Anthropology: what it means to be a human

Tiffany Nesbit

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The Lion’s Roar / Tiffany Nesbit

While giving her lecture on “What Does It Mean To Be Human,” Anthropologist Kellen Gilbert shows off a Australopithecus Robustus skull.

Anthropologists who study the culture and history of the human kind are still raising the question: what makes someone a human physically, mentally and emotionally?

In the Student Union Room 2207 on Wednesday, Apr. 23, sociology and criminal justice professor and anthropologist Dr. Kellen Gilbert gave her lecture on “What Does It Mean To Be Human?” 

Her discussion began with brief information on the history of the evolution and various animals around Tanzania East Africa, and surrounding areas. She showed photography from her own experiences in Tanzania that included photos of modern day animals such as african buffalo, hippos, lions, cheetahs, elephants and chimpanzees. She included an example of an Australopithecus Robustus skull, related to modern day primates, otherwise known as monkeys.

Dr. Gilbert discussed two separate human culture groups in Africa that she personally spent time with during her time of study; one, the Hadza who are a group of modern day hunters and gatherers and two, the Maasai who are a group of modern day herders of cows and goats. 

“It was not until I was physically with them that I began to understand their culture,” said Dr. Gilbert.  

She said that although spending time with the two groups was a wonderful experience and the start of learning of the culture, it takes more than just a small trip to fully understand a group of people.

She referenced anthropologist Paul Farmer, “It takes decades to develop cultural understanding. What we can and should develop is cultural humility.”

During her time spent in Tanzania and surrounding areas, she noticed how the two cultures make due with what they have in nature. Although they have the choice of technology, the Hadzas and Maasai choose to keep their technology at a minimum and if they use energy it is solar powered. She also noticed that the similarities appeared more often than their differences between our culture and theirs such as love and companionship towards one another.

In closing of the lecture, Dr. Gilbert suggested what it means to be human is that humans have the capability to realize the importance of respecting different cultures. Humans as a whole have the capability to have concern for each other and use an abstract thought process to maintain a creative world.

Some of Dr. Gilberts’ very own students sat in on the lecture and thought very highly of her studies. 

“Very well done, I loved the quality of the photographs, they are much more vivid than what I have previously seen in her classroom,” said general studies freshmen Breionna Real. “I loved seeing some of her examples of studies and wish to see more.”

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