2023-2024 University Catalog 
    Jul 19, 2024  
2023-2024 University Catalog

Anthropology Major

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Anthropology is the study of human beings in all their complexity. The scope of anthropology is truly global, as it aims to describe and analyze the full diversity of the human experience and cultural creativity across time and space. Anthropology recognizes that human beings are, simultaneously, social actors who create cultures and the products of those cultures. Using a broad array of research methods, including participant-observation and archaeological excavation, anthropologists investigate the historical composition of societies, their transformations, and their contemporary forms. We seek to understand the commonalities and differences in the identities, experiences, and beliefs of people around the world. We connect the details of people’s everyday lives to large-scale social systems and cultural forces and reveal that seemingly innate or natural differences among human groups are the result of historical, social, and political-economic processes. 

The curriculum integrates classroom and out-of-classroom learning, encouraging students to pursue off-campus study and independent research, hands-on learning activities, and/or community-engaged learning.


Major Requirements

The anthropology major consists of 9 courses. (See the Sociology and Anthropology  department page for transfer credit limitations.)

Required Courses

Students must take each of the following:

Methods Course

Students must take one of the following: 

Four Electives

Students must take four from the list of Elective Options below.

  • At least two of these anthropology electives must be at the 300 level.
  • One elective may be a Core course taught by an Anthropology professor.
  • No more than two courses (methods and/or electives) taken on a Colgate study group or approved program may be counted toward the major.

Electives Options:

Research Intensive Activities

“Research Intensive” learning activities that are not attached to courses should be discussed with and approved by a student’s anthropology advisor. For example, cultural anthropologists take seriously the idea of fieldwork and participant observation over an extended period of time, and often in places where one engages significant cultural differences. Therefore, students are encouraged to seek anthropology-approved off-campus study opportunities that feature: home stays, coursework in a second language, independent research projects, and/or different community service learning opportunities. Students are also encouraged to seek off-campus opportunities that involve ethnographic or archaeological fieldwork, or work in museum exhibits. All research intensive activities form part of students’ cumulative curricular experience that will prepare them for the senior thesis seminar.

To meet the Research Intensive component outside of courses, students may seek approval from their anthropology adviser to satisfy this area with one of the following activities:

  • Working with faculty on funded summer research projects (subject to department approval)

  • Participating in off-campus programs that involve opportunities for substantial experiential learning and/or independent research (subject to department approval). See Off-Campus Study for more information.

  • Gaining service learning experience through a summer internship or job (subject to department approval)

  • Other options as discussed with and approved by the anthropology adviser. We encourage students to work closely with faculty to explore multiple ways of fulfilling this requirement.



To complete the thesis requirement, students must enroll in 

  in the fall semester of the senior year and must have completed the following requirements:     or  , and the Research Intensive Activity. Students are expected to design substantive research projects grounded in recent anthropological theory and relevant literature on their topics and collect and analyze appropriate ethnographic or cultural data.

GPA Requirement

To qualify for graduation, a minimum GPA of 2.0 is required in all courses counting toward the major.

Honors and High Honors

Majors may qualify for honors in anthropology by achieving at graduation a GPA of 3.50 in all courses counted toward the anthropology major, or for high honors by achieving at graduation a GPA of 3.70 in all courses count toward the anthropology major, and submitting a thesis judged by department faculty to be worthy of honors or high honors.

Any student in the junior year who believes he or she will reach the qualifying GPA is strongly encouraged to discuss potential honors or high honors projects with departmental faculty. All seniors will enroll in 

  in the fall of their senior year and begin work on a thesis of their own design. To continue to pursue honors or high honors, students must receive at least an A- on the final thesis of the senior seminar. Those students pursuing honors or high honors will significantly revise and expand their seminar theses by enrolling in  , in the spring semester (if a substantial number of students are pursuing honors and high honors in a given year, the group may be organized into a formal honors seminar). They will work with a primary advisor and a secondary reader to complete the project.

Certification of honors and high honors is primarily based on the quality of the written thesis and participation in a public presentation. To receive honors, a three-person faculty committee must determine that it is strong in each of the following areas: asking and answering a clear anthropological research question, engaging deeply with social theory, collecting and analyzing empirical materials, and writing in a well-organized and professional style. To receive high honors, the committee must determine that the thesis is excellent in each area. Note: ANTH 495 is an additional requirement for students pursuing honors and high honors and cannot be counted as one of the electives required for the major.


Sociology and Anthropology Department

For more information about the department, including Faculty, transfer credit, awards, etc., please visit the Sociology and Anthropology department  catalog page.

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