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.
of students complete an international experience or an experiential learning opportunity
countries and sovereign nations in which faculty conduct research
grants, fellowship, and awards received by department and program faculty, including NSF, NEH, ACLS, and Mellon Foundation, in 2017
Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, edited by three RIT faculty members in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, looks at how Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and American voters invoked ideas of gender, race and history in that election.
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.
Assess 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.
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.
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.
The interdisciplinary minor in black studies examines the social construction of racial differences and its 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The immersion in Native American and indigenous studies enhances students’ knowledge of the unique heritage of Native Americans 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 Native American 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.
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.
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.