Welcome to the Anthropology Department
Welcome to the University of the Western Cape

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures. It seeks to understand the complexities of social interactions and the meaning of being human. Anthropology is about our involvement in the world we share, and the forms that our world takes.

Anthropology is a discipline that was historically founded around the question of difference. In its inception, it was understood as the study of the non-Western people. However, important new questions and challenges have been posed to anthropology from the Global South, by black and feminist scholars, and this has forced the discipline to undergo a productive process of self-critique and regeneration from the 1960s onwards.

How do we understand the world we live in? How can our work speak to the inequalities and violence that characterises our contemporary? Anthropology is indeed traversed by the quest of social justice that remains crucial in the ways in which we write, teach and research today. Through their works and constant reflections, anthropologists foster mutual respect and understanding of other people’s experiences and worldview, and are committed to bring change in our societies.

Anthropologists produce knowledge in a specific way: they conduct fieldwork, immerse  themselves in the lives of the people they study, they gather up observations, analyse, theorise, and they write up their findings. Virtually everything of our world interests them: business and money, kinship, modes of production, consumption, beliefs and rituals, social knowledge and cognition, relationships and politics, gender constructions, migration, nationhood, heritage, social movements and even education. Anthropology is the study of people everywhere, in the big cosmopolitan cities as much as in rural areas, in Africa, Europe, Asia, or anywhere else in the world.

About us: Who we are

We are a community of anthropologists committed to the understanding of the complex world we live in.

Our task is to train students to become critical, independent thinkers, and agents of change. Our department prides itself as a place that provides real-life career opportunities but also occasions for personal growth. Over the years we have been able to train students for careers in the academy, politics, consultancy, government, journalism, business, the film and creative media industry, market research.

Our students are versatile and creative, and equipped with the intellectual tools that enable them to work in diverse fields—urban planning, museum curatorship, tourism, diversity management, rural and urban development and social policy development, government, NGOs, international agencies, and corporate business. Most of all, our students are passionate thinkers, writers, analysts and activists