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Sociology / Anthropology

Sociology / Anthropology

Critical perspectives and skills for understanding contemporary life

In Earlham’s Sociology/Anthropology major, students develop broad knowledge and sophisticated understanding of diverse social institutions and cultural practices in our contemporary world. The faculty have designed the major to be adaptable to individual students’ needs and interests, offering courses on a wide range of topics, including: surveillance and society; white supremacy and criminal injustice in America; women, gender and sexuality; sensory experience and embodiment; health, medicine and society; indigenous peoples; environmental justice and community health; race and racism; and, globalization and its discontents.

The study of sociology and anthropology cultivates curiosity about, and a willingness to embrace, the challenges of living in an interconnected global world. Students learn through texts, films, classroom discussions, and also by engaging in research that brings them directly into contact with people whose lives differ from their own. Adept at recognizing their own worlds as socially and culturally crafted, students become empowered to create means of social transformation that are innovative, creative and respecting of the knowledge and insights people have about their own lives.

Special Learning Opportunities

In addition to taking courses on a range of topics, students of sociology/anthropology learn essential research skills, such as: designing and administering surveys and analyzing the data; engaging in ethnographic research through participant observation and other forms of qualitative data collection; and, creating and implementing an interview study and interpreting the findings. The department’s Ethnographic Research Lab gives students access to technology and equipment – including digital cameras, video recorders, transcription equipment, analog-digital conversion capability, and video/audio editing – for use in research projects. Earlham’s Sociology/Anthropology major prepares students with skills required to pursue a variety of careers, as well as the critical perspectives needed to navigate the world as socially responsible and effective global citizens, prepared to grapple with the complexities, challenges, and contradictions of social and cultural life in the 21st century.

Students have the opportunity to pursue individual or group projects on subjects of their choosing in the context of our regularly offered classes.  In addition, special research classes offer small groups the opportunity to engage in research with a faculty member on a specialized topic. Recent topics include: “Living Downstream from the Tar Sands: The Case of Fort Chipewyan”; “Affect Theory and Tea Party Politics”; and “Environmental Justice and Public Health: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally.”

Classroom experiences are enhanced by films, guest speakers, digital engagements, field trips around campus or into Richmond, and occasionally by taking trips that go further afield. In addition, the city of Richmond provides a rich and diverse environment in which Sociology/Anthropology students can pursue volunteer work, internships, and research projects in a variety of settings and with an array of social groups and institutions. An array of off-campus programs further enhance SoAn students’ engagements with social and cultural phenomena in such diverse locations as Nicaragua, Tanzania, Northern Ireland, Japan, Spain, Jordan, and more.


The Sociology/Anthropology major provides a solid foundation from which to pursue a variety of careers. Our graduates find successful and rewarding careers in schools, social service and community development organizations, public health initiatives, business and non-profit settings, government agencies, human rights organizations and computer firms.

Alumni have pursued various graduate degrees in programs throughout North America. Examples of master's degrees completed by recent alumni include: MSW/MPH, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor; MA in International Human Rights, University of Denver; MA in Communication Sciences, Case Western Reserve University; Masters in New Media Photojournalism, Corcoran College of Art & Design; Masters of Public Policy, University of Minnesota; Masters in Historic Preservation, University of Maryland – College Park; MS in Library and Information Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne; and a Masters in International Affairs, Columbia University. Graduates have completed, or are completing, Ph.D. degrees in anthropology at University of Texas – Austin, Educational Administration and Policy Studies at George Washington University, computer science at UC-Santa Cruz, and sociology at the University of Michigan.

Through graduate programs and other endeavors – such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America, City Year, and Americorps – Sociology/Anthropology alumni find rewarding careers, including: public health social worker for a community-based organization; historic preservation planner for a city government; documentary filmmaker; grants manager for a refugee services organization; assistant producer and writer for an Indonesian publication; and development and communications coordinator for a mental health network, as well as teaching and research positions in colleges and universities.

Earlhamites in Sociology/Anthropology

Ana Rabut
A Love for Learning About People

Ana Rabut ’16 has been told that she is the glue that holds friendships together.

Kamau 'TiQi' Brown
SOAN Perfect Choice for Busy Student

Kamau “TiQi” Brown ’16 likes to keep a busy schedule.

Taylen Alexander
Combining Basketball and Learning About People

As a future sports journalist, Taylen Alexander ’16 knows he will be working with strong personalities.

Distinctively Earlham
The majority of our majors engage in intensive research culminating in their senior thesis. Recent projects include: an ethnography of an addiction recovery program, a comparative study of urban revitalization in two neighborhoods, an examination of southern identity in Richmond, Indiana, and an analysis of the soundscapes that link hunters and their dogs in Tennessee. Students who write the thesis conduct original research off campus where they encounter people whose lives differ from their own.
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