Department of Sociology and Anthropology

What is Sociology?

Sociology the study of human society. Sociology does not attempt to study individual-level motivations and behavior like psychology does. Rather, sociology focuses on group patterns in a wide range of contexts. Sociologists are interested in how human social organization affects people’s experiences at the individual and group level: how human social organization shapes the ways that we think, feel and act in the world. Sociologists study both everyday micro-level human interactions and macro-level systemic processes such as the interaction and influence of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability on the lives of people. To do so, sociologists use a wide variety of research methods, including surveys and questionnaires, statistical analysis, informal and in-depth interviews, participant observation and ethnography, and content and textual analysis.

Sociologists study a variety of fields that include crime, work and economy, health, environment, migration, gender, culture, social psychology and more.  This means that sociologists can be interested in why people commit crime, but also why people are obsessed with Beyoncé; what technology is doing to the way we communicate with each other and how ramen has replaced cigarettes as the major currency in American prisons. In Kazakhstani context, sociologists are interested in high suicide rates among young adolescents, the policy around oralmansdomestic violence against women and more.

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the holistic study of humanity, encompassing four different subfields. Socioculturalanthropologists study the cultures of living people around the world, while archaeological anthropologists study past cultures and the material parts of life, such as technology and architecture. Biological anthropologists study the human as a biological organism which includes genetics, our primate evolution and behavior, and human evolutionary biology. Linguistic anthropologists study how language works as part of larger cultural systems. At NU, we combine all of these perspectives to gain the fullest possible understanding of what makes us human.

“What does it mean to be human?”

Understanding humans and our society is a complex and far-reaching field of study and our department approaches questions about human nature from many different angles. Whether it is studying our behavioral, technological, and biological evolution or languages and societies of modern human populations or social problems that affect some, many, or all of us, sociologists and anthropologists strive to answer questions about what makes us human through research, teaching, and fieldwork. With a wide variety of courses and a diversity of research interests, our faculty invites you to participate in the search for the answer to the question, “What does it mean to be human?”