture-specific communicative or representational health practices, the socially constituted experiences of trauma, death, suffering, and healing, and the various culturally mediated approaches to health care costs and remedies.

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All societies have some cultural ideas and belief systems about health and wellness. Culture shapes our understanding of bodily processes. Because of the significant influence of culture on perceptions and experiences of health and wellness, this minor thematizes the shifting cultural configurations of health in a globalizing world. Culturally grounded health and illness concepts, including notions about bodily integrity or emotional well-being, cultural models of illness causation and diagnostic practices, and the experiences, expressions, and treatments of human ailments unfold in concrete socio-cultural contexts. The courses in this minor provide an enhanced cultural understanding about health experiences in different parts of the world.

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Language is a fundamental property of being human. Linguistics, the study of human language, is one of the four branches of anthropology. Linguistic anthropology explores the dynamic interrelationships among language, culture, and society, how human beings make sense of the world, and participate in social life through creative speech acts and linguistic play. Courses familiarize students with a range of theoretical and analytic approaches, including general linguistics, sociolinguistics, theories of languages, communication, semiotics, and literary studies.

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Social inequalities and collective responses to them, both locally and globally, are the focus of this immersion. Students explore the interplay between social and cultural dimensions of the rapid globalization of societies, and the concurrent inequalities of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and culture. The egalitarian strivings that emerge from these inequalities also will be examined. Courses offer the unique standpoints of two academic disciplines, sociology and anthropology, to analyze the roles of powerful social institutions and culture industries, and to identify and explain social inequalities and resulting conflicts and egalitarian hopes.

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The immersion in sociology provides insights into the interactions between individuals and the major social forces shaping their lives. Students will learn sociology’s perspectives and methods and use them to explain how society is possible, to examine various social problems, and to assess collective efforts for social change.

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Metropolitan areas must address such enduring issues as poverty, homelessness, affordable housing, transportation, pollution, education, water and food security, health, crime, safety, recreation, zoning, segregation, ethno-racial tensions, and economic development. Each city must do so with recognition of its place in the wider regional, national, and global contexts. The urban studies immersion helps students identify and analyze such fundamental issues and allows them to explore and assess various ways policy-makers respond to those issues. 

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Student Resources

Here you will find additional resources for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, such as double majors, 4+1 programs, co-op resources, and international and global studies resources.

See Resources for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology