History of the Department of Anthropology

Anthropology at the University of Memphis can trace its roots to 1961, when courses were added to the Department of Social Sciences, and Chucalissa Indian Village (now C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa) transferred from the state parks system to the newly created Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Dr. Charles McNutt was assigned to direct an "Anthropology Section" minor, and the first Anthropology BA's were awarded in 1966.

Anthropology was granted separate departmental status in 1972. Dr. Augustus Sordinas was appointed as chair and plans began for a graduate program. By state mandate, the University could not duplicate another existing program in Tennessee. Thus, a unique vision emerged to serve the region and promote graduate employment. The proposal was to focus on Applied Anthropology, featuring three concentrations: Urban, Medical, and Archaeology. And, rather than require a conventional thesis, Master's students would complete a practicum; this has proven to be a key asset for the department, its alumni, and the community.

The Tennessee Board of Regents approved the degree in 1976 and the MA program began in 1977. Dr. Thomas Collins became chair in 1977, and the first MA's were awarded in 1978. The department printed its own series of Occasional Papers on faculty research. Dr. Stan Hyland became the department chair in 1989, and has recently received the 2016 Sol Tax award in recognition for his outstanding career in applied anthropology. More recent department chairs have included Drs. Linda Bennett, David Dye, and Ruthbeth Finerman.

Today the department of anthropology offers an MA in Applied Anthropology with an optional concentration in Medical Anthropology. The department maintains numerous partnerships with certificate and degree programs, including the Honors Program, African and African-American Studies, the Environmental Minor, the Religious Studies Minor, and Graduate Certificates in Museum Studies, American Humanics, GIS, and Women's Studies. Our faculty collaborations include the Center for Research on Women, the School of Urban Affairs, the School of Public Health, and the Hooks Institute. Additionally, our alumni have become leaders in academic, governmental, public, and private spheres, advancing knowledge, understanding, and wellbeing in diverse communities around the world. No matter the job title, all are applied anthropologists.

Throughout its history, the department has maintained its commitment to integrity and excellence, a commitment which remains an unwavering course in its future.

Special thanks to Dr. McNutt, Dr. Collins, Dr. Bennett, Dr. Hyland, and Dr. Finerman for their help in compiling this history.