Anthropology seeks to understand and interpret the global range of human experience.

The anthropological imagination draws upon biological, linguistic, historical, and comparative perspectives in creating a systematic vision of how societies are patterned and how culture is experienced.

The program at Illinois Wesleyan University emphasizes the branch of anthropology known as socio-cultural anthropology. This branch relies upon the method of ethnography, or participant-observation, in which a researcher lives among a group of people and attempts to experience, first-hand, how they live and communicate.

Students at IWU are provided with a variety of opportunities to develop the fundamental field research skills used by professional anthropologists. Many of our courses allow students to interact with members of American sub-cultures and peoples of diverse ethnic heritage.

Anthropology majors and minors leave the program with both written and visual ethnographies (photo-essays and ethnographic films) that they have produced themselves.

Anthropology Mission

Anthropology Student Learning Goals

A graduate from the IWU Anthropology program will:


  • be exposed to each of the four major subfields: socio-cultural anthropology, anthropological archaeology, biological (or physical) anthropology, and linguistic anthropology and understand the intersecting ways in which these sub-fields enhance our understanding of the human condition.
  • be familiar with the theorists whose ideas have shaped the discipline and the methodologists whose practices have changed the way that professional anthropologists conduct research.
  • understand how people communicate and share ideas symbolically, through language, art, music, and dance.


  • know how to effectively conduct ethnographic research, including effectively conducting participant-observation and an ethnographic interview.
  • know how to describe and compare anthropological theories and understand how they relate to ethnographic practice.
  • be able to represent the voices, opinions and experiences of people from a different society from the emic (insider’s perspective) and articulately convey ethnographic narratives in writing, orally, and visually.


  • have an awareness of the ethical issues surrounding the study of indigenous and/or vulnerable peoples.
  • appreciate the benefits of collaborating with members of the society under study
  • appreciate and respect the variety of knowledge systems at work in the world.