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Luther Look: Religion and Culture

Coming into Luther, I wanted to take archaeology. I had no experience with any anthropological studies. I thought it sounded like a fun class though, so I signed up for it. That was the turning point for me with anthropology! ;)

In archaeology, with the always hilarious Colin Betts, I was one of two other first-years in the class. Little did I know at the time, but one of those first-years would become one of the best friends that I've made at Luther so far. I'm looking at you, Sam. ;)

Sam and I sat next to each other during every archaeology class, and quickly became friends (at least I think so, haha!). We started hanging out together outside of class and talking or grabbing dinner. We also studied together sometimes.

That archaeology class was so compelling to me. It forced me to think in much different ways than how I approached my communications classes. Although quite difficult at times, I appreciated the challenge. After archaeology was finished, I knew I wanted to learn more.

My other good friend, Emily (another anthropology major, that I met through band!), told me all about the other anthropology professors and classes that were available. This semester, I ended up taking two anthropology classes. One of those is Religion and Culture with Lori Stanley.

Going into the class, I didn't know what to expect. I had heard good things about Lori from many different people, though. That included anthropology majors, like Sam and Emily, but also students that had taken a class of hers for no particular reason at all.

Although challenging, many aspects of the class are quite interesting. Lori is also a great professor in general. Her enthusiasm that comes through her teaching is contagious. :) One of the things that I love about anthropology is how often we get to look at the world from someone else's perspective. The anthropology classes that I have taken so far have definitely broadened my worldview in that way. During a recent chat with Lori, she echoed those thoughts. It is one thing that she hopes students will take away from her classes. That increased cultural relativism and greater understanding of those who may be different than us is so important.

In class, we have definitely seen that—through the ethnographic accounts we have read. We read Wisdom from a Rainforest and learned about the Teduray rainforest people of the Philippines. The ethnography was fascinating and quite well written, and I enjoyed it.

We recently learned about the Maasai people of Tanzania through another ethnography, The Church of Women. We especially studied traditional Maasai religion and the role of Christian evangelization in their culture. Last week, we had the opportunity to Skype a couple of Maasai men that Lori has known for quite a while. Musa and Leboy told us many things about their culture, some of which we had been learning about in class already. It was a cool experience to hear from them!

For a small school, Luther has a pretty awesome anthropology department! :) Lori highlighted some of those benefits during our chat:

  1. There are introductory classes offered at Luther in all four subfields of anthropology. Classes are available in archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and cultural anthropology. You can discover what you're the most interested in!
  2. The anthropology professors have a wide variety of experiences in the field. Whether it be Professor Carrasco and her research in Chile or Lori and her work in Tanzania, they're extremely knowledgeable. The professors have different academic specialties, which leads to a well-rounded education in anthropology available to you at Luther. :)
  3. There are many opportunities for hands-on, "real world" experiences! :) Students can work in Luther's anthropology lab for their work study. They can also take part in experiential learning through Colin's summer field school.

I would definitely recommend taking an anthropology class! It's a great department to discover new interests in. I've had most of the anthropology professors for at least one class by now, and they are all awesome in their own way. If you want to learn more about the anthropology department, feel free to leave a comment on this post or email Lori. :)

Amber Sorenson

Amber Sorenson

Amber is a junior from Newton, Iowa. She is majoring in communication studies and minoring in anthropology and Nordic Studies. Along with blogging for Luther admissions, she also works for Media Relations. She plays alto saxophone in Varsity Band and is the crew captain for Love Your Melon. One of her favorite things about Luther is the strong sense of community. During the 2018-2019 academic year, she'll be studying in Nottingham, England!

Read more about Amber.

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This is my friend, Sam! :) We snapped this selfie tonight, before we worked out. Thanks to Sam for getting me to the gym, and for just being a great friend in general! I'm going to miss her (and Emily!) when they're both abroad in the spring.
A photo of Musa and Leboy with some of the people that attended one of the events that was held when they were here on campus last spring. My friend, Emily, is the leftmost person in the front row! (With the green and orange skirt) :)
Lori, Leboy, and Musa at Palisades Park. Photo credit: Jillian Hazlett '18

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  • December 5 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Awesome post! The second picture, with all of the people, was from Maasai Night in Marty’s  and is a picture of students from the 2017 J-term to Tanzania, which was led by Lori Stanley!

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