The Department’s Origin Story

In the early 1960s, two noted anthropologists taught at Emory — Abram Kardiner in the Department of Psychiatry and Margaret Mead (for one quarter) in the Department of Sociology. In the late sixties, Anthropology became permanently represented by a single anthropologist housed in the Sociology and Anthropology department. In the early seventies, there were two anthropologists in the College and an undergraduate concentration was established. The first members of our current faculty arrived at Emory in the mid-seventies: Peggy Barlett in 1976, E.O. Smith in 1976, and Robert Paul (in the Institute of Liberal Arts) in 1977.

In 1976/77 one of the anthropologists in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Gwen Kennedy Neville, was denied tenure and challenged the legality of the decision. She won the case (based on gender discrimination) and was given tenure in the School of Theology (she later took an endowed professorship at Southwestern University). In the process of this dispute, the administration decided to establish Anthropology as an independent department.  Anthropology began an independent department at Emory in 1978 with one cultural anthropologist (Peggy Barlett), one biological anthropologist (Neal Smith), and one temporary lecturer (Peter Brown). The new department was housed in three offices in the Physics building (now Callaway Hall); there were six undergraduate majors. For two years, the Dean of Emory College, John Palms, acted as chair, and for two years there were unsuccessful searches for a chair of the new department. In 1979, the Robert Woodruff Foundation made a single gift of $105 million to Emory University. At that time the gift was the largest single philanthropic gift to an institution of higher learning in U.S. education history. That unprecedented gift brought a sense of possibility and promise to the University;  the plan for the Anthropology program expanded.

Current Anthropology Building on Emory Atlanta Campus 

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