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Anthropology

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Claudio Lomnitz, 955 Schermerhorn Extension; 851-5932; cl2510@columbia.edu

Departmental Consultants:
Archaeology: Prof. Zoë Crossland, 965 Schermerhorn; 854-7465; zc2149@columbia.edu
Biological/Physical Anthropology: Prof. Ralph Holloway, 856 Schermerhorn; 854-4570; rlh2@columbia.edu

Departmental Administrator: Esperanza Soriano, 452 Schermerhorn; 854-4552; ecs2@columbia.edu

Undergraduate Secretary: Marilyn Astwood, 452 Schermerhorn; 854-4552; mp20@columbia.edu

Departmental Office: 452 Schermerhorn; 854-4552

Professors
Alexander Alland, Jr. (emeritus)
Lila Abu-Lughod
Partha Chatterjee
Myron L. Cohen
Terence D’Altroy
E. Valentine Daniel
Nicholas B. Dirks (emeritus)
Steven Gregory
Ralph L. Holloway
Claudio Lomnitz
Mahmood Mamdani
Brinkley Messick
Rosalind Morris
Elizabeth Povinelli
Nan Rothschild (Barnard, emeritus)
David Scott
Lesley A. Sharp (Barnard)
Michael Taussig

Associate Professors
Nadia Abu El-Haj (Barnard)
Elaine Combs-Schilling

Associate Professors (continued)
Marilyn Ivy
Paul Kockelman (Barnard)
Brian Larkin (Barnard)
John Pemberton
Paige West (Barnard)

Assistant Professors
Zoe Crossland
Catherine Fennell
Severin Fowles
Hlonipha Mokoena
Stephen K. Scott (Barnard)
Audra Simpson
Maxine Weisgrau (Barnard)

Lecturers
Brian Boyd
Ellen Marakowitz
Karen Seeley

Adjunct Research Scholar
Laurel Kendall

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 fosters 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 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. Additionally, they write 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 traditionally offered courses and majors in three main areas: sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, and biological/physical anthropology. While the sociocultural anthropology program 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 to the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology. The Anthropology Department enthusiastically encourages cross-disciplinary and participation in study abroad programs.

Sociocultural Anthropology

At the heart of sociocultural anthropology is an exploration of the possibilities of difference and the craft of writing. Sociocultural anthropology at Columbia has emerged as a particularly compelling undergraduate liberal arts major. Recently, the number of majors in sociocultural anthropology has more than tripled.

Students come to sociocultural anthropology with a wide variety of interests, often pursuing overlapping interests in, for example, performance, religion, writing, law, ethnicity, mass-media, teaching, language, literature, history, human rights, art, linguistics, environment, medicine, film, and many other fields, including geographical areas of 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 intellectual expansiveness and interdisciplinary spirit.

Archaeology

Archaeologists study the ways in which human relations are mediated through material conditions, both past and present. Particular emphases in the program include the development of ancient states and empires, especially in the indigenous Americas; the impact of colonial encounters on communities in the American Southwest, the Levant and Africa; human-animal relations in prehistory, religion and ritual, and the archaeology of the dead.

Themes in our teaching include the political, economic, social, and ideological foundations of complex societies; archaeological theory and its relationship to broader debates in social theory, technology studies and philosophy. Faculty members also teach and research on questions of museum representations, archaeological knowledge practices, and the socio-politics of archaeology. The program includes the possibility of student internships in New York City museums and archaeological fieldwork in the Americas and elsewhere.

Advising

Majors and concentrators should consult the director of undergraduate studies when entering the department and devising programs of study. Students may also seek academic advice from any anthropology faculty member, as many faculty members hold degrees in several fields or positions in other departments and programs at Columbia. All faculty in the department are committed to an expansiveness of thought and an independence of intellectual pursuit and advise accordingly.

Honors Thesis

Anthropology majors with a minimum grade point average of 3.7 in the major who wish to write an honors thesis for departmental honors consideration may enroll in ANTH V3999 The senior thesis seminar in anthropology (8 points). Students should have a preliminary concept for their thesis prior to course enrollment. Normally no more than 10% of the graduating majors each year may receive departmental honors.