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Established in 1964 as a ‘bold, radical experiment’, Macquarie University’s first students began arriving in 1967. The initial undergraduates enrolled in a single degree offering a range of subjects. Against a backdrop of the Vietnam War, social change, women’s lib, and youth protest there was still time for the essentials of campus life – entertainment, study, and graduation.
Pioneering, different, ground-breaking … Macquarie’s reputation for innovation attracted students from all walks of life, including large numbers from overseas. As well as becoming richly international, the University drew ever more people to its dynamic postgraduate courses. As the new millennium dawned, Macquarie had conferred some 58,000 degrees, diplomas and postgraduate certificates.
Created as a research-intensive university, Macquarie quickly develops an outstanding track-record in subjects such as engineering and technology, chemistry and biochemistry, as well as humanities and social sciences. In a culture committed to advancing teaching and learning, students are encouraged to enrol in units right across the University.
The field of anthropology is enormously diverse in its range of subjects. At its broadest of levels, anthropology is the comparative study of societies and cultures. The human experience in all its diversity is its subject matter, and it approaches that experience through a variety of methods and theoretical perspectives. It asks interpretative questions about behaviour, meaning, and value between different societies and cultures. Why do people do what they do? Why do people in different societies do different things? Why do different people in the same society (for example, male or female, young or old, Catholic or Protestant, heterosexual, gay, or indifferent, Aboriginal or Macedonian) do different things?
Anthropologists study groups of people and culturally significant objects which constitute different ways of life. They generally obtain their knowledge and understanding through participating in and observing the lives of the people they work among. Through this methodology, known as fieldwork, which involves long-term and intensive participant-observation, anthropologists gain a detailed understanding of the cultural world of other peoples. People studied may include, for example, workers on the shop-floor of a factory, the inhabitants of a suburb or a city zone, people who live by hunting and gathering in the Amazon, corporate managers in the 'flexible workplace', indigenous Australian artists, farmers in Western Queensland, fans of Harry Potter books, opium-growers in the highlands of Southeast Asia, members of a Church or sect, groups of migrants or refugees, tourists, or any other people following a distinctive way of life. Although the social contexts in which they work are extremely diverse, anthropologists share a commitment to exploring and understanding different ways of life and cultural perspectives, and illuminating these for others.
Anthropology not only allows us to develop a sensitivity for cultural difference but it also allows us to reflect on our own cultural world with an altered perspective. Anthropology endeavours not only to "make the strange familiar, but to make the familiar strange", thereby encouraging us to challenge our taken for granted assumptions about the world.
It is also important to realise that anthropology is not only a subject of theoretical interest; rather, it has numerous practical applications. 'Applied anthropology' refers to the application of anthropological knowledge, theories, concepts and methods to concrete problems (e.g. development issues, including Social Impact Assessment, understanding of poverty, livelihoods or externally driven processes change and their social and cultural impacts). Anthropologists doing applied work contribute to policy development and shaping interventions. They are increasingly employed in the development world, by government, non-government and multilateral aid agencies, as consultants and evaluators. They are also employed in the corporate world, for example in market research and consumer behaviour studies.