Undergraduate Program

The Anthropology Major

The major in Anthropology gives a firm grounding in this comparative discipline concerned with human cultural, social, and biological diversity. Anthropology deals not only with that small proportion of humankind in Europe and North America but with societies of the entire world, from the remotest past to the present day. It is thus an essential part of a sound liberal education, helping us to see our world from a perspective that challenges ethnocentric assumptions. The major in Anthropology covers the evolution of human and nonhuman primates and the evolutionary biology of living people; world prehistory and the emergence of civilization; diversity and commonality in social organization and culture; the importance of culture for understanding such topics as sickness and health, gender and sexuality, and religion; and language use as cultural behavior. The four subfields of anthropological inquiry—archaeology, biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology—together offer a holistic perspective on humankind and its development.

Requirements of the major:

Students are required to present twelve course credits toward their major, including introductory or intermediate courses in at least three subfields of anthropology, a senior essay, and three advanced courses (not including ANTH 471, 472, 491, or a senior essay seminar). The major does not have formal tracks, but majors may choose to concentrate in one of the subfields of anthropology. They may also draw on courses in sociocultural and biological anthropology to pursue a concentration in medical anthropology. Those who concentrate in sociocultural anthropology are strongly encouraged to take a course in ethnographic methods and one in anthropological theory (e.g., ANTH 311). Those who concentrate in biological anthropology are strongly encouraged to take courses that give them hands-on experience working with material used in the study of human and nonhuman primate anatomy and evolution (e.g., ANTH 267) and that introduce them to laboratory methods. Those who concentrate in archaeology are strongly encouraged to take the yearlong sequence in field and laboratory methods (ANTH 277, 278L, 279L).

Three term courses may be selected from other departments, with approval by the director of undergraduate studies. Majors are not required to present cognate courses, but those who do should choose courses that expand their knowledge in one of the subfields of anthropology or in an area of cross-disciplinary concentration. For example, cognate courses for biological anthropology can be found in Biology, Geology and Geophysics, Psychology, and Forestry & Environmental Studies; cognates for sociocultural anthropology can be found in Sociology, American Studies, and History. Appropriate areas of cross-disciplinary concentrations include such topics as area studies (e.g., Africa), anthropological approaches to law and health, gender and sexuality studies, evolutionary biology, and geology.

Senior essay:

All majors are required to complete a substantial paper during the senior year, either in a seminar or in ANTH 491. There are three options for completing the senior essay. First, students can write a paper for an advanced seminar. A seminar senior essay must be more substantial than a typical term paper and is expected to be 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.

The second option for the senior essay is 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. The adviser must have a faculty appointment in Anthropology, and the second reader must have a faculty appointment at Yale.

The third option for the senior essay is 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.

Summary of requirements:

Prerequisites:  None

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

Distribution of courses:  At least 1 intro survey or intermediate course in each of 3 subfields; 3 advanced courses (not incl ANTH 471, 472, 491, or senior essay sem); up to 3 cognate courses in other departments or programs with DUS approval.

Senior requirementSenior essay in advanced Sem or ANTH 491

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.