Smith’s anthropology offerings promote awareness and understanding of ethnic and cultural diversity on a global scale as well as in the United States. We challenge students’ assumptions about their cultures by introducing them to societies and social groups whose principles and prejudices are different from their own. As a result, students carry a greater sensitivity to the cultural dimension of human experience in their work and lives.
Anthropology majors gain a balanced view of the range of intellectual concerns and research priorities that mark the subdisciplines of cultural anthropology: cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology and anthropological linguistics. We emphasize a commitment to the value of the ethnographic method as a prerequisite to a comparative analysis of human cultures. Direct observation of ongoing social systems and their cultural frameworks is at the forefront of our studies.
News & Announcements
Presentation of the Major in Anthropology
Goals for Majors in Anthropology
Students should have:
- an understanding of the breadth of the subfields of cultural anthropology and/or archeology
- knowledge of the research methods used by anthropologists
- an understanding of the concept of culture and how cultural processes work in the production of meaning
- knowledge of the theoretical foundations of the discipline
- knowledge of the ethical implications of research
- the ability to apply 1–5 to real-world situations both inside and outside of academia
Student Learning Outcomes
All majors in anthropology are expected to demonstrate:
- The ability to communicate in writing and in oral presentations in classrooms and other settings
- The ability to conduct library or document based research
- The ability to read and interpret professional publications in anthropology
- Understanding of the links among anthropological data, method and theory
- Understanding of the possible impacts of anthropological knowledge on broader questions of policy, political participation, and the allocation of diverse tangible and intangible resources
Two elements of the anthropology major are particularly useful in a world increasingly marked by global movements of populations: a foundational knowledge of the societies and cultures of distinct parts of the world and a grasp of the methods by which those societies may be studied in a respectful manner. An appreciation for the complexity of cultures is a critical skill in any profession that reaches across social divides.
- ANT 130 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
- ANT 200 Colloquium in Anthropology (spring; topics vary)
- ANT 233 The History of Anthropological Theory (fall)
- One Smith senior seminar
- Four additional anthropology classes*, chosen in consultation with your adviser, based on your specific geographical and subject interests
- Three additional classes in anthropology or other disciplines that are related to your interests, with approval of your adviser**
- Foreign language requirement (if applicable)
*Those offered by Smith's anthropology department, by anthropologists with appointments in other Smith departments or programs, or by anthropologists at other approved colleges or universities in the United States and abroad.
**A maximum of two language courses may count toward this requirement.
The colloquium is an introduction to anthropological methods and will have different topics based on the choice of the professor who offers it in a given year. No one topic is likely to be of equal interest to all students, but it is important to remember that unlike other courses, the specific subject matter is less important than the skills that the class aims to convey. The class will include instruction in both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as in the process of defining a research problem and writing a research proposal.
You are welcome to take anthropology seminars off campus and they can count toward the major, but they may not replace a Smith class for the seminar requirement. The only exceptions will be for students with an established focus in biological anthropology or linguistics; since we do not offer seminars in these subfields, we will consider a petition to have the seminar requirement fulfilled off campus.
You may be tempted to ask the faculty member you had in an introductory class to serve as your adviser, but the best idea is to find a member of the department who shares your interests (geographical and/or topical) and from whom you are likely to take at least two classes. That way, your adviser will get to know you well enough to provide guidance and write useful letters of reference. Look at the biographies of department members and see whose research and teaching aligns with your anticipated direction. Plan to stop by to talk with your prospective adviser during his or her office hours. You may change your adviser at any time.
Foreign Language Requirement
Language is central to how people develop a worldview. Since anthropology is dedicated to the profound knowledge of cultures, language learning is a foundational skill. Majors must show a competency in one foreign language equivalent to four semesters of college-level classes. You may demonstrate this level of competency by completing language courses at the intermediate level or by certification from a language instructor. For languages that are not represented at Smith, you can select a qualified evaluator in consultation with your adviser.
Funding is available for majors seeking financial assistance in language instruction. See Nancy “Penny” Schwartz Fund.
Biological Anthropology Exception
Students who focus their major in biological anthropology may replace the language requirement with two courses in mathematics and/or natural science if the courses serve as an essential foundation for advanced work in this subfield and are above the 100 level. Any alternative for the language requirement will be developed in consultation with an adviser and must be part of an overall plan of studies approved by the entire department. The alternative to the language requirement is considered exceptional and must be justified by a well-considered curricular plan.
A junior or senior wishing to pursue individualized study that is not available in another course, or to pursue more advanced study within a topic, may enroll in special studies (Anthropology 404a, b, or 408d).
Special studies may also grow out of an internship experience or a project undertaken during study abroad. Special studies sometimes serve as the basis for a subsequent honors project. It is the student's responsibility to propose a project to a faculty member, keeping in mind that the work associated with a special study must be equivalent to that required in a regular course carrying the same number of credits. Special studies may involve the development of an annotated bibliography that will serve as the basis for an honors project, a seminar-like research paper, an exhibit of creative work (e.g., documentary video, photography, dance), or any other product agreed to by the student and the supervising faculty member. Faculty members may not be able to accept a special study if they are insufficiently knowledgeable about the proposed subject or if they have already agreed to supervise others for that semester.
You must secure the agreement of a faculty member well in advance to supervise a particular project prior to enrolling in the course.
Anthropology majors are encouraged to consider an academic program abroad during junior year. For more information, visit the Study Abroad page.
Research with Human Subjects
Students must obtain prior approval from the Smith College Institutional Review Board for any research with human subjects, even if it is carried out under the supervision of persons affiliated with other institutions. The approval that a non-Smith project may have received from some other review board may not substitute a review by Smith's IRB, although your application for approval may cite pre-existing approval.
For students seeking more in-depth studies in their major, the honors program allows qualified students to devote a substantial portion of their senior year's coursework to an extensive research project. The work culminates in the writing of a thesis and the completion of an oral exam.
The honors program offers an excellent opportunity for a student to develop advanced research and writing skills, but it is not intended for everyone. You should have a strong interest in a specific subject that you want to spend a substantial part of your final two semesters exploring. Although an honors project does not have to be based on independent fieldwork, it must do more than summarize or review an existing body of literature. You should have done preliminary reading on the subject and have an initial idea about what you want to show through your research (i.e., your thesis). You also must develop a relationship with a faculty member who has the background necessary to support and evaluate your project. It is not advisable to approach a faculty member with an honors proposal if you have never taken a course from that person.
Students on campus junior year are strongly encouraged to take a special studies to develop their proposals.
More information on departmental honors, including requirements and deadlines, can be found on the Class Deans website.
For more information, see the Smith College Course Search.
ANT 130 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Sections taught by: Suzanne Gottschang, Donld Joralemon and Pinky Hota
ANT 135 Introduction to Archaeology
ANT 216 The Archaeology of Food
Elizabeth Klarich (at Mount Holyoke College)
ANT 224; Anthropos in the Anthropocene: Human-Environment Relations in a Time of Ecological Crisis
ANT 229 Africa and the Environment
ANT 233 History of Anthropological Theory
ANT 248 Medical Anthropology
ANT 258 Performing Culture
ANT 267 Self & Society in South Asia
ANT 342 Biopower, Bioplitics and Governance
ANT 352 Topics in Anthropology: Politics of Language
For more information, see the Smith College Course Search.
ANT 130 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Sections taught by: Fernando Armstrong-Fumero, Colin Hoag, and Caroline Melly
ANT 200 Resarch Methods in Anthropology
ANT 226 Archaeology of Food
ANT 234 Culture, Power and Politics
ANT 237 Native South Americans
ANT 238 Anthropology of the Body
ANT 252 City and Countryside in China
ANT 255 Dying and Death
ANT 269 Indigenous Cultures and the State In Mesoamerica
Fernando Armstrong Fumero
ANT 274 The Anthropology of Religion
ANT 317 The Anthropology of Landscape - Space, Place, Nature
ANT 340 Seminar-Topics in Anthropology: Ethnographic Writing
ANT 344 Medical Anthropology
Biological Anthropology and Archaeology
Majors interested in biological anthropology or additional courses in archaeology may take advantage of the excellent resources in this area at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Hampshire College.
Contact Professor Elizabeth Klarich for more information.
Program in Culture, Health and Science
The Five College Program in Culture, Health and Science (CHS) is a certificate program that gives students an opportunity to explore human health, disease and healing from an interdisciplinary perspective. CHS recognizes that the study of any aspect of health requires theoretical frameworks and research strategies that integrate physical, political, psychological and sociocultural elements of human experience. Thus, students in this rigorous program design a plan of study that links the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.
Anthropology majors are encouraged to consider an academic program abroad during junior year. A wide variety of opportunities are available for study at other universities and in special programs, both in America and abroad. These include Smith College programs in Paris, Geneva, Florence and Hamburg programs operated by other institutions that are affiliated with Smith or by some without a formal affiliation Student-designed programs approved by the Smith department. These projects usually include supervision from or residency at another university.
Africa and Other Areas
A student planning to spend junior year abroad should take at least one, but preferably two, courses in anthropology during sophomore year. Students should discuss study abroad plans with advisers, particularly if they anticipate doing special studies or a senior thesis upon return.
It is likely that you will be able to count a number of courses in the category of “related” toward your anthropology major, but to be considered a regular anthropology class means those courses must be taught by a professor with an advanced degree in anthropology (including any of the subfields). You may be misled by course titles that sound anthropological; you must investigate the professor's training if you want your adviser to accept a course as a regular anthropology class.
Opportunities & Resources
Smith College Academic Prize Competitions
Undergraduate students in all classes, and in some cases alumnae, can compete for these prizes by submitting application materials to the department responsible. These are monetary prizes, not scholarships, and the amounts vary. Questions concerning prizes should be addressed to the department responsible for the prize. Prize winners are announced at the Ivy Day Awards Convocation in May.
Department of Anthropology Prize
Samuel Bowles Prize, awarded to a major in the graduating class for the most distinguished paper in anthropology. Submissions may be seminar papers, special studies projects or honors theses. Submissions are due by the last day of classes and must be delivered in hard copy to Lea Ahlen, Wright Hall 226.
Nancy “Penny” Schwartz ’74 Fund
The Nancy "Penny" Schwartz '74 Fund supports the efforts of current anthropology majors to acquire competence in non-Western languages. Modest grants, not to exceed $500, are offered to help cover expenses associated with international or national travel and study that include language instruction.
Expenses Not Included
Domestic funding is for language classes only; no support is provided for other academic coursework, internships or research conducted in the United States. Domestic funding for tutors, commercial services or self-study guides will not be provided, and grants will not be made for postbaccalaureate language training.
How to ApplyDeadline: TBA
The request must include specific information on the study program and the language to be studied, as well as a clear statement of the importance of the language to the student's anthropological interests. Applicants must also indicate any additional sources of funding for which they have applied or received.
2014 Application Form (PDF)
Please email the application as an attachment to Lea Ahlen.
About Penny Schwartz
Penny Schwartz received a doctorate from Princeton University in 1989 after writing a magisterial study of the glossolalia practices (speaking in tongues) in Legio Maria, an African independent church founded by the Luo people of Kenya. During her peripatetic teaching career, Schwartz dazzled and inspired colleagues and students in many parts of the United States with her shrewd wit and unbridled enthusiasm for anthropology and Africa. Equally dazzling was a series of papers in which Schwartz, with an appreciation of metaphors and metacommunication and the expressive politics of gender and the marginalized, took Princeton-style symbolic anthropology out to the very edges of its human ethnographic possibilities and then stepped over into other domains of human and animal interaction. She wrote of “magical and mundane powers of African birds,” dealt with African snakes as “charismatic and nonphallic megafauna,” and found something fishy in Lake Victoria” in regard to water abuse and political ecology. Her papers tickled funny bones and poked holes in what she felt were anthropology’s “anthropocentric” and “logocentric” pretensions. In one paper, Schwartz documented ways that Kenya Luo and Luyia women have both pre- and postmortem agency. The celebration of her life will confirm that she remains active dead or alive.—Maria G. Cattell, in Anthropology and Aging Quarterly
Hong Kong Ph.D. Fellowship Scheme
Students with a master’s degree seeking a doctoral program in anthropology may wish to consider applying for the Hong Kong Ph.D. Fellowship Scheme through the Department of Anthropology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Scholarship to Build Leadership in the Field of African American Women's Health
The Master of Arts in Women's Health (MAWH) program at Suffolk University (Boston) is pleased to offer a competitive, annual, full-tuition scholarship to a student committed to working in the field of black women's health. Funded by the Suffolk University College of Arts and Sciences, this scholarship is designed to develop leadership that will contribute to the health and well-being of African American women and girls. For more information, send an email to email@example.com.
Medical Anthropology Program at the University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma established a graduate program in health and human biology. The program has an integrated biological and cultural approach to medical anthropology, with geographical strengths in native North America and Latin America. This unique perspective from both biological and medical anthropology sets the foundation for studying health, illness, disease and death in human history and the contemporary world.
Infectious Disease Research Training at the University of Pennsylvania
Since 1971, the University of Pennsylvania has provided training in clinical and research aspects of infectious diseases for students who wish to pursue careers in scientific investigation, patient care, education and global health.
M.A. in Children, Youth and International Development at Brunel University
This innovative interdisciplinary program, based in the Centre for Human Geography at Brunel University in West London, is the first in the United Kingdom to cater specifically to those working, or interested in working, in the field of children, youth and international development.