In many ways, it is a great time to study anthropology at Trinity and to be working in the field. The pressures of change all around the globe pose new and challenging questions about how societies will deal with themselves and with other societies. The colonial and post-colonial worlds have opened windows into cultures with values different from our own, values we must interpret in their appropriate contexts in order to coexist with mutual respect and benefit. The implications of everything from interpersonal relationships to geopolitical restructurings demand cross-cultural understanding, and to provide that understanding, Anthropology is moving to a central position among the social sciences.
The anthropologist, far from a “raider of the lost ark”—a latter-day Indiana Jones—seeks answers to questions that are compellingly relevant in the contemporary world. The problems we face as human beings in our perplexing modern times demand a way of thinking that faces complexity head-on. How, for example, are we to evaluate the effects on indigenous peoples when their rain forests are clear-cut in the name of what third-world governments describe as necessary economic development? What do we say if the indigenous peoples themselves want this development to occur? And, how can we be sure that development means the same thing to them as it does to us?
The world is characterized by a complicated mix of positions and interests that have to be unraveled and understood in a manner that takes complete social and cultural environments into consideration. The anthropologist in today’s world is, in a very real sense, a human ecologist, and the opportunity for intellectual challenge and practical involvement has never been greater. As a student at Trinity facing current issues in anthropology, you will be acquiring a set of skills, a way of viewing the world, and a level of understanding that will be assets in any career path you choose.