I study Anthropology and African Studies and yes, it is a real course
We’re not just weirdos in pith helmets
I study Anthropology and African Studies, and the first thing people usually ask me when I tell them runs along the lines of “what the fuck is that?” When my coursemates have answered the same question, some even thought Anthropology was the study of ants, rats, or spiders. This is wrong. Very wrong.
Both these subjects are pretty interesting and important, and because of this (and because no one seems to know what it is), I also think people should know what my subject is and does. African Studies is pretty self-explanatory – we learn whatever we can about a massively diverse and culturally rich continent. Our lecturers usually specify in particular countries, so we get a great insight into specific places.
The study of African countries usually involves a lot of detail into histories, as well as contemporary political issues – and it’s really interesting to get an insight and context into stuff that comes up on the news. We also get the chance to look at some cultural aspects of parts of Africa – one of our lecture rooms is literally a museum with West African masks, sculptures, and other artefacts (it’s the Danford Collection – have a look, it’s in the Arts Building). Our course society even went on a trip to see an acapella group from Soweto and got to meet them afterwards – they’re called Simply Soweto Encha, and are definitely worth a listen.
Anthropology is probably a bit harder to explain – there’s loads of different strands of it, but we study social anthropology, which basically explores culture and how it works. Essentially, anthropologists go somewhere, live there, learn the language, and just get to grips with how that society works, and try to understand how people view the world. It’s pretty amazing to study, and we get to ask some really interesting questions about our own lives and the way we experience culture ourselves. Our lecturers are all involved in really up to date research as well, and can give us insights from their own fieldwork.
On the downside, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to answer really deep questions in a 9am, but it’s nice to enjoy the course enough to turn up to it. So the next time you ask “what the fuck is that?”, refrain from doing so, and do a little research beforehand. It may turn out to be a lot more interesting than you first think.