Program of Study (CAS Bulletin)

Fields of Inquiry
Sociocultural anthropology is the study of social organization and the systems of thought and values that both reflect and inform social practice in different cultures. Sociocultural anthropology is interdisciplinary in orientation, analyzing and synthesizing religious, artistic, economic, and political practices through the common medium of culture. Traditionally, cultural anthropology emphasized the study of small-scale societies (often termed “exotic,” indigenous, and/or nonliterate peoples). Contemporary sociocultural anthropology maintains such interests but increasingly applies its insights and methods to complex, urban, and industrialized societies and attends more closely to the production of culture. An emphasis of the department is the ethnographic study of cultural, social, and political processes that shape our lives and those of other people, especially as we are drawn together and influence one another in increasingly transnational and global interactions.

Linguistic anthropology focuses on how language is interpreted and used in cultural contexts. Language use is socially organized, and it is a key to understanding the ways in which speakers create and change social realities. Studied within historical as well as cultural frameworks and in relation to other social institutions (e.g., politics, education, law, medicine), variation in ways of speaking language(s) adds to our understanding of how social categories such as ethnicity, race, and gender are interactionally constituted across contexts, cultures, and societies.

Archaeological anthropology uses artifacts and other material remains to understand human culture. It attempts to breathe life into a material record that at first glance appears static and fragmentary. The research interests of anthropological archaeologists range from the earliest production of durable tools 2.6 million years ago to the refuse currently being generated by modern cities. All aspects of past human existence, including art, technology, religion, gender, economic and social organization, and food-getting strategies, are addressed by researchers in anthropological archaeology.

Biological Anthropology encompasses the study of human and nonhuman primate biological diversity and includes the anatomy, genetics, behavior, ecology, and evolution of humans and other primates. It is linked to the other subfields of anthropology by its commitment to the study of human biology, behavior, and evolution within the context of culture, society, and ecology. Close ties with the American Museum of Natural History and the Wildlife Conservation Society International at the Bronx Zoo facilitate the department’s diverse research interests in biological anthropology.

The department participates in the University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Center for Religion and Media, the Center for the Study of Human Origins, the Institute for Study of the Ancient World, the Program in Museum Studies, the Program in Culture and Media, and the Center for Media, Culture, and History.


Departmental Objectives

Anthropology courses contribute to undergraduate education in two ways. First, the scope of the discipline’s interests effectively bridges the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Anthropology asks basic questions concerning the origins and development of humans and their cultures and divergent systems of thought, belief, and social order. By systematically analyzing various cultural traditions—contemporary as well as historically known—anthropology raises critical questions concerning the bases of both world civilizations. An understanding of the distinctive way anthropology formulates and attempts to answer its basic questions is a necessary component of a comprehensive liberal education.

Second, the department offers concentrated programs of study for the minor, major, or honors student. A minor usually emphasizes one of the four subdisciplines, although students are free to select courses from across the subfields. For the major, the department encourages study in all of the subdisciplines, because each supplements and complements the others in presenting humans as both biological and social beings. The honors program includes in-depth research and writing in one aspect of sociocultural, linguistic, archaeological, or biological anthropology, as well as the pursuit of additional advanced course work at the senior undergraduate or graduate level.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) works closely with anthropology majors and minors in designing programs of study that integrate their individual goals with the offerings and intellectual goals of the department and complementary disciplines. Majors should meet with the DUS at least once per semester, typically just prior to registration for the next semester, to discuss their progress through the program, decide on future course work, and discuss postgraduation plans.

The department prides itself on its graduate and undergraduate programs’ integrated nature, which enables major, minor, and honors students to participate in a variety of challenging graduate courses and seminars. Additionally, an active Anthropology Undergraduate Student Association (AUSA) connects students to one another through events and an e-mail forum.


Major

The major in anthropology consists of 36 points (typically nine 4-point courses), which include the required classes Human Society and Culture (ANTH-UA 1), Human Evolution (ANTH-UA 2), Archaeology: Early Societies and Cultures (ANTH-UA 3), and Anthropology of Language (ANTH-UA 17; offered only during the spring semester). The remaining elective courses may be selected from any subfield of anthropology. Students must take at least five courses from the Department of Anthropology at New York University in order to receive a major in anthropology from NYU, and a grade of at least C is required in every course to be counted toward the major. Students are not required to focus on any one of the subfields of anthropology represented in the department, but rather are free to choose elective courses that accommodate their interests as narrowly or broadly as they see fit, in consultation with the DUS. Internships approved by the DUS are encouraged, but internship credits may not be applied toward the major. Independent study courses, conducted under the supervision of a departmental faculty member, are also encouraged and can be applied toward the major. Majors should consult regularly with the DUS in order to take full advantage of the seminars and research opportunities open to them.

In collaboration with the Department of Classics and the Department of Linguistics, the Department of Anthropology also offers two joint majors. Joint majors consist of 20 points (typically five 4-point courses) in anthropology and 20 points in the joint department. A grade of at least C is required in every course to be counted toward the joint major. Joint majors should consult regularly with the DUS in anthropology and the DUS in the joint department in order to take full advantage of the seminars and research opportunities open to them.

Joint major with the Department of Classics: The joint major in Anthropology and Classics emphasizes the importance of anthropological approaches to understanding the social orders and institutions of the classical world. One anthropology course, Human Society and Culture (ANTH-UA 1), is required, along with four other anthropology electives chosen in consultation with the DUS of each department. Twenty points are required in classics. See Classics in this Bulletin for additional information. Joint anthropology-classics majors should also consult with Professor Rita Wright in the Department of Anthropology and the DUS in the Department of Classics for aid in developing their program of study.

Joint major with the Department of Linguistics: The joint major in Anthropology and Linguistics emphasizes the complementary nature of anthropological and sociolinguistic approaches to language. Students are required to take 20 points (typically five 4-point courses) each from the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Linguistics, and a grade of at least C is required in every course to be counted toward the joint major. Required courses in anthropology are Human Society and Culture (ANTH-UA 1), Anthropology of Language (ANTH-UA 17), either Cultural Symbols (ANTH-UA 48) or Language, Power, and Identity (ANTH-UA 16), and two other cultural or linguistic anthropology courses approved by the Department of Anthropology’s DUS. Required courses in linguistics are Language (LING-UA 1), Language and Society (LING-UA 15), and at least two of the following: Bilingualism (LING-UA 18); Language, Literacy, and Society (LING-UA 20); Sex, Gender, and Language (LING-UA 21); African American Vernacular English: Language and Culture (LING-UA 23); Language and Liberation at Home in the Caribbean and Abroad (LING-UA 26); and Language in Latin America (LING-UA 30). The fifth course in linguistics may be an additional course from the above list or another course that the department offers, chosen in consultation with the DUS in the Department of Linguistics. See Linguistics in this Bulletin for additional information. Joint Anthropology-Linguistics majors should also consult with Professor Bambi Schieffelin in the Department of Anthropology and Professor John Singler in the Department of Linguistics for aid in developing their program of study.


Minor
The minor in Anthropology consists of 16 points (any four 4-point courses) in the department. The “principles” courses Human Society and Culture (ANTH-UA 1), Human Evolution (ANTH-UA 2), and Archaeology: Early Societies and Cultures (ANTH-UA 3) are recommended as overviews of the discipline and as prerequisites for more advanced courses. Minors consult with the DUS to design a program that best accommodates their interests. A grade of at least C is required in every course to be counted toward the minor. Students must take at least two courses from the Department of Anthropology at New York University in order to receive a minor in anthropology from NYU.

Honors Program

A degree in Anthropology is awarded with honors to selected majors who apply for admission to the program through the DUS during their junior year. Honors program candidates are expected to meet all the requirements for the program and to maintain an overall grade point average of 3.65 and an average of 3.65 in the major. Candidates for the honors program must complete a total of 40 points (typically ten 4-point courses) of anthropology course work, including a two-semester research/thesis writing sequence Honors Research I (ANTH-UA 950) and Honors Research II (ANTH-UA 951) taken in the senior year, plus at least one Special Seminar in Anthropology (ANTH-UA 800 or ANTH-UA 801) or a graduate course, typically taken in the junior or senior year. All of these courses count toward the major.

In the fall semester of the senior year, all thesis writers from across departmental subdisciplines enroll in Honors Research I (ANTH-UA 950), a seminar course in which research methods will be taught and individualized to fit each student’s topic—e.g., assembling a bibliography; constructing hypotheses; using secondary, primary, and occasionally original sources to generate data; and analyzing data. In the spring semester, all thesis writers enroll in Honors Research II (ANTH-UA 951), a seminar course in which students share their evolving theses with the group. Honors candidates are strongly encouraged to formally present posters/papers at the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Conference and within the department. Feedback will be offered at different stages by both faculty and learner-peers. In both semesters, it is the responsibility of the thesis writer to consult with his or her departmental faculty mentor who is supervising the honors project and who will serve as the primary thesis reader.