Areas of Focus

Majoring in Anthropology lets you explore an extraordinarily wide range of topics and questions. Because the discipline is so comprehensive and integrative, with sub-fields that span the distance between the hard sciences and the humanities, students sometimes wonder how to begin creating a path through the degree requirements while maintaining some central focus. As a way to help you envision what your major might look like, we offer a summary of the main clusters of interest and expertise within our department:

  • For anthropologists, a body is many things: a cultural product, a performance, a focus of power structures, as well as a web of experiences that include wellness, illness, and states in between. Similarly, medicine is a cultural world, rich with symbolism, shaped by political systems and dense with moral concerns. Many of our graduates report that our courses in these areas were crucial in helping them to bring creativity, critical thinking, and culturally sensitive perspectives to their work in medicine, education, public health, and related fields.

    Faculty: Alex Blanchette, Tatiana Chudakova, Sarah Luna, Zarin Machanda, Sarah Pinto

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 44 Primate Social Behavior
    • ANTH 126 Food, Nutrition, and Culture
    • ANTH 148 Medical Anthropology
    • ANTH 152 Biopolitics: Life, Death, and Power
    • ANTH 178 Animals and Posthuman Thought
    • ANTH 185-10 Bodies in Motion
    • ANTH 185-17 Altered States: Anthropology of Consciousness and Transformation
    • ANTH 182 Human Physique
    • ANTH 188 Culture, Psychiatry and the Politics of Madness
  • Anthropologists look deeply through time even as we look broadly across cultures and places. Many of our courses investigate the ways that the past can live in the present, as well as different ways of "telling time" and making meaning from memories and histories. In a literal sense, archaeology — one of the sub-branches of anthropology — explores the material traces of the past, while our core course on the history of anthropological thought shows the study of cultures, societies, and human life to be a conversation long unfolding, one woven into global histories and politics, and to which we might contribute our voices.

    Faculty: Craig Cipolla, Lauren Sullivan, Cathy Stanton, Sarah Pinto

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 50 Introduction to Archaeology
    • ANTH 51 North American Archaeology
    • ANTH 128 Mesoamerican Archaeology
    • ANTH 129 Archaeology and Colonialism
    • ANTH 130 History of Anthropological Thought
    • ANTH 132 Myth, Ritual, and Symbol
    • ANTH 134 Consuming Cultures: Tourism, Travel, and Display
    • ANTH 166 Historical Anthropology
  • Humans' relationship to specific places and to the non-human world has long been a central concern for anthropologists. It is also a crucial component of cultural geography and increasingly of the planning profession as well. In an era when our effect on the earth has reached the level of a geological force, anthropological thinking about "nature," sense of place, mobility, non-human species and relationships, adaptation, and climate is being reinvigorated in ways that can contribute enormously to contemporary consideration of the problems and opportunities we now face as a species.

    Faculty: Amahl Bishara, Alex Blanchette, Tatiana Chudakova, Zarin Machanda, Cathy Stanton

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 20 Global Cities
    • ANTH 24 Anthropology of the Environment
    • ANTH 134 Consuming Cultures: Tourism, Travel & Display
    • ANTH 142 American Meat
    • ANTH 157 Cities and Food
    • ANTH 174 Thinking with Plants
    • ANTH 180 Primate Conservation
  • Anthropologists examine how expressive culture engages, enrages, delights, and mobilizes. We approach forms from ritual and dance to jokes and gestures with an eye to the broader social and political processes involved, and with questions about how they function as modes for individual communication and vehicles for collective action. We also participate in producing expressive culture, such as parades, documentary films, exhibits, and ethnomusicological recordings.

    Faculty: Amahl Bishara, Sarah Pinto, Lauren Sullivan, Cathy Stanton

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 39-11 Ethnographic Film and Video
    • ANTH 132 Myth, Ritual, & Symbol
    • ANTH 134 Consuming Cultures: Tourism, Travel & Display
    • ANTH 137 Language and Culture
    • ANTH 144 Media of the Middle East
    • ANTH 164 Media, the State, and the Senses
    • ANTH 185-10 Bodies in Motion
  • Anthropologists have been at the forefront of the recent shift to understanding science and technology as social worlds in their own right, infused with cultural processes and shaped by politics. As a discipline that draws from the "hard sciences," social science, and the humanities, anthropology takes a uniquely broad approach to understanding how knowledge and "innovation" are produced. Our graduates find that this perspective is valued by employers in these same fields; one recent alum, now developing new medical technologies and conducting public health research, told us that "being an anthropology major made me stand out in a sea of comp-sci and math majors."

    Faculty: Amahl Bishara, Alex Blanchette, Tatiana Chudakova, Zarin, Machanda, Nick Seaver, Sarah Pinto

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 32 Introduction to the Anthropology of Science and Technology
    • ANTH 123 Technologies of Enchantment
    • ANTH 151 Experimental Cultures
    • ANTH 152 Biopolitics: Life, Death, and Power
    • ANTH 178 Animals and Posthuman Thought
    • ANTH 185-20 How to Pay Attention
  • Capitalism and the modern state may seem universal, natural, and perhaps too abstract to grasp through experience or ethnography. But anthropologists' research illuminates how people actively produce, reproduce, and resist the values that animate these broader systems. We also study the ways in which capitalism and the state are made material in products, infrastructures, and even in our own bodies.

    Faculty: Amahl Bishara, Alex Blanchette, Tatiana Chudakova

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 27 Human Rights and Justice in Cultural Context
    • ANTH 28 Anthropology of Capitalism
    • ANTH 149-25 Anthropology of Refugees & Displacement
    • ANTH 164 Media, the State, and the Senses
    • ANTH 169 Anthropology of the State: Subject, Citizen, Sovereignty
    • ANTH 185-05 The End of Work in United States
  • Power is a central concept in anthropology. Anthropologists approach questions about violence and human rights in ways that go far beyond what people normally mean by "politics," including not only the state and political domination but also the ways in which power works in social relations and everyday actions. We also explore the very wide range of practices by which people seek redress for violence and make claims based on human rights.

    Faculty: Amahl Bishara, Sarah Luna, Sarah Pinto

    Sample Courses

    • ANTH 15 Indigenous Movements in the Americas and Beyond
    • ANTH 22 Anthropology of Global Racisms
    • ANTH 27 Human Rights and Justice in Cultural Context
    • ANTH 122 Gender and Sexuality in South Asia
    • ANTH 146 Global Feminisms
    • ANTH 143 Palestinians and Israelis: Ethnographies of Justice
    • ANTH 169 Anthropology of the State: Subject, Citizen, Sovereignty

Under each heading you will find sample courses and a list of faculty who can help you design your degree to fit your own particular interests and goals.

ANTH 130: History of Anthropological Thought and ANTH 161: Fieldwork Lab, our theory and methods classes, support all trajectories through the major. Our department's focus on public anthropology also creates opportunities for research and engagement in many areas of interest.

Note that these clusters are not degree requirements. A strength of the major is that it can be configured in many different ways. These lists are intended only as a starting-point for your own thinking and for conversations with potential advisors.

Choosing one of our four minors in Anthropology provides a built-in focus, but minors may still find it helpful to review these clusters of interest in choosing electives and consider how the minor can best complement other academic areas of focus.