Moorea dancers, photo credit M. Lauer

Our Department

Anthropology is like a bridge spanning the rivers of time and space, connecting distant landscapes and eras, through its four interconnected subfields: archaeology, biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology (see this video to learn more about anthropology). Anthropology is unrivaled in the sciences for its breadth and historical depth with anthropologists studying everything from the evolutionary origins of the human species to the biological and material remains of past societies to contemporary political, economic, and social issues and shifts that contribute to today's global challenges and successes. Indeed, it is this diversity of approaches or holism that is a central uniting principle of the anthropological pursuit.

SDSU Anthropology: A short history

Anthropology courses were first taught at SDSU, then a Normal School located in University Heights, in 1899. Nearly 50 years later in 1948, Anthropology became recognized as a formal unit when a joint Anthropology and Sociology Department was created. At that time only an anthropology minor or concentration was offered within a Liberal Arts BA degree. Eleven years later, in 1959, the first anthropology BA degrees became available and five years later, in 1964, Anthropology eventually separated from Sociology and became its own department. The following year the MA degree was launched.

Vision and Points of Excellence

Our mission statement highlights three key goals: 1) To produce cutting-edge research that advances our understanding of the human condition; 2) To educate graduate and undergraduate students about the complexity and diversity of humans and their relationship to each other, other species, and Earth; and 3) To foster practical, real-world application of anthropological theory and method to help solve contemporary global issues. To guide our hiring priorities and program development, we formulated a strategic vision to focus on three critical and highly relevant global themes: environment, health, and social justice.

Our department offers an undergraduate major (Bachelor of Arts), a minor, and a graduate degree (Master of Arts). Our BA and MA students emerge ready for today’s job market by gaining integrated training in all four of anthropology’s subfields—cultural anthropology, physical/biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. A standout feature of our program is the extensive research opportunities available to both undergraduate and graduate students, who gain hands-on experience in field schools or our nine specialized laboratories or centers

The faculty in our department are actively engaged and productive scholars who are carrying out research projects locally in San Diego and southern California, as well as internationally in locales such as Mexico, the Pacific, Brazil, Italy, Indonesia, and India. Their commitment to research is reflected in the output of numerous books and scholarly articles

Engaged Anthropology

Anthropology is inherently an engaged practice since our research and teaching always involve ethical and moral dimensions, no matter if we are learning about ancient bones or flora, the behavior of primates, contemporary languages, or the climate crisis. As such, our students are trained to both theorize about human lifeways and to apply anthropological principles and methods to not only address problems in the contemporary world but also move towards more just, equitable, and less environmentally destructive futures. We apply our professional research, scholarship, practice, and teaching to overturn the deeply entrenched institutional sources of inequality based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, age, ability, and other categories. We use anthropological research, scholarship, teaching, and practice in service of dismantling institutions of colonization and helping to redress histories of oppression, exploitation, and environmental destruction. This dedication is evident in our hiring, mentorship, teaching methods, research, and professional service.