Courses of Study 2017-2018 
    Apr 24, 2018  
Courses of Study 2017-2018



First-Year Writing Seminars:

Please consult John S. Knight Institute for additional information.

Sociocultural Anthropology:

Sociocultural anthropology is rooted in the precise observation and rigorous analysis of human cultural capacities and human social practices, relations, and institutions. All sociocultural anthropology involves both inquiry into the diversity of human cultures (ethnography) and comparative analysis of human social dynamics (social theory). Historically, sociocultural anthropology specialized in the study of nonwestern peoples, but today there are few places and domains of human  activity that sociocultural anthropologists do not study. To give a few examples, sociocultural anthropologists study nuclear weapons scientists in California, the transformation of state power in Russia, and the politics of development in India. They study how television producers in Egypt contribute to nationalism, the social effects of truth commissions in Guatemala and South Africa, and the emergence of new religious and social movements in Latin America. What distinguishes sociocultural anthropology as a field is its engagement with the full abundance of human lived experience and its integrated, comparative effort to make sense of the key processes shaping this experience. As such, sociocultural anthropology is an excellent, flexible choice of major. It teaches core critical, analytical, and expressive skills and important perspectives on human cultural creativity and social life that are widely applicable. Recently, our majors have gone into careers as diverse as academic scholarship, activism, advertising, consulting, design, film, journalism, marketing, medicine, NGO-work, and politics and government.

Anthropological Archaeology:

Anthropological archaeology studies the diverse societies of the past using the material traces they left behind in the archaeological record. In addition to studying artifacts, archaeologists use unique methods to study the settings in which artifacts were produced and used by examining regional settlement patterns, the structure of sites and communities, the organization of activities, and ancient symbolism and social relations. The concerns of anthropological archaeology range from basic questions about continuity and change in the past, to application of hard science methods to date sites and determine the sources of artifacts, criticism of the uses to which the past is put in contemporary society, and protection of the archaeological record. Anthropological archaeology can be distinguished from other forms of archaeology (such as Classical or Art Historical archaeology) based on its emphasis on holistically studying past cultural systems, and by the theories and approaches it shares with sociocultural and biological anthropology. There are numerous career opportunities for anthropological archaeologists, including work with museums, government agencies, and historic preservation groups in addition to academic employment. Private companies engaged in federally mandated cultural resource management (or CRM) archaeology employ thousands of archaeologists in the United States, and similar management programs exist in many other countries.

Biological Anthropology:

Biological anthropology is the subfield of anthropology that explores the physical diversity, evolutionary history, and behavioral potential of our species. Consistent with anthropology more generally, biological anthropology is concerned with human variation. The distinctive perspective of this subfield is that it examines human variation within the framework of evolutionary theory. Analyses of both biology and culture, and of the interaction between the two, mark the broad boundaries of this discipline. Within that wide scope, specific areas of inquiry are diverse, including fossil studies, primate behavior, nutrition and development, sexual behavior, parental investment, molecular and population genetics, adaptation to environmental stress, disease evolution, life history analysis, and more. Some of the most pressing social issues of our time fall within the domain of biological anthropology as well as a range of professions: the controversy over evolution and intelligent design; race, gender, and genetic determinism; the control of disease; the roots of aggression; and conservation and the role of humans in ecological systems. Although the number of anthropology courses offered in this subfield are limited, students can pursue their interests through a variety of related courses in other departments and by constructing independent study courses with specific faculty members.

Graduate Seminars:

The graduate program in anthropology is described in much greater detail on the anthropology department web page at The seminars described immediately below pertain to the program in sociocultural anthropology. For information about graduate study in archaeology and biological anthropology, see the anthropology department web page.

A core set of seminars is required of all graduate students in sociocultural anthropology: ANTHR 6020 , ANTHR 6025 , ANTHR 6440 , and . A methodology course such as ANTHR 6403  or ANTHR 7418  is strongly recommended. These courses are open to graduate students from other related fields. This sequence, and the graduate curriculum in general, is premised on the idea that anthropology is best defined as the comparative study of human social life. This definition resists institutional pressures in the academy to distinguish social science from humanistic or cultural studies and scholarly from more worldly applications. Our most important method, ethnography, is at once scientific and humanistic; disciplinary aspirations refuse to view cultural interpretation and analytic explanation as  separable values. Furthermore, theory in anthropology is directly related to practice in the world whether in relation to research or more action-oriented pursuits. Consequently, the core sequences as well as most other courses for graduate students are oriented explicitly toward subverting an ideological construction of social life as separable into cultural and social (or political-economic) domains.