Anthropology offers perhaps the broadest comparative framework for the study of human life and experience. Reed’s anthropology department focuses on two subfields within the discipline: linguistic and cultural. Linguistic anthropology looks at the relationship between language and culture, while cultural anthropology explores the astonishing range and variability of human practices past and present. These fields pay particular attention to race, gender, sexuality, class, and (trans)nationalisms, and provide frameworks for contextualizing and analyzing them.
Through readings, discussions, writing assignments, and other exercises, anthropology students explore the competing conceptual frameworks and techniques of research and interpretation sociocultural anthropologists use to study humankind. Many anthropology majors take an interdisciplinary approach to their education, and they are encouraged to study abroad and to take classes in other departments, such as history, sociology, political science, and foreign languages.
As one faculty member describes it, anthropology is a “metadiscipline”—a set of critical frameworks that inspires curious skepticism of social theories and normative categories. At Reed, students are actively encouraged to contextualize theory with current events.
Anthropology majors often pursue graduate school in a variety of disciplines, and Reed alumni have attended University of Chicago, New York University, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, and Cornell University.
“At Reed, the study of anthropology asks you to think about who you are in relation to what you’re studying and to engage critically with the discipline. You’re guided through this process by faculty who teach about geographic areas all over the world, offering you the opportunity to find a topic and a place that you’re passionate about.” MIKAELA LIEB ’17
Professor LaShandra Sullivan
Environmental and Political Anthropology
Professor LaShandra Sullivan’s research focuses on relations to land and landscapes amid the historical reconfigurations of racialized labor as well as rural and urban economic transformations. This work ranges from struggles for Indigenous land titling to contestations over implicit ethno-racial markings of space and dwellings. Her work centers on the ways that race, gender, and sexuality factor in ongoing historical production of racism and material inequalities in Brazil and the United States. This includes attention to seemingly ephemeral aspects of daily life: practices of meaning-making, coping, and spiritual dimensions of relations between people (and things) that exceed overly crude readings of materiality.
Sullivan’s work features ongoing collaborations with activists who contest historical and ongoing oppression through myriad forms of protest. She carries out this research in two different regions of Brazil. The first project collaborates with Guaraní land activists in Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul. Her newer work focuses on the intersections of Black feminist and LGBTQ+ activism and Black empowerment in Rio de Janeiro. Finally, she has recently begun research along these lines with Black rural landholders in Mississippi.
She says, “One of my favorite parts of teaching is to work with students to cocreate a space for open critique and dialogue. I strive to empower students to make meaningful connections with course materials, motivate them to think critically, and encourage them to apply that knowledge to their understanding of society. I want students to understand the ways our work matters to the world outside of the classroom.”
Did You Know…
- Reed has one of the largest stand- alone anthropology departments among American liberal arts colleges.
- Faculty research and teaching covers six continents.
- The department offers myriad opportunities for funded research and faculty-student collaboration.
Radicle: Reed College Anthropology Review
Radicle is the student-powered and peer-reviewed annual journal of anthropology at Reed College. Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and operated by students, for students, it is a space for highlighting Reed’s undergraduate work that is informed by anthropological method and theory. Radicle is open-access—you do not need a subscription to read the work, see the photographs, or watch the videos—giving those in broader academia a place to find the best work of some of the youngest minds in the field.
Recent Senior Thesis Titles
During their senior year, students write a thesis—a large research endeavor that calls upon all of the academic skills they have honed during their time at Reed.
“More than Tomatoes: A Political Ecology of Organic Farming in Taiwan”
Sky Ford ’22 (winner of the 2022 Class of ’21 Award)
“Reconfigurations of Indigeneity and Tourism in Yucatán, México”
Elena Turner ’22
“In Our Hands: How Biologists Negotiate Unpredictability to Make and Share Knowledge”
Leila Shokat ’21
“Through the Eyes of Immigration: Politics, Entextualization and Bureaucratic Arbitrariness of the U-Nonimmigrant Visa”
Amina Rahman ’14
What Do Alumni Do?
Master’s Student in Science and Technology in Society
The University of Edinburgh
Leila Shokat '21
Director, Talent Strategy
Teach for America
Mariu Andrade ’15
Development and Communications Associate
Amelia Wolf ’15
Americas Content Team
Hoyoung “Jodie” Moon ’14
Archaeological Services, LLC
Liz Mastrangelo ’13
Proposal Management Specialist
Emily Youatt ’10
Investigative Data Reporter
Kendall Taggart ’09
Adonia Lugo ’05