Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

Aaron Burr Hall

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:


The Department of Anthropology prepares students for knowledgeable teaching and significant original research in sociocultural anthropology, also enabling them to bring anthropological concepts, findings, and approaches to bear on cross-disciplinary scholarship, public understanding, and public policy. The Doctor of Philosophy in anthropology is the final degree in the graduate program.


Application deadline
December 15, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2024)
Program length
5 years
General Test - not accepted

Additional departmental requirements

Sample of written work 25 double spaced pages maximum. Entering students are very strongly advised to have prior training in sociocultural anthropology (that is, a master’s degree and/or undergraduate coursework, although this need not be a full undergraduate major).

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Ph.D.


The Ph.D. in Anthropology involves two academic years (four semesters) of coursework prior to the Ph.D. qualifying examination, dissertation field research, and the writing of a dissertation. First-year plans of study require enrollment in the two-semester Proseminar (ANT 501-502): a sequence taught by two instructors that covers both historical and contemporary texts and topics. First-year students are also required to enroll in the Coseminar (ANT 503a/b), a fall semester sequence of two half-term courses whose instructors change each year and whose themes are anchored in the instructors' areas of expertise. Like first-year students, second-year students are required to enroll in the Coseminar. First- and second-year students are all required to enroll in the department's Field Research Practicum (ANT 505), which is offered every other year in the spring. Assigned work for all courses must be completed by the end of the spring semester, prior to readmissions, for students to be eligible for summer funding.

Overall, first- and second-year students take a minimum of three graded graduate seminar courses per semester: at least two within the department (required and/or elective) and one elective course that may be taken within or outside the department. Many of the department's elective courses are organized as half-semester seminars so as to expose students to a wider array of fields and themes and diverse faculty. Half-semester seminars count as one half of a course and must be paired with a second half-semester seminar within the same academic year (not necessarily the same semester) to fulfill the departmental requirement for one course. Each semester, students choose their elective classes in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

By the start date of the January Wintersession, second-year students must identify two faculty members who have agreed to serve on their Generals Examination committee and inform the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and Graduate Program Administrator (GPA) about their committee. These two faculty members will serve as the co-chairs of the student’s Generals Exam. Additionally, students will submit a short list of three faculty who could serve as a reader of their General Exams. In consultation with the faculty, the DGS will assign a reader for each student. The reader evaluates the written and the oral components of the Examination along with the student’s co-chairs.


Students are required to demonstrate competence in one language besides English related to their intended field research site. Students are urged to fulfill the language requirement early in the fall of their first year of study. Satisfaction of this language requirement is a prerequisite for the General Examination.

Additional pre-generals requirements

In September of their first year, students are assigned two first-year mentors, one for each semester. There is no expectation that students will choose these mentors as their General Examination co-chairs or dissertation advisors. Mentors will occasionally invite students out for coffee and informally help them orient to the department and the university. Students are encouraged to discuss their questions and concerns with their mentors during these meetings.

The First-Year Examination, taken in May, is a comprehensive assessment of students' grasp of the foundations of sociocultural anthropology, organized around the readings and discussions of the Proseminar (ANT 501-502). Both Proseminar instructors read and evaluate the Examination.

General exam

Along with successful completion of first- and second-year departmental courses and passing the First-Year Examination, passing the General Examination is a prerequisite for students to be advanced to Ph.D. degree candidacy. The written component of the General Examination consists of two or three essays and bibliographies relating to theoretical/topical and area scholarship developed by students in consultation with their co-advisors. The first essay together with its bibliography is due one week after the end of second-year spring-term classes; the remaining essay(s) are due by the end of that summer. Essays are limited to 12,000-18,000 words in all (i.e., three 4,000-6,000 word essays or two 6,000-9,000 word essays not including the bibliographies). Before the summer recess, students receive comments from their co-advisors based on the first essay to use as guidance toward completing their Generals writing.

The oral component of the General Examination (held during the first month of the fall semester) involves a discussion of the written essays among the student and student's Generals committee.

Alternatively, students may choose to submit all their General essays in May of their second year followed by the oral component of the General Examination.

Completion of all coursework from previous semesters and completion of the language requirement are prerequisites for the General Examination.

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after successfully passing all parts of the General Examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that the following requirements are met: successful completion of all coursework through the first two years of study, and completion of the language requirement.


All graduate students are required to complete a minimum of two Assistantship-in-Instruction (AI) appointments to qualify for graduation. These are typically held as one appointment during the second year of study and one during the third year of study. First-year graduate students are not permitted to hold AI appointments.

Post-Generals requirements

Before students qualify as “All But Dissertation” (ABD), they are required to make a formal presentation of their proposal for dissertation fieldwork (doctoral research). The proposal is first submitted in writing to the student's co-advisers for assessment; after approval, it is presented orally for discussion to graduate program faculty and students. The department proposal presentations are generally completed no later than early in the spring term of the third year and may be based in part on the student's external dissertation research grant applications. Students must successfully pass the proposal stage in order to continue in the program.

While many students can accomplish dissertation fieldwork using their University fellowship, the department strongly encourages students to apply for external funding for several reasons: as an important professionalizing experience; as a means for gaining the time and flexibility that sociocultural anthropologists often need to meet fieldwork's travel and language fluency demands; and finally, because doing so typically enables students to “bank” one year of University fellowship support for later use during post-fieldwork analysis and writing, subject to the financial policies of the Graduate School.

Dissertation and FPO

Students who have passed the General Examination are eligible to submit a dissertation based on original research. This research is supervised chiefly by the student’s committee co-chairs (designated as dissertation “readers”), though a student’s third dissertation committee member may also play an advising role. Departmental acceptance of the dissertation (achieved once the student's two dissertation readers have both approved a revised draft) qualifies the candidate for the final public oral (FPO) examination. This examination is based on the dissertation but extends beyond it to matters of the discipline as a whole and confirms the candidate’s readiness for a career in the profession. The FPO may be held anytime during the academic year, based on a departmental request to the Graduate School one month prior to the proposed examination date. Typically, in addition to the two committee co-chairs (“readers”), the student’s third dissertation committee member and one additional faculty member are appointed as dissertation "examiners" for FPO purposes. Subject to approval by the department and the Graduate School, one of these additional “examiners” may be a relevant specialist of the student's choosing from outside Princeton. There are at least three principal examiners, all of them normally members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or higher, at least two of whom have not been principal readers of the dissertation. At least one of the examiners must be from the student's home department. The student and all examiners should be present in person. In no case may there be fewer than two examiners who participate in person. 


  • Chair

    • João Biehl
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Elizabeth A. Davis
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Onur Gunay
  • Professor

    • João Biehl
    • Agustin Fuentes
    • Rena S. Lederman
    • Serguei A. Oushakine
    • Laurence Ralph
    • Carolyn M. Rouse
  • Associate Professor

    • Elizabeth A. Davis
    • Julia Elyachar
  • Assistant Professor

    • Hanna Garth
    • Ryo Morimoto
    • Ikaika Ramones
    • Beth Semel
    • Jerry C. Zee
  • Associated Faculty

    • Amy B. Borovoy, East Asian Studies
  • Lecturer

    • Thalia Gigerenzer
    • Onur Gunay
    • Jeffrey D. Himpele
    • Sebastián Ramírez H.
    • Aniruddhan Vasudevan
  • Visiting Professor

    • Didier Fassin

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

ANT 501 - Proseminar in Anthropology

A two-term survey of major anthropological writings, primarily for first-year graduate students.

ANT 502 - Proseminar in Anthropology

A two-term survey of major anthropological writings, primarily for first-year graduate students.

ANT 503 - Co-seminar in Anthropology (Full-Term)

This seminar introduces students to the theoretical and methodological concerns of different professors in the department. It hones their craft as writers, thinkers and field workers, to critically reflect on social worlds and their assumptions about them, and to gain new insights into what constitutes the project of literary anthropology. It considers literary ethnography as a distinctive genre of writing, knowing, and relation.

ANT 503A - Co-seminar in Anthropology (Half-Term)

What theoretical approaches are available to ethnographers for making sense of race and inequality? This class places Critical Race Theory in conversation with foundational anthropological theories of race and ethnicity. Students in this course explore the usefulness of contemporary legal theory, structuralism, pragmatism, Marxian analysis, and interpretivism for understanding and writing about race and difference.

ANT 503B - Co-seminar in Anthropology (Half-Term)

In this course, we situate economic anthropology as a subfield of anthropology in the context of developments in political economy, social theory, and anthropology writ large. We read: classic works that reveal the rationality of 'primitive' society, attempts to use economic theory to analyze 'primitive' economies, the formalist-substantivist debate with Karl Polanyi at the center, as well as approaches to economic anthropology from the 1970s and onward (structuralist Marxist economic anthropology, feminist economic anthropology, and new approaches to markets after Latour).

ANT 504A - Advanced Topics in Anthropology (Half-Term)

The course offers an in-depth examination of a wide array of subfields and topical specialties in anthropology. The topics give exposure to advanced theories, with professors that are leader experts in their areas.

ANT 504B - Advanced Topics in Anthropology (Half-Term)

The course offers an in-depth examination of a wide array of subfields and topical specialties in anthropology. The topics give exposure to advanced theories, with professors that are leader experts in their areas.

ANT 505 - Field Research Practicum

This seminar alternates reading discussions and workshopping to explore the ethics, politics, and practice of ethnographic fieldwork. It considers questions about evidence, research spaces (e.g., "the field"), researchers' relations with diverse interlocutors, and 'method' itself. Students' local field projects are bases for workshop meetings on participant observation, the interview/conversation distinction, and record-keeping, as well as for critical reflection on credibility claims, scale, subject position, representation/reception, improvisation and collaboration in ethnographic practice in anthropology and neighboring disciplines.

ANT 506 - Grant-Writing Practicum

Writing grant proposals is a crucial skill for anthropologists ¿ not only because grants facilitate the long-term immersive field research distinctive of the discipline, but also because formulating research plans for a variety of audiences and ensuring their feasibility foster a robust sense of purpose in fieldwork as well as critical reflection on the ethics of research in context. In this practice-based course, students study the grant proposal as a genre of anthropological writing, paying special attention to audience, feasibility, and ethics, while drafting and revising a complete grant proposal in weekly workshop sessions.

ANT 521 - Topics in Theory and Practice of Anthropology

A selected topic in anthropology is studied, the particular choice varies from year to year.

ANT 522 - Topics in Theory and Practice of Anthropology

A selected topic in anthropology is studied; the particular choice varies from year to year.

ANT 522A - Topics in Theory and Practice of Anthropology (Half-Term)

A brief introduction the anthropology of language, focusing on examples from law and politics. Course begins with basic methods for analyzing language emerging from recent developments in anthropology, focusing particularly on tools for examining how language works in social contexts (e.g., language pragmatics, metapragmatics, linguistic ideology), then considers ethnographies of language in legal contexts which used these tools to give insights into the vital role of language in law. Students who have already done fieldwork may consider applying linguistic anthropological approaches to their own ethnographic materials. A six-week course.

ANT 522B - Topics in Theory and Practice of Anthropology (Half-Term) (also LAS 532)

This 6-week course for graduate students will focus on recent key theoretical and ethnographic texts on gender and sexuality. Recent research in clinical psychoanalytic, linguistics and rhetoric, and anthropology have opened up new ways of understanding attachment, gender identification, and cultural context in the shaping of sexuality. This course will explore this literature, with the primary concern the utility of these frames for ethnographic research.

EAS 548 - The Quest for Health: Contemporary Debates on Harm, Medicine, and Ethics (also ANT 548)

The course explores issues in medicine and global health with a focus on ethics. It addresses both ethics in the context of clinical decision-making and also the social, cultural, and economic "ethical field" of health care. Ever-expanding technological possibilities re-shape our social lives, extending them, giving greater control but taking it away. Treatments such as living donor organ transplantation, stem cell therapies, and physician-assisted suicide transform our understandings of life, death and what is expected from one another. Technologies such as glucometers bring new inequalities.

EAS 549 - Japan Anthropology in Historical Perspective (also ANT 549)

The course concerns Japan studies in the context of theories of capitalism, personhood, democracy, gender, and modernity. The thematic focus this term is on health and medicine as they intertwine with social and cultural processes. Topics include: cultural variability of diagnosis and bio-medical practices; how biotechnologies shape and are shaped by social relationships; the containment of medicalization by received notions of kinship, gender, and national identity; conceptions of life itself; and models of public health and the containment of harmful behavior. Reading selections include material on Japan, China, and India.

EAS 550 - Topics in Social Theory and East Asia (also ANT 550)

An introduction to classical social theory and an exploration of new directions in historical and social science literatures on East Asia. Weber's copnstruction of capitalism, Durkheim's notion of society, and Marx's concept of ideology all continue to inform contemporary East Asian studies; in turn, East Asian Studies has also been central to demonstrationg the Eurocentrism of many of these theories.

HUM 599 - Interpretation (also ANT 599/COM 599)

The arts of interpretation across the disciplines.

SLA 515 - Language & Subjectivity: Theories of Formation (also ANT 515/COM 514)

The purpose of the course is to examine key texts of the twentieth century that established the fundamental connection between language structures and practices on the one hand, and the formation of selfhood and subjectivity, on the other. In particular, the course focuses on theories that emphasize the role of formal elements in producing meaningful discursive and social effects. Works of Russian formalists and French (post)-structuralists are discussed in connection with psychoanalytic and anthropological theories of formation.