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Department of Anthropology

About the Department

Department of AnthropologyThe discipline of anthropology utilizes a four-field approach to the study of humans. Physical Anthropology studies humans and their primate relatives in terms of evolution, biology, and behavior. Archaeology studies cultural evolution, elucidating past human societies from their beginnings to the recent development of complex societies. Anthropological Linguistics studies languages cross-culturally, including topics such as language structure and socio-cultural dimensions of language use. Cultural Anthropology studies the cultural similarities and differences among diverse societies around the world. Subsumed under cultural anthropology are such topics as religion, urban anthropology, gender studies, economic and political anthropology, medical anthropology, and anthropology of globalization. The Anthropology Department at Lehman focuses on research and undergraduate teaching, with a strong connection to the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate School.

Our teaching goals at Lehman are three-fold:

  • to provide an introduction to Anthropology for all students who wish to discover this broad and integrative discipline. To this end, Anthropology courses fulfill Distribution requirements in 4 of the 7 seven Areas (I--Individuals and Society, II--Socio-Political Structures, V--Comparative Cultures and VI--Historical Studies), as well as in the Natural Sciences. With the implementation of the new General Education Pathways Initiative in Fall 2013, Anthropology courses also fulfill the requirements of the following areas: Required Core: Life and Physical Sciences; Flexible Core, World Cultures and Global Issues; Flexible Core: Individual and Society; and Flexible Core: Scientific World.
  • to offer a diverse range of advanced courses in the four fields for our majors. Because not all students with an interest in Anthropology have the same goals, we actually have two majors: a 34-credit B. A. in Anthropology, with requirements in all four fields; and a 60-credit B. S. in Anthropology (Physical), Biology and Chemistry (A/B/C) which focuses on the more scientific aspects of the discipline.
  • to offer a chance for students to gain experience in research under the guidance of a faculty member, especially for those who plan to go on for an advanced degree. Anthropology 489 allows a student to undertake independent study at Lehman (or sometimes via an off-campus internship) with a faculty supervisor; it may be repeated more than once if desired.

Faculty research spans the full scope of Anthropology. Details may be found on the individual faculty members' web pages, but in brief:

  • Archeologist Louis Flam studies evidence for the rise of civilization in the hills of western Pakistan.
  • Archaeologist Cameron McNeil research focuses on the exploitation and management of natural resources in the development of complex societies.  Most of her work has been conducted at Maya archaeological sites, in particular at Copan in Honduras.
  • Cultural anthropologist Stephanie Rupp researches China-in-Africa, focusing on the relationship between China’s role as an exporter of African energy resources, and as a provider of energy infrastructure to refurbish electricity grids and to provide new sources of energy generation for African communities.
  • Cultural anthropologist Christa Salamandra studies visual, mediated and urban culture in the Arab Middle East. Her current research explores the cultural politics of TV drama production in Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Cultural anthropologist Victoria Sanford studies human rights, international humanitarian law, the anthropology of genocide, race and gender in the Americas, and child soldiers within Guatemala, Colombia, South Africa.  She is the director of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies based at Lehman College.
  • Physical anthropologist Eric Delson is a paleoanthropologist studying the evolution of humans and other primates through their fossils and also looks for new fossils at a 2-million year old site in France.
  • Physical anthropologist William Harcourt-Smith is a paleoanthropologist studying the evolution of humans, with a specialized interest in hominin postcranial morphology and functional anatomy related to primate locomotion.
  • Physical anthropologist Ryan Raaum studies population genetics, human molecular variation, phylogeography, primate phylogenetics, molecular systematics within Africa, the Middle East, and Indian Ocean rim.
  • Physical anthropologist Vincent Stefan examines the population history of Pacific Islands and the prehistoric Easter Islanders through study of skull form and applies his knowledge of osteology to aid local medical examiners in the forensic interpretation of remains found during police investigations.

Students may get involved in some of this research in different ways: archaeology courses allow students to build and then dig up a "site" right on the campus or to assist in actual field study of the Jay mansion; students in cultural courses may have the opportunity to do some research in local neighborhoods; the "UBM" program (Undergraduate Biology and Mathematics) of the National Science Foundation has funded several students to participate in research in 3-dimensional analysis of fossils and modern primate skulls at the American Museum of Natural History, where other students have taken off-campus internships.

Lehman faculty have long been involved in training Ph. D. students at the CUNY Graduate School (based at 34th street & Fifth Avenue in Manhattan). Most current professors teach courses there at intervals, and Eric Delson directs the physical anthropology group and the larger NYCEP consortium which combines CUNY students and faculty with those from NYU, Columbia as well as the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society). Graduate students in the CUNY Ph. D. Program often teach Lehman courses as Adjunct Lecturers.