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Three alleged saddhus (Hindu holy men) sitting on the Vishnu Temple of Kathmandu's Durbar Square, Nepal, performing the vitarka mudrā.

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.

Important Academic Information for Spring 2020

In response to COVID-19, Smith College has implemented alternate modes of instruction for all academic courses for the remainder of the spring semester, as of March 30, 2020. Guidelines and information for academic continuity are available below. For general information, read the college’s FAQ about COVID-19 and visit the digital support for spring 2020 website.

Updates and information will be posted here as soon as they become available.


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

Required Courses

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 Research Methods in Anthropology (spring)
  • 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.

Choosing an Adviser

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.

Transfer Credit

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 under "Opportunities & Resources: Grants" below.

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.

Special Studies

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.

Study Abroad

Anthropology majors are encouraged to consider an academic program abroad during junior year. For more information, scroll to Study Abroad.

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, Pinky Hota

ANT 135 Introduction to Archaeology
Elizabeth Klariich

ANT 224; Anthropos in the Anthropocene: Human-Environment Relations in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Colin Hoag

ANT 229 Africa and the Environment
Colin Hoag

ANT 233 History of Anthropological Theory
Fernando Armstrong-Fumero

ANT 249 Visual Anthropology
Caroline Melly

ANT 250 Anthropology of Reproduction
Suzanne Gottschang

ANT 274 Anthropology of Religion
Pinky Hota


ANT 352 Topics in Anthropology: Politics of Language
Fernando Armstrong-Fumero

New Anthropology Seminar for Fall 2019!

ANT 3xx (TBA) How We Inhabit the World
Nadia Latif
Course Description:
Making a place of one’s own entails occupying and consuming what the place consists of. Human inhabitation of the planet can be seen as simultaneously productive and destructive, of both the inhabited space and its inhabitants. Drawing on concepts commonly considered “economic”; i.e. production, consumption, exchange, and property the following questions will be explored in this course: i) Does anthropological research confirm the universality of these concepts in human communities across history and geography as assumed by political and economic philosophers? ii) In what ways are the experiences, and hence understandings of, production, consumption, exchange, and property being transformed by the processes termed “neoliberalism”? How are these changes shaping the ways in which older and newer dispossessed groups may or may not inhabit the world? Readings for the course will include philosophical and anthropological texts. 

For more information, see the Smith College Course Search.

ANT 130 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Sections taught by: Fernando Armstrong-Fumero, Caroline Melly

ANT 200 Resarch Methods in Anthropology
Colin Hoag

ANT 223 In Sickness and In Health: Biopolitics, Public Health, and Medicine in East Asia
Suzanne Gottschang

ANT 238 Anthropology of the Body
Pinky Hota

ANT(MUS) 258 Performing Culture
Margaret Sarkissian

ANT 269 Indigenous Cultures and the State In Mesoamerica
Fernando Armstrong Fumero


ANT 300 Ethnographic Design
Colin Hoag

ANT 340 Seminar-Topics in Anthropology: Ethnographic Writing
Pinky Hota

ANT 342 Seminar-Topics in Anthropology: Critical Global Health: Ethnographic Approaches
Suzanne Gottschang

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.

Five Colleges Center for the Study of World Language

The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages offers academic-year courses in less-commonly studied languages for students at Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Course sessions meet on all five campuses. Courses are taken for academic credit and are part of a student's regular course load. Five College students are not required to pay any special fees or tuition in order to enroll.

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.



Suzanne GottschangPinky Hota

Latin America

Fernando Armstrong-FumeroElizabeth Klarich

Africa and Other Areas

Colin HoagCaroline Melly


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.


Frédérique Apffel-Marglin
Professor Emerita of Anthropology

Elliot Fratkin
Gwendolen Carter Chair Emeritus in African Studies and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology

Elizabeth Hopkins
Professor Emerita of Anthropology

Donald Joralemon
Professor Emeritus of Anthroplogy

Peter Rose
Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology

Related Faculty

Patricia Mangan
Lecturer in Environmental Science and Policy

Margaret Sarkissian
Professor of Music

Faculty Spotlight

headshot of Pinky Hota

Pinky Hota’s research builds bridges between critical studies of caste and race, recognition and multiculturalism, and ethnonationalist and populist politics. She teaches classes on the anthropology of religion and the body, contemporary South Asian politics and on ethnographic fieldwork and writing.

In Hota’s research on the rise of ethnonationalist populism in India, she has been struck by how social media platforms are used to support illiberal politics and perpetuate gender and caste violence. Male online trolls known as bhakts or religious devotees use Twitter to aggressively support and defend a Hindu ethnonationalist government. Other platforms such as WhatsApp are used to circulate fake news and misinformation with dangerous outcomes, including crowd violence and lynchings.

These developments have shaped Hota’s interests in the role of technology and new media in contemporary populisms, as well as questions of public trust and ethics increasingly confronting technology and social media companies. In her future classes, Hota hopes to engage students in innovative research methods of digital ethnography and crowdsourcing to emphasize their purchase in contemporary political and economic cultures. She also wants to encourage students to critically examine their own relationship with technology and social media to support a healthier engagement in their own lives.

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 Zachary Bergeron-Clearwood, Wright Hall 224. 

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 Apply
Deadline: 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

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.

Areas of Interest




Department of Anthropology
Wright Hall 226
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3510

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.