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Department of Anthropology


Shannon Lee Dawdy


  • Shannon Lee Dawdy
  • Michael Dietler
  • Susan Gal
  • John D. Kelly
  • Karin Knorr Cetina (joint with Sociology)
  • Alan L. Kolata
  • Joseph P. Masco
  • William T.S. Mazzarella
  • Stephan Palmié
  • Kaushik Sunder Rajan
  • Russell H. Tuttle

Associate Professors

  • Hussein Ali Agrama
  • E. Summerson Carr
  • Julie Y. Chu
  • Michael Fisch
  • Darryl Li
  • Constantine Nakassis
  • François G. Richard
  • Alice Yao

Assistant Professors

  • Ryan Jobson
  • Teresa Montoya
  • Sarah Newman
  • Natacha Nsabimana
  • Kamala Russell
  • Kathryn Takabvirwa

Senior Instructional Professor

  • Maria Ceclia Lozada Cerna

Emeritus Faculty

  • Manuela Carneiro da Cunha
  • Judith B. Farquhar
  • James W. Fernandez
  • McKim Marriott
  • Ralph W. Nicholas

Anthropology seeks an understanding of human nature, society, and cultural development grounded in intensive fieldwork. The Department of Anthropology is committed to training future leaders in the field's academic and applied domains. We offer rigorous graduate training in the history of anthropology, current theoretical debates, as well as the subdisciplines of archaeology, ethnography, and linguistics, which students are free to apply to their research in any combination. This training is designed to assist students’ development as creative thinkers capable of identifying important research problems and pursuing these problems through fieldwork and writing, culminating in a substantial and original dissertation project. Graduate students are encouraged to move the program at a steady but individualized pace.

Graduate students and faculty in the Department regularly participate in a wide spectrum of interdisciplinary activities. Many anthropology students complement their departmental coursework with offerings from other departments, and their advisory committees frequently include scholars of other disciplines, particularly HistoryPolitical Science, the Divinity School, and Comparative Human Development. Through the Council of Advanced Studies, on-campus workshops in the humanities and social sciences provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary dialogue. Members discuss dissertation chapters, host guest presenters, and organize conferences showcasing the work of students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Workshops are proposed and coordinated by graduate students, in collaboration with faculty sponsors, and may be organized according to regional, theoretical, or methodological interests.

In addition, the Social Sciences Division is home to a number of interdisciplinary committees and research centers, where faculty and students collaborate through teaching and research projects. Anthropology students have been involved with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture,  the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and the Center for the Study of Communication and Society, to name just a few. Students working in particular geographic regions can take advantage of Title VI Area Studies Centers focused on East Asia, Latin AmericaSouth Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe/Russia/Eurasia as well as Committees on African Studies, and the Ancient Mediterranean World. From a more global perspective, the Center for International Social Science Research and the Human Rights Program sponsor colloquia, conferences and lectures on a range of contemporary issues.

Many anthropologists pursue projects that overlap with disciplines in the Humanities. Students have worked with faculty in the Departments of HistoryCinema and Media StudiesMusicEnglish, and Comparative Literature, as well as ClassicalEast AsianNear EasternRomanceSlavic, and South Asian Languages. The Franke Institute for the Humanities provides yet another forum for cross-disciplinary dialogue, through symposia, colloquia and lectures on a wide variety of topics.

Anthropologists interested in archaeology can collaborate with other archaeologists across disciplines through The University of Chicago Archaeology Nexus.

Anthropologists interested in science, technology, medicine, and health issues have the opportunity to interface with specialists in the sciences. For example, inquiries into the history and philosophy of anthropological thought should find fertile ground at the Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine and the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. Medical Anthropologists may become involved with the Center for Health and the Social Sciences and the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research. Graduate students beyond the first year may serve as course or laboratory assistants, and later, as lecturers in College programs. The department also awards distinguished lectureships each year, on a competitive basis, to advanced graduate students. Lecturers teach required or specialized courses in the anthropology concentration in the College.

For additional information about the Department of Anthropology and the interests of its faculty members, please see:

How to Apply

The application process for admission and financial aid for all Social Sciences graduate programs is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at:

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to

Foreign students must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Programs of Study

Graduate students in the Anthropology have diverse interests and approaches but share a common core of training and intellectual exchange, particularly during the coursework years.

Phase I introduces the student to the development of social and cultural theory and to the scholarly interests of the faculty in the department. First year students also take courses in particular specialized areas of ethnography and theory in order to frame research interests in preparation for the dissertation project. Course requirements in the first year include: The Development of Social and Cultural Theory (two double courses) and Introduction to Chicago Anthropology. In addition, students take four other courses dealing with their areas of interest selected in consultation with the first-year advisor. The requirements of Phase I apply to all entering graduate students, regardless of whether they hold a master’s degree in anthropology from another institution.

Phase II training is directed toward acquiring a deeper knowledge of the special area and theoretical topics on which research will be focused, as well as toward obtaining a broader anthropological understanding in preparation for the Ph.D. qualifying examination. With the exception of those whose master’s theses from elsewhere are approved by the department, every second-year student completes a master’s paper during that year. The Ph.D. qualifying examination is normally taken during the spring of the second year or the autumn of the third year. The department also requires all students in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology to take the ethnographic methods course Modes of Inquiry.

Phase III is a pre-research training period during which the student hones a dissertation proposal and grant applications and develops advanced research skills. The Proposal Preparation seminar is required of all students in this phase. Upon fulfillment of all pre-dissertation academic requirements and the acceptance of the dissertation proposal at a hearing in the department, the student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree and proceeds to research and/or field work and the writing of the dissertation (Phase IV).

All doctoral students are required to prove proficiency in a second language via a University reading examination or attestation of home language fluency prior to reaching candidacy (and preferably by the end of the second year). The language will be specified by the student’s advisory committee and may pertain to the fieldwork setting or a scholarly reading language. (A foreign language is required only for the Ph.D. degree.  No foreign language is required for the M.A.)

Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology

The program in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology offers opportunities to pursue a wide range of ethnographic and theoretical interests. While the Department does not emphasize a particular theoretical perspective, it is well known for its attention to classic problems in social theory along with an engagement with the latest developments in theories of history, culture, politics, economics, transnational processes, space and place, subjectivity, experience, and materiality. 

Shared topical interests among its members include culture and colonialism; postcoloniality and globalization; gender and sexuality; historical anthropology; history and social structure; politics and law; political economy; religion; ritual; science and technology; semiotics and symbolism; medicine and health; and subjectivity and affect. Africa, the Caribbean, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the United States of America are among the geographic areas of faculty research. 

Coursework and study with faculty in other departments enable the student to pursue interdisciplinary interests, language training, and other regional studies.


The archaeology program enables students to articulate archaeology, history, and sociocultural anthropology, with emphasis on the integration of social and cultural theory in the practice of archaeology. Special requirements for this track consist of three courses in archaeological theory, a methods course of the student's choosing, and quantitative analysis.

Current faculty specialize in the archaeology of Latin America (the later prehistory and colonial periods of the Andes and Mexico), Europe and the Mediterranean (the “Celtic” Iron Age and Greco-Roman colonial expansion), the U.S. and Latin America/Caribbean (colonial to contemporary), East and Southeast Asia (from the Neolithic to the early colonial periods), and West Africa (precolonial to the present), as well as supporting ethnoarchaeology and experimental archaeology.

Research interests include: urbanism; state formation; colonialism; industrialization; art and symbolism; spatial analysis; politics; ritual and religion; funerary practices; human-environment interactions; agricultural systems; material culture; economic anthropology; political economy; archaeology of the contemporary; and the history and politics of archaeology. Faculty members have ongoing field research projects in Bolivia, Mexico, China, Cambodia, France, Senegal, and the United States. The program in anthropological archaeology also has strong ties to many other archaeologists on campus through the UChicago Archaeology Nexus (UCAN).

Joint Degree in Anthropology and Linguistics

In addition to linguistic anthropology as a sub-field within the Department of Anthropology, there is also a joint Ph.D. program available to students who are admitted to both the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Linguistics. Administratively, the student is admitted to, and remains registered in, the primary, or “home” department, and subsequently seeks admission to the second department in joint residence status. Students approved to pursue the joint degree program must complete the requirements of both departments, including the distinct introductory and advanced courses stipulated by each, the departmental qualifying examination in appropriate special fields, and the language requirements, including additional foreign languages for the Linguistics Ph.D. The student’s dissertation advisory committee consists of three or more members of the faculty; at least one must be a member of the Department of Anthropology but not of the Department of Linguistics, and at least one in Linguistics but not in Anthropology. After approval by the advisory committee, the student’s dissertation proposal must be defended at a hearing open to the faculty of both departments.

Generally, an Anthropology student may apply to Linguistics for the joint degree program at the end of the second year or later, after having successfully completed the first-year program in Anthropology and the core (first-year) coursework and examinations in Linguistics. However, students should declare interest in the Joint Degree Program on the initial graduate application to the Department, and should discuss this interest personally with linguistic anthropology faculty soon after arrival on campus.

Other Joint Degree Possibilities

Although Anthropology has no other formal joint degree programs, students admitted to Anthropology may subsequently petition the University to create a joint program with another department. For instance, there is considerable precedent for pursuing a joint Ph.D. in Anthropology and History. To create this joint program, Anthropology students spend their first year taking the required first year courses in the Anthropology Department; in the second year, they take a two-quarter history seminar and write an anthropologically-informed Master’s paper in coordination with that seminar which will be acceptable by both Departments. The Master’s degree is awarded by one of the two departments and is accepted for equivalence by the other. The Anthropology student then applies for admission to History at the end of the second year or later, having already demonstrated a proficiency in both disciplines. Applicants to Anthropology who are interested in a joint degree program with History should declare interest at the time of the initial application.

Also by petition, it has been possible for students to create other joint Ph.D. programs. In recent years, individual programs combining Anthropology and Art History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and Cinema and Media Studies have been created. An M.D./Ph.D. program is coordinated through the MeSH program in the medical school. A J.D./Ph.D. with the University of Chicago Law School or another law school is also possible, and we have facilitated joint degrees with the School of Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago.

Such individually-created joint degree programs begin in the second year of graduate studies or later. In all cases, students complete the separate program requirements for each degree, with no additional residence requirement, and write one Ph.D. dissertation that separately meets the dissertation requirements of each department. The specifics of each joint degree program, such as any requirements that may be jointly met, any overlapping examination areas, and the composition of the dissertation committee, are agreed upon by both departments at the time of the petition.