|Majors and Concentrations|
Anthropology at Columbia is the oldest department of anthropology in the United States. Founded by Franz Boas in 1896 as a site of academic inquiry inspired by the uniqueness of cultures and their histories, the department has fostered an expansiveness of thought and independence of intellectual pursuit. Cross-cultural interpretation, global socio-political considerations, a markedly interdisciplinary approach, and a willingness to think otherwise have, from the outset, informed the spirit of Anthropology at Columbia. Boas himself wrote widely, on pre-modern cultures and modern assumptions, on language, race, art, dance, religion, politics, and much else, as did his graduate students, including, most notably, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. In these current times of increasing global awareness, this same spirit of mindful interconnectedness guides the department. Professors in Anthropology at Columbia today write widely--on colonialism and postcolonialism; on matters of gender, theories of history, knowledge, and power; on language, law, magic, mass-mediated cultures, modernity, and flows of capital and desire; on nationalism, ethnic imaginations, and political contestations; on material cultures and environmental conditions; on ritual, performance, and the arts; on linguistics, symbolism, and questions of representation. They write as well across worlds of similarities and differences--concerning the Middle East, China, Africa, the Caribbean, Japan, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, Southeast Asia, North America, and other increasingly transnational and technologically virtual conditions of being.
The Department of Anthropology has, traditionally, offered courses and majors in three main areas: sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological/physical anthropology. While sociocultural anthropology now comprises the largest part of the department and accounts for the majority of faculty and course offerings, archaeology is also a vibrant program within Anthropology whose interests overlap significantly with those of sociocultural anthropology. Biological/physical anthropology has shifted its program for majors and concentrators to the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology. Students interested in biological/physical anthropology courses offered in the Department of Anthropology thus should look to E3B for their major or concentration.
At the heart of sociocultural anthropology is a concern with possibilities of difference and the craft of writing. Sociocultural anthropology at Columbia has emerged in recent years as a particularly compelling undergraduate liberal arts major; in the last year or two, the number of majors has more than doubled. Undergraduates come to sociocultural anthropology, not surprisingly, with a wide variety of interests, often pursuing overlapping interests in, for example, performance, religion, writing, law, ethnicity, mass-media, teaching, language and literature, history, human rights, art, linguistics, environment, medicine, film, and many others fields of study, including geographical areas of particular interest and engagement. Such interests can be brought together into provocative and productive conversation with a major or concentration in sociocultural anthropology. The requirements for a major in sociocultural anthropology reflect this expansiveness: 30 points in courses offered within Anthropology, including within these 30 points the three required courses ANTH UN1002 "The Interpretation of Culture,” ANTH UN2004 “Introduction to Social and Cultural Theory,” and ANTH UN2005 “The Ethnographic Imagination.”
Archaeology is the study of the material conditions inhabited and acted upon by people, both in the past and in the present. Investigation ofthe past through the study of material remains is entangled with historiography, politics, and individual and collective memory, and is implicated in the production of present-day identities and politicalforms. Archaeology has come to mean many things to different generationsof scholars, yet all approaches share a common focus on the physicalremains of the past and the relationship of these traces to the interpretive acts through which they are understood. Particular emphasesin the program include the emergence of ancient states and empires,especially in the indigenous Americas; colonial encounters in the American Southwest, Madagascar and the Levant; urbanism and thearchaeology of New York City; human-animal relations, at the origins ofagriculture; materiality, semiotics and material agency. Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia is genuinely interdisciplinary in spirit. The program includes the possibility ofstudent internships in New York City museums and archaeological fieldwork in the Americas and elsewhere.
The requirements for a major in archaeological anthropology are broadly similar to the sociocultural major: 30 points in courses offered within Anthropology, including within these 30 points the three required courses ANTH UN1002 "The Interpretation of Culture,” ANTH UN2004 “Introduction to Social and Cultural Theory,” and ACLG UN2028 “Pasts, Presents & Futures: An Introduction to 21st Century Archaeology.” Courses offered in other departments count toward the major when taught by a member of the Department of Anthropology. Courses from other departments not taught by an Anthropology faculty member sometimes may count toward the major with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Students who are interested in archaeology are strongly advised to include field and lab experience as part of their degree. Please contact the archaeology adviser, Prof. Zoe Crossland to discuss this. More information on the different ways to study archaeology at Columbia can be found at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/archaeology/
Biological/physical anthropology introduces students to the study of evolution, genetics, morphology, and behavioral ecology of human and nonhuman primates. Courses in environmental biology and related subjects, offered through the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology are in conversation with and augment those available through the Department of Anthropology. Students may develop opportunities to conduct research in conjunction with Columbia faculty, or in related institutions like the American Museum of Natural History and the Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx Zoo). Students interested in biological/physical anthropology should look to E3B for their major or concentration at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/e3b/undergrad_requirements2.html