Should I Study an Unpopular Major Called Anthropology?

Anthropology is one of the unpopular majors in Cambodia. Thus, not many people know such field exist. When talking about anthropology, people often ask what exactly anthropology is. To put it simply, anthropology is the study of human, and it is one of the major related to humanity. With anthropology, humans are studied both in cultural and biological aspects making the major holistic. Due to this reason, anthropology is divided into 4 subfields:


Cultural Anthropology: As the name suggest, cultural anthropology is the study of human’s culture. The main focuses in this subfield are ethnography and ethnology. Ethnography is the in descriptive study of a particular culture while ethnology is the comparative and analytical study of people and culture. Majoring in cultural anthropology, you can be ethnographer requiring you to stay away from home for a long period of time, which is more than one year, in order to study in depth of human’s culture; or you can be an ethnologist who stays with the group for a short periods of time, which can be a week to a month, to gather all the data needed to compare and analyze. If you love traveling abroad or exploring the nature to exchange culture, cultural anthropology suits you.


Archeology: Archeology is really similar to cultural anthropology. The only difference is the time. Therefore, archeology is the study of past human’s culture.  Archeology is divided into 2 types: prehistoric archeology and historical archeology. Prehistoric is the study of the remains of culture existed before written record. Usually, prehistoric archeologist studies the artifacts (using equipment such as pots and pans), features (houses, roads, hearths), ecofacts (plant or animal remains—soil, pollen, fossil), or even middens (trash heaps), which also referred to garbology. Historical archeology is the study of past culture and subculture that have written records yet little if written. To study the past culture, both prehistoric and historical archaeologies need experimental archeology, experimenting to understand how prehistoric artifacts were made and used; and applied archeology, the use of archeological methods to study material culture of contemporary societies. The area also includes ethnoarcheology also contributes to the analysis of artifacts and ecofacts by studying present-day societies’ behaviors and uses of material objects; and behavioral archeology, an area of applied archeology focusing on material culture and people’s behavior. Besides all of those areas just mentioned, cultural resource management (CRM) is also popular for those studying archeology. It is the conservation and management of archeological sites to protect them. So, if you like digging and study about past culture like Tomb Raider, you should consider majoring in archeology.


Linguistics: Linguistics is the study of language. It is categorized into 2 areas of study: descriptive linguistics and historical linguistics. Descriptive linguistics focuses on mechanics of language, which includes phonology (sound), morphology (word formation), and syntax (sentence structure or grammar). Historical linguistics focuses on the history of languages including their development and relationships to other languages. Another categories of study are ethnolinguistic, which analyze the relationship between a language and culture; and sociolinguistic, the study of how people use language in different social contexts such as workplace or at home. If you are thinking that you have to be polyglot to study this, do not worry because you can be monolingual and major in this field.


Biological or physical anthropology: In this area, you study humans as a biological species, which means you study human’s body and evolution. The areas includes paleoanthropology, which is the study of human biological evolution using comparative anatomy and examination of fossils; and primatology, which is the study of primate. With primatology, we investigate the anatomy, physiology, genetics, and behaviors of apes, monkeys, and prosimians; which helps us to gain better understanding of Homo sapiens. In area of research, contemporary human variation studies focuses on living humans and how our anatomy and physiology vary. Interestingly, majoring in biological anthropology, you can be a forensic anthropologist, who applies the knowledge in legal issues.  Should you like to explore humans as a biological species and evolution, why not major in biological anthropology?


Studying anthropology provides you a great opportunity to explore and understand human’s behavior and why people do what they do. Moreover, it also allows you to travel the world to collect data by fieldwork, and it bestows acceptance and open-mindedness inside you to connect you people around the world. With you majoring in anthology, there will be more understanding of present and past culture, language, and biology of humans.


Note: In my knowledge, the only university in Cambodia that offers anthropology major is Pannasastra University of Cambodia or PUC.


Source: Introducing Cultural Anthropology (4th edition) by Robert Edwards Lenkeit