Our Department


What is Anthropology?

Faculty and staff of the Department of Anthropology
Chair João Biehl, Undergraduate Program Manager Kelly Lake, Manager, Finance and Administration Joe Capizzi, Communications and Events Manager Patty Lieb, and Graduate Program Administrator and Assistant to the Chair Ryan Noll

Anthropology is the study of human experience and social change. Through situated and relational methods, anthropology considers the ways people think, act, and make sense of their lifeworlds, against the backdrop of multiple structural forces and across intersecting domains and scales. Always in a deep interdisciplinary dialogue, the connections between ethnography, theory, social engagement and storytelling are a hallmark of anthropology.

Our Methodological Approach

We take an interpretive approach to the study of culture - an approach that requires intensive ethnographic fieldwork, deep engagement with critical social theories, and historical analysis. In addition to teaching foundational texts, our department is interested in conceptual innovations in the use and organization of evidence and modes of ethical engagement. Our department specializes in Socio-Cultural Anthropology, but we also offer undergraduate courses in biological anthropology, including evolution, epigenetics, adaptation, race, forensics and death.

Degrees Offered

Our department offers a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology. In our pedagogy we emphasize individual and collective advising that supports independent thinking, and methodological versatility and experimentation, including visual methods, archival research, creative writing, and engaged Anthropology.

Areas of Expertise

Our department includes scholars working around the world on diverse topics using a variety of analytical approaches. To locate scholars and events by area, topic, and/or theoretical interest visit our Fields page.

Signature Event

The Department hosts an annual Clifford Geertz Commemorative Lecture.

Clifford Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States."[1] He served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

When the Department of Anthropology was officially created in 1971, it quickly became known as a hot spot for its vibrant ethnographic approach to interpretive anthropology, in neighborly dialogue with the work of Clifford Geertz, who founded the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. Following his passing in 2006, the Department created an annual honoring Clifford Geertz’s influential intellectual legacy as an on-going horizon of engagement and debate both within anthropology and at its interdisciplinary verges. 

  • 2024 - Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Davis
  • 2023 - Anna L. Tsing, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • 2022 - Jonathan Spencer, Regius Professor of South Asian Language, Culture and Society, University of Edinburgh
  • 2021- Canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions
  • 2020 - Michael T. Taussig, Class of 1933 Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
  • 2019 - Michael M. J. Fischer, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2018 - Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenweiser Professor of Social Science Department of Anthropology/Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, Columbia University
  • 2017 - James Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology at Yale University
  • 2016 - Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2015 - Jean Comaroff, Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology at Harvard University
  • 2014 - Michael Lambek, Canada Research Chair & Chair, Department of Anthropology at University of Toronto Scarborough
  • 2013 - Tania Murray Li, Professor, Canada Research Chair, Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto
  • 2012 - Michael D. Jackson, Distinguished Visiting Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School
  • 2011 - Paul Willis, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University
  • 2010 - Dame Marilyn Strathern, Emerita William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University
  • 2009 - Philippe Descola, Chair of the Anthropology of Nature at the Collège de France


Throughout the year, the Department sponsors lectures which are listed on the events page.