Undergraduate Program

The Anthropology Major

Anthropology is the study of human cultural, social, and biological diversity from the distant past to the present day and around the world. The undergraduate major in Anthropology introduces students to key topics and approaches in three broad areas, also known as subfields: (1) the evolution of human and nonhuman primates, including the evolutionary biology of living people; (2) the archaeological study of human societies and cultures; (3) social, cultural, and linguistic dimensions of human life. In addition to gaining a broad understanding of these complementary areas of Anthropology, majors develop advanced skills in one or more subfields and may elect to pursue a formal concentration in archaeological, biological, or sociocultural anthropology, or in medical anthropology and global health. Whatever their path through the major, students learn ways of understanding and engaging with humanity that emerge from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and they often complete synergistic coursework in other departments and programs. All students write a senior essay, often based on independent research, and many go on careers that incorporate anthropological perspectives.

Requirements of the major:

Students are required to present twelve course credits toward their major, including introductory or intermediate (100-200 level) courses in three subfields of anthropology, at least three advanced courses (300-400 level, not including numbers reserved for senior essay work), and a senior essay. With approval from the director of undergraduate studies, up to three courses may be selected from other departments as cognates. Cognate courses should be chosen to expand a student’s knowledge in one of the subfields of anthropology or in an area of cross-disciplinary concentration. For example, cognate courses for biological anthropology may be found in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Earth and Planetary Sciences, or Psychology, while cognates for sociocultural anthropology may be found in Sociology, Environmental Studies, Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Appropriate areas of cross-disciplinary coursework also include area studies (e.g., African Studies), or topics such as law, health, gender and sexuality, environment and ecology, science and technology, race and ethnicity, and others.

Senior essay:

All majors are required to complete a substantial paper during the senior year, either in a seminar or in ANTH 491. In most cases, the senior essay is a traditional written essay, although students may, in consultation with their adviser, propose to work in and submit other media; such senior essays should still be accompanied by a 10-15 page written exposition of the work and its relationship to anthropology.

There are three options for completing the senior essay: 

  • Option 1: Students may write a paper in an advanced seminar. A seminar senior essay must be more substantial than a typical term paper, generally 20–25 pages long. It is evaluated by the seminar instructor and a second reader drawn from the Yale faculty. Students must obtain written approval for this option from the seminar instructor no later than the third week of the term. Students fulfilling the requirements of two majors may not apply a single seminar essay toward the senior requirement for both majors. The deadline for a seminar senior essay is the senior essay deadline, not the term paper deadline. Students choosing this option must take the seminar for which they write their essay in addition to the three advanced courses required for the major. Note that some concentrations in Anthropology do not permit a seminar-style senior essay
  • Option 2: Students may write an independent essay on a subject of the student’s choice, completed in ANTH 491. A student pursuing this option must choose a topic and identify a faculty adviser by the end of the third week of the term in which the essay is to be written. By the same date, the adviser must approve a prospectus that outlines the topic, objectives, and methods of the essay, as well as a preliminary bibliography. The student should also inform the director of undergraduate studies of a preferred second reader by this time. 
  • Option 3: Students may write a yearlong paper, begun in ANTH 471 or 472 and completed in ANTH 491. The yearlong essay is designed for students who wish to pursue more extensive independent projects than can be completed in a single term. Students must have their project approved by a faculty adviser who establishes the requirements for ANTH 471 or 472; approval is required before the student registers for ANTH 471 or 472, typically in the fall term of the senior year.

For options two and three, the adviser must have a faculty appointment in Anthropology, and the second reader must have a faculty appointment at Yale.

Summary of requirements:

Prerequisites:  None

Number of courses: 12 course credits (including senior essay)

Distribution of courses:  At least one introductory or intermediate course in each of three subfields; at least three advanced courses (not incl ANTH 471, 472, 491, or seminar senior essay); up to 3 cognate courses in other departments or programs with DUS approval.

Senior requirement: Senior essay in advanced seminar or ANTH 491

Students electing a concentration may have additional requirements specific to that concentration. 

Most graduate courses in Anthropology are open to undergraduates who have appropriate background.  Permission of the instructor is required to register for graduate courses, and interested students should consult with the instructor regarding appropriateness.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies is William Honeychurch.

The Departmental Registrar is Marleen Cullen.