Anthropologists study the variety of human experiences past and present and ask how these experiences are shaped by different historical, cultural, and material practices. Across its sub-disciplines–from archeology to socio-cultural, legal, psychological, and medical anthropology–anthropology challenges our most tenacious assumptions and imagines alternatives about what it means to be human.
Sociocultural anthropologists undertake ethnographic research in such diverse places as cities, forests, internet forums, and submarines. In doing so, they develop deep qualitative understandings of human experiences by conducting interviews, making audio-visual recordings, and hanging out with people. Through these methods, they study local relationships (such as those between families, neighbours, ethnic and religious groups, and animals), large-scale relations (such as capitalism, ecology, and globalization), and the institutions that define and shape human lives (such as courts, hospitals, and international agencies).
Archaeologists reconstruct the entirety of the human past, from ancient to contemporary, using the physical traces left behind from past activities. These material remains may include artifacts, architecture, the remains of plants, animals, and people, and oral histories and historical documents. Archaeologists work in teams and in collaboration with descendant communities in order to create reconstructions that have contemporary relevance.
McGill’s anthropology department is home to faculty who do research in ethnographic film, indigenous cosmologies, poetry, ecology, global mental health, economic exchange, Islamic law, gender and sexuality, addiction, therapeutic rituals, and death. They conduct research across the globe and through human history. All of these professors teach undergraduate courses in which they introduce students to anthropology and to their own areas of expertise. Students specializing in anthropology at McGill will learn about the diversity of human society and experience through space and time, and will develop the critical analytical and writing skills required to thoughtfully navigate our world.