For Prospectives

"Studying social theory exposed me to how people try to understand what is happening in the world. Ethnography and participant observation gave us a method by which to dig deeply into the worlds of people from all corners of the earth."

Jim Yong Kim
President, World Bank
GSAS PhD in Anthropology, ’93

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of human diversity in the distant past and the present and teaches us to recognize the remarkable array of circumstances in which human beings live their lives and make meaning from them. 

But anthropology is more than just a catalog of diversity. There is an oft-cited phrase that anthropology “makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar.” What does this mean? At the very least, it means stepping back and seeing ourselves the way others might see us – a shift in perspective that is foundational to human empathy and humility.

Anthropology also invites deeper analysis of behaviors that we might think we fully understand but that have histories and complexities that only reveal themselves to careful investigation. We seek to understand the full context of people's actions and all that they impact. This is why we do long term field research in local languages, and excavate artifacts in their complicated contexts -- to understand social life in all its richness and depth.

And finally, making the familiar strange demands an ethical and political accounting. It means not accepting the world as given. This might well be the heart of the discipline, its moral optimism: the conviction that things can be different and better -- and that knowledge about the world should be oriented towards greater empathy, solidarity, and equality.

Why concentrate in Anthropology?

The study of anthropology prepares students to address global concerns through a contextualized study of society, culture and civilization, and can lead to careers in global health and medicine, law, government, museums, education, the arts, cultural and environmental management, business and entrepreneurship, among other fields, not to mention academia.

Why concentrate in Anthropology?

  • small classes with an emphasis on seminars and tutorials that optimize student access to faculty.

  • dedicated advising from individual faculty, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Undergraduate Program Coordinator.

  • structured but flexible plans of study oriented toward individual student interests, which can also fit a pre-med course of study.

  • opportunities to design and conduct original research through coursework and faculty supervised senior honors thesis research.

  • strong support for study abroad and language study.

  • training in ethnography and other qualitative social science methods and theories, their real world applications and their use in combination with film and digital media (Social Anthropology).

  • training in both quantitative and qualitative research methods and their application to the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities tailored to the interests of the student (Archaeology).

  • opportunities to work directly with Peabody Museum and staff.

How to concentrate in Anthropology

Most Anthropology concentrators choose to focus their studies in one of three programs of study: Archaeology, Social Anthropology, or a combined track that incorporates approaches from both fields. All three options offer flexible plans of study, small group tutorials, individual advising, and opportunities to engage with research in the classroom and through independent projects and senior honors theses. 

Archaeology focuses on how the material remains of human activities can be used to understand the various lifeways, structures, and conditions of past human existence, and how people today employ such past materials to create or validate cultural identities.

Social Anthropology focuses on the present and recent past to examine how language, culture, and society shape the actions and behaviors of people from around the world.

The best way to learn more about these fields and begin your journey in the concentration is by taking a gateway course:

For Archaeology – GenEd 1105: Can We Know Our Past? 

For Social Anthropology – ANTH 1610: Ethnographic Research Methods

The Anthropology advising team is available to meet with you to discuss your interests and assist with planning a course of study:
Professor Gary Urton, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Dr. Zoe Eddy, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies
Ligia Alfonzo, Undergraduate Program Coordinator


Areas of Study

  • Economic and Technological Transformations

  • Environment, Landscape, and

  • Migration

  • Inequality and Identity

  • Art, Religion and Ritual

  • Politics, Law and Rights

  • Semiotics, Communication, and Media

  • Health, Medicine, Science, and Technology

  • Space, Materiality, and Ecology

  • Colonialism and Capitalism