There’s a new anthropology blogger in town — teenthropologist (I read it as TEETHropologist the first time — I might need glasses soon. She has an interesting article about how she ended up in Anthropology instead of Medicine (you should read it here). She also asks why Anthropology is not introduced before university. Indeed, why? A lot of school children’s lives might have changed direction if they knew of Anthropology (a student of mine, who is taking up Engineering, comes to mind).
I wrote a response to her post — stating my sentiments to her views. Here it is:
I am an Anthropology graduate from the Philippines. I can very much relate to what you have written and I also wonder why kids aren’t exposed to Anthropology before college. When I went to college, I didn’t know what Anthropology is and what it’s all about. I was a Physics major. Like you, I was also more inclined in Mathematics (but a bit forcibly because my mother is a mathematics professor and my father is an engineer).
It was rather funny how I ended up taking an Anthropology subject. I was set out to take up Philosophy as an elective and there was no slots left. The girl from the registrar told me that Anthropology 10 (Anthropology of the Body) was still open. I didn’t know what it was, she just told me it was interesting and we are going to learn about people and different cultures — something which is of interest to me, as I aspire to be a writer and wanted to write about people.
It was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken in my life. I had one of the best professors, as well, who inspired me and is still inspiring me to continue in this field. He said he had been observing me since I became his student (1st year) until I graduated 6 years later (I got delayed because of too many field works, which I rather enjoyed) — PS. He… told me how he noticed how my happiness progressed as I took up Anthropology. A year after, I took another Anthropology subject (Applied Anthropology) and with my mother’s blessings, I worked out shifting from Physics to Anthropology after that.
Many of my friends were baffled with my decision. There is a mentality in my country that Anthropology (along with other humanities and social sciences) are considered lower than natural sciences. They also said that I wouldn’t be able to get a job when I graduate (a reasoning which is very funny in my opinion). Some commented that I took it up as a passion, much like taking Fine Arts as a passion. Not many of them understand that Anthropology is a rigorous science and it has helped our world in so many ways.
Now I am teaching Anthropology and Sociology in the university and going to join some researches about the peoples of Mindanao (usually, this is the place that gets televised in international news because of the wars). I am planning to take up my Master’s soon (though I haven’t figured out whether I should further Anthropology or take up Southeast Asian studies). We lack Anthropology majors in the country so it was easy for me to spot a teaching position as other courses are required to take up basic Anthropology courses.
Anyway, I am sorry for the long “essay”. My point here is you’re not alone in feeling that way. And I am so glad to have also found someone with the same sentiments. I am glad that you have found the course that you really want and that you are very much enjoying it. I am sure that when you take up Medicine, Anthropology will help you in more ways than one to be a better doctor and a better person. Much like Paul Farmer, his background as an anthropologist has enabled him to do his work better as a doctor and helping out more people in terms of medicine because he is able to understand them more than any other doctor can.
I wish you all the best in your endeavors and good luck with Anthropology. A big hurray for all Anthropologists in the world and I am wishing that there would be more people like us who will be given a chance to discover Anthropology one day and find that they are well suited for it. And hopefully, after that, people don’t need to discover Anthropology because it would be well known among the schoolchildren.
Note: I forgot to tell her that the fieldworks were not the sole reason why I got delayed. There were also many personal reasons.