Welcome to the Department of Sociology/Anthropology. The central issue in sociology and anthropology is human variation—how our behavior is shaped by the company we keep and the cultural traditions from which we learn. If you don’t like how you were raised as a child, or the company you’re keeping, or what you’re expected to do with your life, come to the Department of Sociology/Anthropology.
We’ll show you alternatives—not that you will necessarily like them. Or are you just a rebel without a cause? We have lots to choose from because we are the college’s only department that combines two disciplines within a single departmental major.
Many people wonder, what’s the difference between Sociology and Anthropology? Until recently anthropologists focused on small-scale non-Western societies whereas sociologists studied contemporary Western society. Methodologically, anthropologists were more likely to rely on participant-observation or cultural immersion whereas sociologists were more likely to rely on survey research. Sociologists tended to have more faith in social science as an objective form of knowledge whereas anthropologists were more likely to critique Western epistemology.
Such contrasts will not necessarily hold up in your sociology and anthropology courses at Middlebury College, and the two disciplines converge in important ways:
• both are very interested in how individual experience is shaped by the society we keep and the cultural traditions we inherit;
• both agree that culture is transmitted through social relations, and both disciplines agree that social relations are defined by culture;
• both are inspired by the classic theorists whom you will meet in SOAN 105, especially Marx, Durkheim, and Weber; and
• both are fascinated by competing definitions of reality, in which reasonable people see the world in diametrically opposed ways.