Academic Program in Anthropology

Program Requirements

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Our courses in cultural anthropology, archeology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology emphasize the role of fieldwork in contributing to the sum total of knowledge about the human career on Earth. In this way, we base our theories and interpretations of human differences and similarities across cultures and through time, and on continuing empirical investigations of anthropology.

The field research of each faculty member, accordingly, finds a central place in our classrooms. Majors develop critical thinking and research skills while demonstrating the continuing relevance of anthropology to an understanding of an increasingly transcultural world.

You will have opportunities to engage in participation/observation, a qualitative research method employed today as businesses, institutions, nonprofit organizations, and other groups seek nontraditional methods to gather and analyze data. You will learn about people and their lives by doing what they do and then through analysis and writing.


Students who want to study languages may study linguistic anthropology. Oberlin is one of the few schools of its size to offer coursework that involves the analysis of sign languages and Deaf cultures. This course supports our exchange program with Gallaudet University, the world leader in liberal education and career development for Deaf and hard of hearing undergraduate students.

Located in Washington, D.C., the exchange program provides a special opportunity for Oberlin students interested in communication disorders, Deaf education, and related issues.

Students also have a distinct chance to study and use the department’s Ethnographic Collection an online resource of about 1,000 objects collected by alumni who worked as missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mostly in southeast Africa. Students may conduct research, and perform data analysis as it pertains to the collection.

We offer an Honors Program for students interested in pursing original independent research. The college’s extensive library and computing facilities, as well as close supervision from a faculty member, will assist you in this process.