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.

In his market research work, says Chad Maxwell '02, the value isn't in the collection and analysis of data, but in reframing the question. This is why an anthropology and liberal arts background is important.

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.