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Department of Anthropology

Requirements for the Major


ANTHROPOLOGY is the study of human diversity in all times and places. It brings together perspectives from the sciences and humanities, and from non-Western as well as Western societies, to illuminate different aspects of the human past, the human body, and contemporary social life. Global perspectives, field research and experiential learning, and concerns with justice, ethics, and social well-being are hallmarks of anthropology. Vanderbilt’s faculty have a strong research focus on Latin America and historically marginalized groups, especially indigenous people.

Students majoring in anthropology take courses in several subfields, each of which looks at humanity from a different perspective. Cultural anthropology examines the relationships, beliefs, values, and political-economic conditions that shape individual behavior and community life. Archaeology studies past cultures through their material remains. Linguistics explores relations between language and culture. Biological anthropology examines topics such as bodily development, genetics, disease, and evolution. Courses cluster around themes of cross-cultural health, biology, food, and medical systems; inequality, power, and social-political relations; material culture, environmental relations, and spatial analysis; religion and politics; and worldviews, language, and cognition. Unless indicated otherwise in the course description, anthropology courses have no prerequisites and are open to all majors and non-majors.

In a world of cascading injustices, ecological crises, impoverishments, and ethical blind-spots, leadership and social competence require understanding how race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion, and other forms of difference and inequality operate. Knowledge of the diversity of human histories and lifeways is vital to imagine alternative paths to a better society. Anthropology develops these understandings with experiential learning that challenges students to go beyond the familiar, to see, understand, and create in new ways. This preparation is useful in all professional careers that involve understanding human behavior, working with people from different backgrounds, analyzing complex information, and thinking holistically.  


The major in anthropology requires completion of at least 30 credit hours of course work, as follows:

1.  At least three 1000-level surveys (chosen from Anthropology 1101, 1201, 1301, 1601) covering the four subfields of anthropology: cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology.

2.  A minimum of three credit hours from each of the groups below:

Group I—Comparative Anthropology and Anthropological Theory: 2105, 2113W, 3900, 4154, 3121, 3160, 3133, 3132, 3140, 3122, 4153, 3143, 3145, 3141, 4155, 3142, 3150, 3150W, 2370, 2220, 2220W, 3262, 3901, 4152

Group II—Archaeology and Biological Anthropology: 2211, 2214, 3162, 3240, 3242, 3202, 3200, 3620, 3620W, 3161, 3162, 3343, 2342, 3371, 3130, 2231, 3201, 2230, 3250, 3372, 3344, 4345, 4373, 3260, 3261, 3243, 3243W, 3866

Group III—Ethnography, Ethnohistory, and Linguistics: 2601, 2602, 2250, 2109, 2106, 2223, 2603, 3134, 3161, 3144, 3130, 3241, 2108, 3622, 3120, 2614, 3614

3.  A seminar on anthropological theory (3900 or 3901). The seminar may not also be used to count toward Group I credit above.

4.  At least 18 credit hours must be at the 2000 level or higher.

5.  The remainder of the credit hours must be chosen from ANTH courses not already used to satisfy the requirements listed above.

6.  With the approval of the student’s major adviser, a maximum of 3 credit hours for a course taken in another department or program may be counted toward the major requirement. A variety of courses are possible, including but not limited to those listed below. In each case, the course must be relevant to the student’s program and the student must receive the approval of the director of undergraduate studies.

African American and Diaspora Studies2178,3178; Biological Sciences2205; History1270,2490; History of Art2210, 3240W; Human and Organizational Development3200; Latin American Studies 2301, 2601; Latino/a Studies 2201; Mathematics1010, 1011; Medicine, Health, and Society 1930, 3010, 3110, 2420, 2130, 2250, 3140, 3210, 3220, 3150, 2430, 2240, 3250; Music Literature 1100, 1105, 2100, 2110; Religious Studies 3079, 3178, 2472, 3142, 4554, 4837; Sociology 3001, 3313, 3311, 3314, 3221, 3231, 3232; Spanish 3330, 3360, 3370.

Honors Program

The Honors Program in Anthropology is designed to afford superior students the opportunity to pursue more intensive work within the major field. Students who want to do honors work in anthropology should contact the director of the Honors Program in the fall of their junior year. The completion of the Honors Program requires: a) 4–5 credits in Anthropology 4998 (Honors Research), evaluated by honors thesis adviser, b) 4–5 credits in Anthropology 4999 (Honors Thesis), evaluated by honors thesis adviser, c) submission of a written thesis, evaluated by the student’s honors committee, d) an oral presentation of the thesis (15–20) minutes, evaluated by the student’s honors committee, e) an oral examination of the thesis, administered by the student’s honors committee. The independent research hours are expected to be in excess of the 30 hours required for the anthropology major.

Minor in Anthropology

The minor in anthropology requires 18 credit hours of course work that includes any two of the introductory courses: ANTH  1101, 1301, 1201, 1601; one course listed in Group I in the major; and three additional courses from any combination of the courses listed in Group I, II, and III in the major.