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Anthropology and the Study of Humanity

Biology, archaeology, language, and culture-gain a comprehensive understanding of humanity's development from an acclaimed professor and field researcher.
Anthropology and the Study of Humanity is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 73.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Richly informative! While I found each lecture interesting, some were truly fascinating and enlightening because they touched on areas of knowledge of which I knew little or nothing of! It was also helpful that Professor Lacy traced how anthropology evolved, eventually shaking off the same kind of misinterpretations and distortions of Darwin's theory that so misled historians and others in the late 19th century in their mistaken use of "Social Darwinism," which taught that not only were some humans more "advanced" than others, but that also cultures could be similarly ranked on a scale from barbaric to advanced. Proceeding from how these misunderstandings came to be corrected -- an interesting story in itself -- Professor Lacy then goes on to share with us how the tools of anthropology assist archaeologists and historians better understand how our species evolved, spread geographically, and adapted ever more tools. This course also contains fascinating insights into how cultures other than our own have attempted to curb violence while also achieving acceptable reconciliation among previously hostile persons or groups, lessons which we desperately need to adapt more widely in our own country at this very troubled time. His various examples of "anthropology in the field" -- in which anthropologists immerse themselves in other cultures to observe, learn, and free themselves of unintentional biases -- were very, very interesting. And, given the hot topic of gender and sexual identity these days in the US, his lecture on "Sex, Gender, and Sexuality" was truly enlightening and valuable. His lectures are rich in information and require attentive viewing (or listening). But then, the best courses always do!
Date published: 2023-05-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Really pretty awful I am a diehard progressive. Having said that I have a respect for logic and the scientific method. Having said that, Dr. Lacy does us all - and especially the non-binary community - a great disservice by abandoning all attempts to let facts lead to conclusions and instead engaging in pseudo liberal diatribes presenting his ill-conceived presuppositions as facts. Pseudo-science at its absolute worst.
Date published: 2022-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such enthusiasm is refreshing! Professor Lacy's obvious enthusiasm and passion comes thru his lectures. A wonderful style of teaching that makes learning quite enjoyable! Well done on an excellent choice of study and of the perfect person to present it!
Date published: 2022-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am still working on it. However I am far enough along to state that it is very enlightening and insightful.
Date published: 2022-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Lectures and awesome experience! I bought this course in preparation for a Anthropology 1101 at the University of North Carolina @ Charlotte. Dr. Lacy engaging lectures prepared me for all my quizzes and exams very well. I loved that he introduce himself with a lot of fieldwork experience to set the tone of a teacher with a lot of experience in real life not just book knowledge. Frankie G.
Date published: 2021-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Insights about our ancestors I bought this to gain more insight about the migration of early man from Africa to all around the world. I was particularly interested as to the morphing of mankind to the races found around the world today but this part of the migration was not talked about in this course. I did learn a lot about how we all began and transformed along the way. Professor Lacy did an excellent job with his presentation and I feel I learned a lot in this course.
Date published: 2021-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting introduction to the Anthropology field I’m a little perplexed by all the many negative reviews, some extraordinarily negative. The course was what I expected it to be, a survey of the field of anthropology, an introduction to the field for those of us pursuing other directions in life. It absolutely fulfilled that. Some reviewers seemed to not like the Professor Lacy’s style of teaching. It is rather laid back or informal, if you will. But I liked that about the series. Make no mistake though, Prof Lacy is passionate about his subject, and he struck me as very knowledgeable. If I have complaints about his style it would be that at times his activism shows through. Since I was in agreement with him on these points it did not bother me too much, but I do prefer this type of course to be geared more to the objective. Also he tended to personalize the course with his experiences in Mali. I suppose this might have turned some folks off, but it just added interest to me. Before this course when I thought of anthropology I thought of grad students at a dusty archeological site or Margaret Mead doing field work. Anthropology has many more subdivisions than I realized and is a very broad, multi-disciplinary science that is used in many different ways. Both my wife and I found this series interesting, educational and worth our time.
Date published: 2021-06-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from blinkered by WEIRD moral and long on assertion Substantial parts of this course were good, especially when Lacey was talking about his own research. Alas, other parts overemphasized the preferred moral lesson over the data. Over and over again we hear about the power of anthropology to expand our vision but often as not there's nothing much on what specifically anthro has found. This is most clear in the lecture on family where we hear that families often differ from the western norm of the bourgeois nuclear family but don't hear much of anything about the major alternatives. For instance, to the best of my recollection there wasn't a single minute on cousin marriage, kinship moieties, etc. Other lectures go beyond silence to be outright misleading. You also see this with the lecture on war which consists of downplaying the prevalence of war and emphasizing conflict de-escalation. We are supposed to be impressed that small bands of !Kung San go years without a fist fight, as if most of us don't have similar track records in our own social circles of comparable size and let's just ignore other cultures with staggering mortality to violence. As Keeley's War Before Civilization has shown, it is absurd to walk away from the data saying "my anthro prof taught me that war is a problem of modernity and in the garden of Eden the lion lays with the lamb." Likewise Fiske and Rai's Virtuous Violence shows the power of an honest engagement with ethnography on violence. Or consider the lecture on race where we are told race has "nothing" to do with biology. It is true and important that race is not reducible to biology and social constructions make some arbitrary distinctions in underlying clinal differentiation, but the gross overstatement of saying *nothing* makes it sound impossible that physical anthropologists can instantly recognize an East Asian skull from its teeth or that spitting in a tube and paying $100 can tell you with impressive accuracy where your family came from. Anthropology is an important discipline with fascinating findings but the course has too much WEIRD morality sermon and not enough anthropology for me to recommend it.
Date published: 2021-06-25
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What does it mean to be human? Where did we come from? And what unites us in our diversity today? Tackle these questions and more in Anthropology and the Study of Humanity, a comprehensive survey one of the world's most engaging sciences. In 24 wide-ranging lectures, Professor Scott Lacy of Fairfield University takes you on a journey through the world of anthropology, or the study of humanity across time and space.


Scott M. Lacy

Anthropology inspires us to integrate multiple perspectives to enthusiastically explore our human condition and all its history and diversity.


Fairfield University

Scott M. Lacy is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Fairfield University in Connecticut, where he teaches anthropology, environmental studies, and black studies courses. He earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his research interests include cross-cultural knowledge production, food systems, intellectual property rights associated with seed, and the anthropology of happiness.

In addition to being an award-winning teacher and two-time Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Lacy is a coauthor of two popular textbooks, Applying Anthropology and Applying Cultural Anthropology, and he has published a number of book chapters and articles that document cross-cultural knowledge production in agriculture, community development, engineering, and even nanotechnology. Dr. Lacy has presented his work as a consultant or keynote speaker for numerous organizations, including Engineers Without Borders and the Peace Corps. His nonprofit and academic work has been featured in two major documentaries: Sustaining Life and Nyogonfe: Together.

Dr. Lacy has worked in Mali since 1994, when he first served in the Peace Corps. Since then, he has partnered with family farmers, teachers, community leaders, plant scientists, engineers, and a host of other knowledge specialists in Mali and throughout the world. He is also the founder and executive director of African Sky, a nonprofit organization that serves hardworking farm families in rural Mali, West Africa.

By This Professor

Anthropology and the Study of Humanity
Anthropology and the Study of Humanity


Why Anthropology Matters

01: Why Anthropology Matters

Begin your course with a few of the big questions: Who are we as humans? Where did we come from? Anthropology is the study of humans over time and space, but it is also about bridge-building, connecting, and understanding ourselves and the world around us. Survey the biological, archaeological, linguistic, and cultural approaches to the field.

33 min
Science, Darwin, and Anthropology

02: Science, Darwin, and Anthropology

Because anthropology is so strongly linked with other sciences, particularly biology, take a guided tour through the history of science over the past 3,000 years. From pre-scientific ideas through the theory of natural selection, see how the emergence of scientific ideas changed the way we understand ourselves and our origins....

31 min
Our Primate Family Tree

03: Our Primate Family Tree

Travel back in time 63 million years to the beginning of our family tree. Because of our shared evolutionary history, modern humans and other primates have much in common, including our emotional range and our ability to communicate. Review the field of primatology to find out what studying other species can teach us about humanity.

29 min
Paleoanthropology and the Hominin Family

04: Paleoanthropology and the Hominin Family

Shift your attention to the field of paleoanthropology, the study of our human ancestors. Here, trace the development of our species from the earliest bipedal hominids to modern Homo sapiens. Explore archaeological evidence of Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and other species. See how anthropologists continue to test and correct their theories.

31 min
Tracing the Spread of Humankind

05: Tracing the Spread of Humankind

Anthropologists have several theories for how Homo sapiens spread out of Africa and around the globe. In this lecture, examine three theories to explain the migration, and then turn to archaeological and genetic evidence to uncover the latest thinking on when and how humans arrived in the Americas.

27 min
Anthropology and the Question of Race

06: Anthropology and the Question of Race

Conclude this first unit on biological anthropology by unpacking the ambiguities around race, skin color, and biology. After reviewing the history of Social Darwinism, you'll see how Franz Boas and other 20th century anthropologists shifted our understanding of race to show how it is a cultural construct, independent of biology and geography.

29 min
Archaeology and Human Tools

07: Archaeology and Human Tools

Shift your attention from biology to archaeology, where you will dig up several answers about the Homo sapiens family tree. Here, Professor Lacy introduces what archaeologists do and how they work. He then examines the history of tools such as the hand-ax and the microlith, which had a tremendous impact on human population.

27 min
Agricultural Roots of Civilization

08: Agricultural Roots of Civilization

Continue your archaeological studies with a fascinating look at the rise of farming. Why did humans shift from foraging to agriculture 10,000 years ago? How did changing ecology and technological inventions drive this transition? And what lessons does this story have for us today? See how humans must contend with producing more food with less arable land.

30 min
Rise of Urban Centers

09: Rise of Urban Centers

Delve into the ancient urban experience. After the rise of agriculture, our ancestors invested in the future of humankind by building major cities and civilizations across the planet. After considering what constitutes a city in the first place, you'll take an archaeological tour of several early cities, including Jericho, Aleppo, Uruk, and Cahokia.

29 min
Anthropological Perspectives on Money

10: Anthropological Perspectives on Money

The classic story of money says that early humans transitioned from barter to money to credit, but the archaeological record shows we have that history all wrong-that credit emerged before actual money. Study the history of money from an anthropological angle, beginning with early number concepts through the development of paper cash.

27 min
Anthropological Perspectives on Language

11: Anthropological Perspectives on Language

Language has played a starring role in our continued survival as a species, so linguistics is a critical subfield of anthropology. In this lecture, you'll study the origins of language in our primate cousins and then survey the evolution of language in Homo sapiens. Then see how language has changed our evolution by increasing our capacity for information exchange.

31 min
Apocalyptic Anthropology

12: Apocalyptic Anthropology

No history of humanity would be complete without a few thoughts about how it all ends. Reflect on how different societies have viewed the end of humanity, from the epic cycles of Buddhism and Hinduism to secular techno-apocalypses such as the Singularity. Then see what lessons anthropology may offer in how to avoid extinction.

30 min
Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity

13: Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity

Humans are all the same species, but we have a seemingly infinite cultural diversity. As an introduction to anthropology's fourth major subfield, Professor Lacy takes you around the world to meet Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, and others who helped anthropology transition from "cultural evolutionism" to "cultural relativism."

31 min
Field Research in Cultural Anthropology

14: Field Research in Cultural Anthropology

Continue your study of cultural anthropology by looking at how the next generation of field researchers built on the foundation of Boas and Malinowski. See how Zora Neale Hurston, Alfred Kroeber, and Audrey Richards have broadened the way we think about culture, diversity, and social structures.

30 min
Kinship, Family, and Marriage

15: Kinship, Family, and Marriage

You likely have a concept for what "family" is, so you might be surprised to learn there is no universal concept for "family" around the world. Apply the anthropological lens to understand how and why different cultures have different ideas about how to structure a family-and what functional logic underlies these differences.

29 min
Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

16: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

By this point in the course, it should be no surprise that biological sex and our construct of gender are much more complicated than they seem. Here, Professor Lacy unpacks the cultural and biological questions of sex, gender, and sexuality using genetics, twin studies, and more to show the breadth of human diversity as well as a common humanity.

30 min
Religion and Spirituality

17: Religion and Spirituality

Anthropologists study religion as a way of studying humans, and this lecture surveys the origins and history of religion, from primate grieving and early human rituals through organized religions and the scientific worldview. Anthropology may not offer new answers about God and the great beyond, but religion offers a fascinating window into humankind.

31 min
Art and Visual Anthropology

18: Art and Visual Anthropology

Until recently, Westerners understood art in terms of progress, with non-Western art as somehow "primitive." Survey the changing views toward world art throughout the 20th century and the role of art in anthropology. Then turn to explore the benefits and challenges that film brings to ethnographic studies.

29 min
Conflict and Reconciliation across Cultures

19: Conflict and Reconciliation across Cultures

This course's final unit examines several realms of "applied anthropology." Here, discover how anthropology can assist with conflict resolution. After examining the history and nature of war, Professor Lacy offers several case studies around the world for resolving conflicts with anthropological methods.

30 min
Forensics and Legal Anthropology

20: Forensics and Legal Anthropology

Forensics is the science of analyzing and identifying unknown human remains. Using a hypothetical discovery as an example, you'll follow the stages of a forensics exam to see how anthropologists build a profile of the remains. Several test cases show forensics anthropology in action.

28 min
Medical Anthropology

21: Medical Anthropology

Anthropologists recognize a difference between the subjective experience of an illness and the biological phenomenon of a disease. With this distinction in mind, learn how anthropologists study medicine, and how anthropology's four subfields can help us better understand human health and healing.

28 min
Anthropology and Economic Development

22: Anthropology and Economic Development

Using his own field research as an example, Professor Lacy takes you inside the powerful world of development anthropology. After grounding you in recent development theory, he takes a look at how anthropologists have thought about international development since World War II.

31 min
Cultural Ecology

23: Cultural Ecology

As explorers of the human condition, anthropologists are particularly interested in the complex relationship between culture and the environment. The field of cultural ecology looks beyond mere environmental determinism and examines how the natural world inspires cultural differences. Review the methods and theory of this field of study.

33 min
The Anthropology of Happiness

24: The Anthropology of Happiness

What is the purpose of life? This is arguably the biggest question of all, and anthropology helps point the way toward a few answers. See how each of the four subfields-biology, archaeology, linguistics, and cultural anthropology-approach the question of human satisfaction and what we can apply to our own lives.

36 min