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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

What is Anthropology?


Anthropology is the study of all aspects of humanity, from our evolutionary origins to our extraordinary social and cultural diversity.


Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology is the study of social and cultural life in the many forms this takes. Comparison enables us to draw out not only the astonishing diversity and creativity of different peoples in the world today but also to highlight sometimes unexpected similarities. As social anthropologists, we try to understand people’s own perspectives on their everyday lives, practices and beliefs. Those everyday lives can belong to a diverse range of people such as Kenyan hospital workers, Sri Lankan fishermen, Scottish stonemasons or Kazakh bureaucrats. Since these lives and places shape, and are shaped by, historical global processes, we are also interested in the intersections between local lives and global events.


Evolutionary Anthropology

Evolutionary Anthropology encompasses the use of evolutionary theory to understand behaviour, ecology, biology, cognition and culture in humans and our primate relatives past and present. We put people in an evolutionary context by studying the behaviour, ecology, and anatomy of our primate relatives, the evolution of cognitive skills and culture, the fossil evidence for human evolution, and evolutionary influences on the behaviour of modern humans. By integrating evolutionary perspectives with those of socioecology (how social and reproductive lives are adapted to environmental conditions) and psychology, we aim to provide a complete and holistic account of the human species.


Anthropology of Health

Medical anthropologists apply the distinctive theories and methods of social and evolutionary anthropology to help improve human health and wellbeing and contribute to conceptual debates around health and health-care. At Durham, we have four specialisms within the Anthropology of Health Research Group: Anthropology of Global Health, Anthropology of Public Health, Evolutionary Medicine, and the Critical Medical Humanities. Our teaching in Health and Human Sciences draws on these diverse interests to advance the interdisciplinary anthropological study of health to support impact and outreach activities.


"I chose anthropology, specifically at Durham, because I wanted something that would be interdisciplinary and also something that related to solving issues and understanding how people around the world, and even at home, interact with each other, objects, issues, and wider societies. What is so great about anthropology is that you can choose anything you like to be interested in and you have the chance to do it."

Danny Cuttell 
BA Anthropology

Contact Us

T: +44 (0) 191 334 1612