Western University AntropologyWestern Social Science


Western Social Science Building in Spring

Anthropology, which views human behavior, biology and society (both past and present) in a cross-cultural perspective, combines scientific and humanistic interests in a social science framework. Anthropology involves the study of humans located around the globe, over a span of four to five million years, using perspectives from the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities (arts), which makes it one of the broadest ranging of all academic disciplines. A degree in Anthropology can prepare you for a wide array of career choices.

The traditional four-fields in Anthropology are:

Sociocultural Anthropology:

Researchers in Sociocultural Anthropology focus on documenting and understanding the social and cultural relationships of human groups. Research interests in the department range from broader social arenas including studies focussed on development, political organization, epidemiology, political economy and historical sociology, to more local cultural or ethnological arenas including the study of issues of ethnicity, identity, and the local construction of knowledge and values. Sociocultural anthropologists at Western have conducted fieldwork among diverse groups of peoples throughout the world, including Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, throughout Americas, the Middle East, Europe and Canada. Current research projects include studies of the impact of mining projects on the culture of indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea, Refugee studies, environment, historical studies the development of Ecuadorian national culture, ageing populations in Canada, consumption as ideology, the history of anthropology, First Nations identity and politics in Canada, and language and culture documentation and revitalization in the Northwest Amazon.


Anthropological Archaeologists focus on the study of the culture of human groups who existed in the past and who can only be known through the material products of culture they have left behind. The archaeologists in the department are currently carrying out research on sites and artifacts left by the first human occupants of Ontario some 11,000 years ago, and at sites of major civilizations in Mexico. Their research interests include addressing the question of when people first came to the Americas, how stone tools can inform us about the culture of long extinct peoples, and how the Teotihucan civilization in Mexico was organized and structured.

Bioarchaeology and Physical Anthropology:

The subdisciplines of Bioarchaeology and Physical Anthropology has a research focus on the genetically controlled aspects of human variability but is also concerned with how biology and culture are interrelated. Biological anthropologists at Western are currently involved in the study of the relationship between body and brain size over the course of human evolution, the diet, health and geographic area of origin of the peoples of ancient Nubia and the Maya and Teotihuacan civilizations of Belize/Mexico based on the examination of skeletal remains, and the burial practices of the middle and upper classes in the ancient Moche civilization of coastal Peru. Anthropologists at Western in both the biological and archaeological streams also assist the local police forces in the forensic study of human skeletal remains. Finally, the study of non-human primates, known as primatology, is also part of the research scope of the biological anthropologists at Western.

Linguistic Anthropology:

Linguistic Anthropology examines the intersections of language, culture and society. Studies in linguistic anthropology range from micro-level analyses of interpersonal discourse (looking at language in everyday and ritual contexts, at different linguistic aspects of artistic and expressive language, or at social meaning and social variation in speech) to the macro-level analysis of speech communities where language is used to form social identities or for playing out power relations between people, institutions and even countries. The faculty is deeply dedicated to field research, and has areal strengths in cultures and languages of Native North America (Mohawk, Oneida, Ojibwe, Cree, Inuit), Africa, Norway, and in language and speech in contemporary, industrialised North American society.

The Undergraduate Chair of Western's Anthropology department, Professor Sherrie Larkin, would be happy to answer any queries you may have about our program.