Division of Social Studies



The Anthropology Program encompasses the subfields of sociocultural, linguistic, historical, archaeological, and applied anthropology. It seeks to understand the cultural dynamics in the formation of the nation-state; the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial; and the politics of identity, difference, and inequality in the contemporary world. The core of the program consists of courses that examine everyday experiences in relation to a range of societal issues, such as development and the environment, medicine and health, religion, lan guage, kinship and reproductivity, sports, mass media, visual culture, and aesthetics. Anthropology offers a way to understand patterns and contradictions of cultural meaning within a transnational and transcultural world. Area strengths include sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, Australasia, the Middle East, and United States.


Anthropology majors can design a course of study in various topical, area, and theoretical orientations. Prior to Moderation, students must complete an introductory course and at least two 200-level courses in anthropology. For courses cross-listed in anthropology, and primarily listed in another program, a maximum of one course may count toward Moderation requirements. All students moderating into anthropology must have a 3.0 or above average in their anthropology courses. In consultation with their Moderation board, students shape their plan of study in the Upper College to include at least four additional courses in anthropology, including the methodology course on “doing ethnography” or archaeological methods (if doing a Senior Project in archaeology); two 300-level courses; and the Senior Project. One of the 300-level courses required is a seminar on contemporary cultural theory that involves each member of the anthropology faculty.

All moderated anthropology students submit a proposal for the Senior Project at the end of their junior year. A Senior Project may be ethnographic (based on fieldwork), historical (using archival or secondary sources), comparative/theoretical (exploring a theory or phenomenon across two or more contexts), or they can be archaeological (involving excavations). Students intending to pursue postgraduate study or ethnographic research in a non-English speaking area are encouraged to study a foreign language to at least the 200 level.

Recent Senior Projects in Anthropology

  • “Denouncing the Narco State: Corruption, Violence, and Outrage in Coamiles, Mexico”
  • “Gated Communities in Gurgaon: Caste and Class on the Urban Frontier”
  • “The Gym, the Garage, and the Country Villa: Narratives of Space, Identity, and Retreat at Bard College”
  • “Public Health and Its Discontents: The Schismogenesis of Childhood Vaccination in Boston, Massachusetts”


Anthropology courses approach seemingly “natural” ideas such as indigeneity, race, gender, sexuality, and class as cultural constructions that change over time. They critically examine, for instance, the international division of labor, growth of the media, and global commodification of culture. Many classes apply this anthropological perspective to a variety of sources, ranging from traditional ethnographies to novels, travel literature, music, films, and new forms of electronic media. The program has a film library, which includes ethnographic and experimental films, and some recording equipment for the purposes of student research. The program also administers a student research and travel fund, the Harry Turney–High Fund, to support work on Senior Projects.