Anthropology

Social Anthropology is concerned with the social and cultural diversity of contemporary human communities and groups. Through ethnographic methods of research, which include intensive participant observation of community life over an extended period of time, Social Anthropologists study topics such as gender, race and ethnicity; religion; economic development; illness and healing; human rights and political violence; popular culture and the role of media in society; food and consumption; and the impact of globalization. Ethnographic research is conducted in all parts of the world, in settings such as urban neighborhoods, college campuses, global markets, refugee camps, hospitals, and government offices and courtrooms as well as in rural towns and backcountry settlements.

Studying Social Anthropology is exciting and broadens the mind. It invites students to think cross-culturally about the human condition. Social Anthropology offers a conceptual toolkit for students who are interested in an international experience, whether studying abroad, preparing for an international career, or simply becoming informed citizens of a globalized world. Social Anthropology students learn skills that enable them to operate in different cultural environments, skills that can be transferred to careers in fields such as education, journalism, law, business, medicine, politics and public service, as well as in humanitarian and development fields.

The secondary field in Social Anthropology is designed to offer students a general introduction to anthropological knowledge and methods as well as a more focused study of some particular topic or world area. We thus offer four different pathways, all of which will appear as "Anthropology" on the transcript:

General Social Anthropology

This option provides students with the broadest possible range of courses from across the discipline and is suggested for students who would like a general sense of what anthropologists do and how they do it. This is a good choice for students who have an interest in Social Anthropology, but no clearly defined subject matter they want to explore.

Requirements: 4 half-courses

  1. One entry-level half-course in Anthropology. Entry-level courses include:

    1. Anthropology 1600: Introduction to Social Anthropology

    2. Social Analysis 70: Food and Culture

    3. Foreign Cultures 84: Tokyo

    4. Foreign Cultures 74: Cultures of Southern Europe

    5. Foreign Cultures 86: West African Cultures

    6. Social Analysis 28: Culture, Illness and Healing: Introduction to Medical Anthropology

  2. Three additional half-courses in Social Anthropology; this may include a Junior Tutorial (Anthropology 98z) or, with the permission of the instructor and approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, a graduate-level (Anthropology 2xxx) seminar.

Medical Anthropology

Medical Anthropology is concerned with questions of health; illness and health care in society; cultural differences in health practices and outcomes; the culture of biomedical institutions and healing professions; cross-cultural comparisons of health care systems; the lived experiences of illness and disability; social suffering owing to societal catastrophes; cultural barriers facing the implementation of therapeutic and preventive programs among poor or marginalized communities in industrialized and developing societies; and the interrelationships between political, moral, and medical experiences.

Medical Anthropology involves ethnographic studies of patients, families, and practitioners as well as ethnographies of science and technology. Cross-cultural comparisons center on studies of hospitals and clinics along with religious and complementary and alternative healers. Research often focuses on narratives of illness, clinical and public health communication, and how ethnicity, race and the societal differences shape biological and psychological reactions to suffering. What characterizes Medical Anthropology and differentiates it from related fields is the priority given to the study of culture, local worlds, and the embodiment of meanings, values, and local practices.

Students of Medical Anthropology often go on to careers in global public health, clinical medicine, and humanitarian assistance, and also many other professions and social roles that are enabled by studying how individuals, cultural groups, and whole societies respond to health and social problems. Students are encouraged to study abroad and often do field placements in hospitals, clinics and disease-specific research projects, especially in poor and middle-income societies.

Requirements: 4 half-courses

One of the four half-courses may be in any area of Social Anthropology; three must be in the field of Medical Anthropology, with the option of substituting a course in either Biological Anthropology or Human Evolutionary Biology for one of the three.

  1. One entry-level half-course in Anthropology. Entry-level courses include:

    1. Anthropology 1600: Introduction to Social Anthropology

    2. Social Analysis 70: Food and Culture

    3. Social Analysis 28: Culture, Illness and Healing: Introduction to Medical Anthropology

  2. Three additional half-courses at the 100-level or above. Courses in Medical Anthropology include:

    1. Anthropology 1615: Anthropology and Human Rights

    2. Anthropology 1630: Anthropology of Religion

    3. Anthropology 17109: Memory Politics: Truth, Justice, Redress

    4. Anthropology 1790: Violence in the Andes : Coca, Conflict, and Control

    5. Anthropology 1830: Social Suffering

    6. Anthropology 1835: Introduction to Psychiatric Anthropology

    7. Anthropology 2640: Interventions: Ethics, Logics, Intentions

    8. Anthropology 2740: Culture and Mental Illness

    9. Anthropology 2750: Local Biologies

    10. Anthropology 2785: Theories of Subjectivity in Current Anthropology

    11. Anthropology 2855: Deep China

    12. Anthropology 1876: New Ethnographies of Social Experience

Anthropology of Asia

Asia – broadly conceived to include Northeast Asia, China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia – presents a wide array of distinctive but also intricately interconnected societies and cultures which together encompass the majority of the human population. Asian societies and cultures, throughout human history, have interacted with one another across many dimensions of cultural transmission – religion, trade, politics, agriculture, philosophy, technology, migration, language, and arts, including popular culture. In contemporary times, as well, the vibrant interactions within and among Asian societies and their growing impact on global culture makes an understanding of Asian cultural dynamics and social patterns, both in their individual specifics and in cross-cultural commonalities, a crucial component of education for global citizenship. The Anthropology of Asia secondary field includes courses in Archaeology as well as Social Anthropology.

Requirements: 4 half-courses

Three of the four half-courses must be in the field of Anthropology of Asia, and related to at least two different Asian societies.

  1. One entry-level half-course in Anthropology. Entry-level courses include:

    1. Anthropology 1600: Introduction to Social Anthropology

    2. Anthropology 1010: Introduction to Archaeology

    3. Social Analysis 70: Food and Culture

    4. Foreign Cultures 84: Tokyo

    5. Social Analysis 28: Culture, Illness and Healing: Introduction to Medical Anthropology

  2. Three additional half-courses at the 100-level or above. These courses may include a Junior Tutorial (Anthropology 98z) on an Asian society, or, with the permission of the instructor and approval by the Secondary Field adviser, a graduate-level (Anthropology 2xxx) seminar.

Anthropology highly values language as an important aspect of culture and society, and as a critical tool for understanding cultural similarities and differences. Students selecting a secondary field in the Anthropology of Asia are strongly encouraged to pursue the study of an Asian language. Completion of a third-year credit-bearing course in an Asian language may be counted, by petition, as fulfilling one course toward the requirements of the secondary field.

Anthropology of Human Rights

The Anthropology of Human Rights explores human rights from multiple perspectives, including the theoretical or philosophical aspects of human rights, the practical problems of implementation and protection, the institutional dimensions, and, in particular, the dilemmas associated with the use of human rights in cross-cultural or comparative perspective. Human rights theory and institutions are used as major vehicles for addressing conflict at various social and political levels, and in diverse geographical contexts. Intense and protracted conflict around the world inevitably leads to a call by individuals and institutions to protect the human rights of victims and to use a human rights framework to seek redress from violators. In addition, globalization has created a dynamic in which human rights theory and practice have come to form the foundation for a variety of initiatives including international development and foreign aid, civil society projects, bilingual education, community conflict resolution, gender equality, truth and reconciliation commissions, and the protection of children, among many others.

This subfield reflects the importance of anthropological methodologies and theories to many of the most socially and politically relevant questions of our times. It also draws upon debates that have infused classic political and ethical theory: the nature of the just society; the rights of individuals and of collectives; the forms and content of democracy; the nature of social rights and social obligations. Thus, among the goals of this secondary field will be providing students with a solid grounding in the philosophical underpinnings of human rights, preparing them to critically analyze current debates in the theory and practice of human rights.

Requirements: 4 half-courses

  1. One entry-level half-course in Anthropology. Entry-level courses include:

    1. Anthropology 1600: Introduction to Social Anthropology

    2. Foreign Cultures 74: Cultures of Southern Europe

    3. Foreign Cultures 85: West African Cultures

    4. Social Analysis 28: Culture, Illness and Healing: Introduction to Medical Anthropology

  2. Three additional half-courses in Anthropology, one of which may be substituted with a half-course in another department with prior approval of the Secondary Field Adviser. Relevant courses include:

    1. Anthropology 1605: Law and Anthropology

    2. Anthropology 1615: Anthropology and Human Rights

    3. Anthropology 1618: Human Rights: Themes at the Intersection of Anthropology and Law

    4. Anthropology 1635: Human Rights and Social Justice

    5. Anthropology 1655: Politics of Nature

    6. Anthropology 1710: Memory Politics: Truth, Justice, Redress

    7. Anthropology 1732: Social Movements: Popular Mobilization and Politics

    8. Anthropology 1750: Syncretism

    9. Anthropology 1760: Nationalism and Bureaucracy

    10. Anthropology 1790: Violence in the Andes: Coca, Conflict and Control

    11. Anthropology 1795: The Politics of Language and Identity in Latin America

    12. Anthropology 1820: Japan in the Ethnographic Gaze

    13. Anthropology 1830: Social Suffering

    14. Anthropology 1940: Comparative Liberation Theologies

    15. Anthropology 1860: Colonial Departures

    16. Anthropology 1980: Anthropology at Home: War and the US

    17. Anthropology 2640: Interventions: Ethics, Logics, Intentions

Each pathway consists of four half-courses, including one introductory level course. Students are encouraged, though not required, to take a junior tutorial (Anthropology 98z), a small discussion-based tutorial in which they work intensively on writing and analytical skills, as a “capstone” of their study of Social Anthropology.

Other Information

With the exception of Freshman Seminars offered by Social Anthropology faculty, all courses must be taken for a letter grade and students must earn a C or higher for the course to count toward the secondary field.

Student participation in study abroad programs or internships, through which they can get their own cross-cultural experience, is especially encouraged. If a student has received Harvard credit for courses taken in a Harvard-approved overseas studies program, that student may petition for permission to count one or two courses (one course per semester of overseas study) toward the requirements of the Anthropology secondary field.

Courses in Social Anthropology offered by the Harvard Summer School and approved for Harvard College credit may be counted towards the secondary field in Anthropology without requiring approval by the Secondary Field Adviser, as long as the courses are appropriate to the subject matter or focus of the secondary field. Courses in other schools at Harvard may be taken for credit but require cross-registration and prior approval per signature by the Secondary Field Adviser.

Advising Resources and Expectations

The Secondary Field Advisers are the Asst. Head Tutor for Social Anthropology, Dr. Katrina L. Moore (klmoore@fas.harvard.edu) and the Head Tutor for Social Anthropology, Professor Smita Lahiri (lahiri@wjh.harvard.edu). All students interested in a secondary field are expected to register their interest with the department using the Secondary Fields Web Tool and have an initial advising conversation with the Head Tutor or the Asst. Head Tutor. Ultimately, one of these tutors must also sign the final form for secondary field credit.