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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Anthropology

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Culture, Community and Collaboration

News and Announcements 

Untold Stories

Dr. Bonnie Clark sat down with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in order to discuss how archaeology sheds new light on the untold history of Amache Prowers and other minorities and women in the history of America.

Amache Prowers

Engaging Ideas

Dr. Bonnie Clark recently sat down with "Engaging Ideas" at the University of Denver to discuss her work with the WWII-era Japanese American internment camp in Colorado known as Amache.

Remembering James LaVita

LaVitaMemories and reflections on our valued colleague, James (Jimmy) LaVita

The Department of Anthropology and University of Denver lost a valued and beloved colleague when James (Jimmy) LaVita passed away on October 25, 2017. Jimmy retired recently from the university after serving it for over 45 years and was at that time one of the longest serving employees of the university. His education included PhDs in Mathematics from New York University and Anthropology from the University of Texas, with an MA in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jimmy's teaching and scholarship at DU spanned both the arts and sciences. He was Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science from 1984-2002, and chaired that department from 1989-1998. After its separation from Mathematics, Jimmy served as Professor of Computer Science from 2002-2004. Most recently, Jimmy served as Professor of Social Sciences in the Division of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) until his retirement a year ago.

In Anthropology Jimmy taught a variety of innovative courses included Expressive Culture, Culture and Performance, Folklore & Foodways, and the Anthropology of Technology. He also taught courses in Theatre, Digital Media Studies (now Emergent Digital Practices) and in the Common Curriculum. Jimmy's Folklore courses were especially well-loved by students in anthropology.

In his life outside the university, Jimmy was founder and artistic co-director, with his wife Katie Elliott, of the 3rd Law Dance/Theater in Boulder. Together they created original, multi-media, evening-length performances drawing on theatrical, classical, modern, historical and traditional dance.

Jimmy LaVita was a true Renaissance Man. He was a creative, interdisciplinary thinker, expert at bridging the "two cultures" of science and the humanities. Jimmy understood the importance of the faculty's role in governing the university, and the importance of faculty governance for the defense and preservation of academic freedom. Jimmy brought to anthropology a vast repository of institutional memory from his time at DU and was an esteemed collaborator and colleague, being a source of informed, wise counsel about the inner workings of universities. In short, Jimmy exemplified the kind of well-rounded, Old School faculty "warhorse" whose breed is nearly extinct, much to the detriment of today's higher education enterprise. Jimmy will be fondly remembered, and sorely missed as a colleague and most-important as a dear friend.


Department of Anthropology Vision Statement

Anthropology is the study of human biological and cultural differences across time and space. It is an interdisciplinary field of study, concerned with topics that cross-cut the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. It is "the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities" (Alfred Kroeber).

The University of Denver is the oldest independent, research institution of higher learning in the Rocky Mountain West. Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Anthropology trade on our long history, sense of place, and independent spirit to push boundaries in the study of human life and culture. Our undergraduate and graduate programs in archaeology, cultural anthropology, and museum and heritage studies draw on a spectrum of research practices ranging from basic to applied research. A focus and strength is public anthropology: applying the discipline's concepts, methods, and insights to problems and issues of contemporary relevance that fall outside the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines.

The Department of Anthropology at DU is committed to:
(1) teaching and learning that is hands-on and experiential, occurring in classroom, laboratory, museum, gallery, and field settings;
(2) employing research practices ranging from dispassionate analysis to direct activism and advocacy;
(3) developing relationships, partnerships, and engagement across disciplines and with community stakeholders;
(4) disseminating anthropological knowledge in a variety of formats and styles including traditional peer-reviewed, scholarly publications; exhibitions, blogs, video, performances, and other expressive forms that capitalize on the speed and popular influence of social media;
(5) promoting the use of the Museum of Anthropology as a public face of anthropology;
(6) upholding respect for the ethical stewardship of cultural and natural heritage

Vision: To be a center of creative research and teaching, and a leading voice for the practice of public, collaborative, and community-engaged anthropology.

Mission: To conduct scholarship—of discovery, teaching, and application—that advances scientific and public understanding of the human experience through time.

Values: Scientific integrity; philosophical and methodological pluralism; theoretical innovation and experimentation; critical and reflexive thinking; civic-mindedness; excellence in all that we do.
Research and teaching themes that unify our programmatic emphases:
• Human Rights and Identities
• Environment, Landscape, and Place.
• Material and Expressive Culture.
• Creative cultural practice
• Technology and Society.


 Anthropology studies physical and cultural differences among human beings across time and space. It helps students understand the nature of those differences, why they exist, and, most importantly, why they matter. 


  • Commitment: to an engaged, public anthropology
  • Tradition: one of the oldest anthropology programs west of the Mississippi River
  • Intimacy: small class sizes and hands-on learning
  • Attentiveness: thoughtful student advising and one-on-one mentoring
  • Opportunity: direct access to research material in our own Museum of Anthropology and active faculty field projects.
  • Networking: relationships with Denver's world-class museums and other cultural institutions


Anthropology students at DU specialize in one of three areas.


Archaeology is the study of humans through the material traces their activities leave behind. Through site survey, excavation, and non-invasive methods such as ground penetrating radar, archaeology helps us better understand variation in the ways people thought, organized themselves, and lived in the past. 

Archaeological Research at Amache Internment Camp

Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropologists seek to lay bare the little known. People in groups behave in patterns and act on assumptions of which they, themselves, may not even be aware. Cultural anthropologists use intensive observation and structured interviewing to decode these shared behaviors and assumptions and distill unstated understandings from the merely idiosyncratic.  They may even seek participation in the lives of the people under study, domesticating and celebrating the benignly familiar as well as the entrancingly "exotic".

Museum and Heritage Studies

The Museum and Heritage Studies (MHS) concentration is designed to provide students with a solid background in the theoretical and academic, as well as the practical and professional aspects of museum anthropology and heritage studies. Students learn to be practicing anthropologists in museums and related cultural institutions.


Understanding the nature of culture gives anthropology students a head-start in careers that involve working with diverse groups of people. Our graduates go on to careers in fields such as:

  • museum work
  • archaeology
  • cultural heritage management
  • non-profit management
  • marketing
  • publishing
  • international business and development
  • foreign policy
  • education
  • health care

The critical reading, thinking, writing, and research skills emphasized in anthropology classes also prepares our students for graduate programs in law, public policy, medicine, counseling, education and beyond.