Ruby French '21 shares her experiences majoring in anthropology and encourages students new to anthropology to take courses that might be challenging and speak up in class.
What inspired you to choose Anthropology? Do you have a specific area of interest?
I was first introduced to anthropology when I took a course on chimpanzees with Professor Arcadi. I was inspired by the class, and I wanted to learn more about the study of primates. I had no idea at the time of the breadth of Anthropology as a discipline. Throughout my time at Cornell, I have taken courses in biological anthropology studying primates and human evolution and in cultural anthropology studying gender and sexuality around the world. I am so glad I have been able to take so many fantastic and wide-ranging courses within this major.
Was there a particular faculty member or class that influenced you?
One particular faculty member, Professor Munasinghe, influenced me to major in anthropology. I took her class on Anthropological Theory and was captivated by the big questions we considered and the self-critical nature of the discipline. This class pushed me to reconsider my own biases and preconceptions and challenged me to improve my critical reading and thinking skills. I learned so much from Professor Munasinghe and the other students in this seminar. Ultimately, this class made me fall in love with anthropology and changed my perspective on how knowledge is produced and mediated by pervasive structures of power.
My favorite anthropology course at Cornell is one I took this semester with Professor Lucinda Ramberg: “Writing Ethnography.” This was a small seminar class with grad and undergrad students. We learned about ethnographic writing through experimental writing assignments and workshops in which we read each other’s pieces and provided feedback. I grew so much as a reader and writer of anthropological work throughout this course. I also gained invaluable confidence in my own writing, and I am so happy to have taken this class. Professor Ramberg is truly an outstanding scholar and instructor; learning from her and my peers in this class has challenged me to develop my writing skills and take chances in my work. Furthermore, taking this course has inspired me to consider continuing my academic career in the field of anthropology.
Do you have any advice for students new to Anthropology?
For new Anthropology students, I would say: take courses that might be challenging for you and don't be afraid to speak up in class! I have grown the most from the smaller, discussion style courses I have taken at Cornell. As an underclassmen especially, it can be daunting to speak up in a challenging course with complicated readings, but it is so worth it! You will gain so much more from courses where you are pushed to think deeply and critically and learn from your professors and your peers. Anthropology is an extremely wide reaching discipline; take courses in all the subfields and explore what matters most to you. Most importantly, be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking.