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What are Sociology and Anthropology?

The disciplines of sociology and anthropology describe the patterning, problems and prospects of human relationships. That is, they consider how and why people behave as they do, the implications of these patterns for other aspects of social life, and how new ways of living may be built and sustained. Sociology and anthropology have as their principal objective the development and sharing of knowledge about human societies and behavior.

At Elon, the majors of sociology and anthropology are housed in the same department to provide students with a comprehensive and integrated understanding of human societies. Our department's approach is comprehensive in that it offers coursework covering a wide range of societies and examines these societies at many different levels. However, sociology and anthropology courses do much more than describe the overall characteristics of societies, including such issues as cultural values, population characteristics and everyday customs. These courses also analyze basic socio-cultural institutions, such as family life, religion and economics; patterns of social difference, such as race, class and gender; types of social organization, like schools, businesses and social clubs; forms of interaction; and even the ways in which personal identity is formed.

Our program is integrative in the sense that students are shown not only how societies themselves are connected in a wider global context but also how the different elements of each society are woven into complex cultural patterns. In the past, sociology courses focused more on patterns of interaction and organization in advanced industrial societies like the United States, while anthropology courses emphasized the cultural environments of indigenous and traditional peoples. However, in recent years, forces of globalization and a growing emphasis on cultural diversity have brought these disciplines together into a powerful, mutually reinforcing relationship. At Elon, sociology students have their knowledge of their own society enhanced dramatically by the evolutionary and comparative perspectives of anthropology.

Faculty within the Department of Sociology and Anthropology model this integrative approach through their own work both within the disciplines and through interdisciplinary outreach across the campus.  Every semester faculty from the sociology and anthropology department teach courses and are involved in activities that serve numerous programs across the campus including Honors, Elon College Fellows, International Studies, Education, the Program for Ethnographic Research and Community Studies (PERCS), Non-Violence Studies, Criminal Justice Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, Periclean Scholars, Civic Engagement Scholars, Debating for Democracy (D4D), and the General Studies Program (GST 110 and other upper-level courses).  Departmental faculty mentors also mentor students who received the Lumen Prize for independent research and the Perito Award.

In addition to the exciting work that the department undertakes, the faculty have offices, classroom, and lab space in the brand new Gold LEED certified building, Lindner Hall.  The building is the “greenest” building on campus and offers a host of sustainable environmental features. 

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