Department/Program Home Page

Department/Program Description

Anthropology is the study of the complexity and diversity of human and nonhuman life in an interconnected world. The Anthropology Department at Wesleyan offers courses on anthropological theories and methods, and topics including urban anthropology, globalization, media studies, consumer culture, social movements and activism, development and humanitarianism, and race, gender, and sexuality. Anthropology provides excellent preparation for a variety of careers that require an understanding of cultural difference in a transnational world. Social justice and ethical concerns have always been central to the discipline of anthropology.

Student Learning Goals

Our overarching goal is to provide students with sophisticated ways of understanding both human unity and human difference. We want students to think critically about discourses that divide the world into fully modern western Selves and not-yet-modern non-western Others, but to do so without romanticizing cultural differences. We want them to appreciate how anthropological theory is constructed and used in understanding particular cases. Our approach is premised on complex global interconnectivity that interrogates boundary-making projects and explores the fabrication of national, cultural, and regional differences in a historical perspective. This means zooming in to understand how translocal ideologies and forces are negotiated in local settings, but also zooming out to link up localities and build a contingent picture of the interconnected world we inhabit.

Admission to the Major

If you plan to major in anthropology, you should take ANTH101, the department's required gateway course, during your first or second year. A minimum grade of B in ANTH101 is required for acceptance into the major. Students enrolled in ANTH101 during the spring of their sophomore year may declare the major if their midterm grade is a B or higher.

Major Requirements

In addition to ANTH101, majors are required to earn a minimum of nine anthropology credits, eight of which must be numbered 201 or higher. These must include:

  • two core courses in anthropological theory, ANTH295 and ANTH296 , offered in fall and spring, respectively. As the precise topics of these courses will sometimes vary in consecutive years, it may be possible to repeat one or the other for credit and to fulfill the requirement, as long as the topics are different.
  • our required course in anthropological methods, ANTH208 . We recommend that students take ANTH208 in their sophomore or junior year.
  • an individually designed area of concentration consisting of four elective courses (see below).
  • capstone experience, which may consist of a thesis, essay, or a senior seminar paper (see Honors/Capstone tab).

Students should work out their plans to fulfill the major requirements with their advisor by keeping their Major Certification Form up to date.

Concentrations. Concentrations are flexible specializations that reflect your particular specialization within anthropology. Working with your major advisor, you decide on a coherent set of four courses as your concentration. We encourage you to include one course from outside anthropology. There are three standing concentrations: 

You can also design your own concentration in consultation with your major advisor. Full descriptions of our concentrations are here.

Study Abroad

Majors are encouraged to take advantage of study-abroad programs and, with the approval of their advisor via the Major Certification Form, students may count up to three of their study-abroad courses for concentration or elective credit. Theory and methods courses may not be substituted. A grade of B or higher is required for study-abroad courses to count toward the major. The Office of Study Abroad has information about specific programs, application procedures, major credit, etc.

Capstone Experience

Senior majors are required to complete a thesis, essay, or a senior seminar paper as their capstone experience.

Theses. Only theses are eligible for departmental honors. A thesis is an independent, two-semester (or more) research project. In the fall semester of their senior year, students writing a thesis should enroll in ANTH400, a research and writing seminar in which students pursue individual research projects in a group context. In the spring semester of their senior year, thesis candidates should enroll in an individual thesis tutorial (ANTH410). It is strongly recommended that students contemplating a thesis either enroll in an individual tutorial (ANTH402) in the spring semester of their junior year, in which they would begin library research on their area of interest, or else take a course that is relevant to their research concerns. 

Essay. An essay is also a serious research commitment: It is an independent, one-semester (or more) research project. In the fall semester of their senior year, essay writers should enroll in ANTH400. They will complete a draft of their essay in the fall semester and submit a final version by the first day of the spring semester.

Seminar papers. Students who select this option should take a 300-level course (or an advisor-approved 200-level course) that involves a substantial research paper in their senior year. The course will ordinarily (but not necessarily) be one that facilitates advanced work in the student’s area of concentration. The course must be designated and approved by the major advisor in the student's Major Certification Form prior to spring break of their senior year.

Students wishing to write a thesis must submit a proposal to the department. Students wishing to write a thesis or essay involving fieldwork with human subjects must complete the Ethics Questionnaire. Both are due the Friday before spring break of their junior year.


Only theses are eligible for honors or high honors.  A minimum grade of B+ in either ANTH295 or ANTH296 is required for the pursuit of honors.

Additional Information

Cross-listed courses: Various departments and programs offer cross-listed or other courses that can be counted toward the anthropology major. These include African American studies, American studies, archaeology, biology, classical studies, earth and environmental sciences, history, religion, sociology, and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. If outside courses are to be counted toward the anthropology major, your advisor must approve them using the Major Certification Form.

Double majors: Anthropology majors have combined anthropology with a range of other majors, including science in society; feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; American studies; environmental studies; English; dance; music; African American studies; film; and both art history and art studio; as well as the certificates in writing and in social, cultural, and critical theory. All the requirements for the two majors must be met, except when faculty representatives of the two departments approve alterations in your program. We generally expect students writing a thesis for honors in both majors to enroll in ANTH400 in their fall semester and enroll in a tutorial in the other department or program in their spring semester. Please consult with the department chair and/or a department advisor.