Anthropology studies humankind from a comparative perspective that emphasizes the diversity of human behavior and the importance of culture in explaining that diversity. While the discipline encompasses the biological nature of our species and the material aspects of human adaptation, it takes as fundamental the idea that we respond to nature and natural forces in large part through culture. Anthropology, then, is the study of human beings as cultural animals. Sociocultural anthropology draws its data from the direct study of contemporary peoples living in a wide variety of circumstances, from peasant villagers and tropical forest hunters and gatherers to urban populations in modern societies, as well as from the history and prehistory of those peoples.

The Anthropology Program at MIT offers students a broad exposure to the discipline as well as an anthropological perspective on problems and issues relevant to other fields in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering. It also provides more intensive introduction to areas of faculty specialization, which include social and political organization, economics and human ecology, religion and symbolism, and the anthropology of medicine and scientific research. Geographical specializations include cultures of Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States.

The anthropology curriculum is divided into six groups that show the breadth of the field, with particular emphases: introductory, social anthropology, technology in cultural context, and areal and historical studies. Special topics in anthropology and advanced graduate subjects are also offered.

MIT Anthropology students learn about the concept of culture, the nature of anthropological fieldwork, and the connections between anthropology and the other social sciences. They study the various theories that attempt to explain human behavior as well as the range of methods anthropologists use to analyze data. Students can focus on geographical areas, and on issues like neocolonialism, gender studies, religion and symbolism, or comparative political organization.

For more information, go to http://web.mit.edu/anthropology/

Recent Submissions

  • 21A.01 How Culture Works, Fall 2012 

    Buyandelger, Manduhai (2012-12)
    This course introduces diverse meanings and uses of the concept of culture with historical and contemporary examples from scholarship and popular media around the globe. It includes first-hand observations, synthesized ...
  • 21A.265 Food and Culture, Spring 2011 

    Paxson, Heather (2011-06)
    Explores connections between what we eat and who we are through cross-cultural study of how personal identities and social groups are formed via food production, preparation, and consumption. Organized around critical ...
  • 21A.235 American Dream: Exploring Class in the U.S., Spring 2007 

    Walley, Christine (2007-06)
    Americans have historically preferred to think of the United States in classless terms, as a land of economic opportunity equally open to all. Yet, social class remains a central fault line in the U.S. Subject explores the ...

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