Cultural Anthropology: Master’s Requirements

Prerequisites for Admission

Admission to the Cultural Anthropology area in the Anthropology Graduate Program is determined by the rules and regulations of the Graduate School and by the Cultural Anthropology faculty. Prospective students must send their application to the Graduate School Admissions Office and the Department of Anthropology. See Admission for more details regarding application and admission. The deadline to apply is December 1. Cultural Anthropology Faculty: Bowie, Camal, Enriquez, Lepowsky, Ohnuki-Tierney, Stambach, Wendland

Requirements for the Master’s Degree Program

All students need to develop a command of social theory and ethnography. They must become well – acquainted with the literature, concepts, problems, and issues of the discipline. To this end, we strongly urge students to take courses primarily in anthropology during their first year in the program (or longer if they enter the program without an anthropology major). The Anthro 860, Anthro 900 sequence is designed to give all first year students a grounding in the fundamentals of the discipline. In addition, students should work closely with their advisors to construct a course of study appropriate to their particular needs and interests. The requirements for the Master’s Degree are as follows:

  1. Minimum of 30 graduate credits, of which at least 15 should be in cultural anthropology.
  2. Passage of the Qualifying Examination at the Master’s or Ph.D. level.
  3. Anthropology 860, History of Anthropological Theory.
  4. Anthropology 900, Fundamentals of Anthropological Theory.
  5. At least one graduate seminar (course number 700 or above) in the cultural section of the department in addition to Anthro 860 and 900 in the Department of Anthropology. (No substitutions of 600 level courses are allowed, nor can Anthropology 909 be counted if continuing in Ph.D. program.)
  6. Note that up to six credits of foreign-language instruction can count toward the MA

Qualifying Examination  Typically, students will take the exam after the completion of their third semester.

Cultural Anthropology Qualifying Exam Portfolio Model:


The portfolio consists of two papers—revised from previous anthropology courses—and accompanying cover letters.

  • One of the papers should come from Anthro 860 or 900. Students should revise these papers to address feedback from the instructor and the advising committee, and to incorporate new materials learned since taking the course. The paper should demonstrate historical and theoretical breadth. A revised 860 paper needs to pull ideas into the present; a revised 900 paper needs to reach back historically.
  • The second paper should come from any course in Anthropology, cross-listed with Anthropology, or approved by the Cultural Section (other than 909 or an independent study) taken during the first three semesters of coursework that counts for graduate credit.
  • The papers should be between 4,000 to 5,000 words in length (about 15-20 pages), exclusive of the endnotes and bibliography. The papers should be double-spaced and written in 12-point font.
  • Each paper should be accompanied by a cover letter of no more than 300 words (modeled on those accompanying article resubmissions) detailing these revisions.


Through the portfolio, students should demonstrate:

  • their familiarity with key texts and debates in cultural anthropology.
  • their capacity to articulate an argument supported by relevant secondary literature.


  • The cultural faculty will assign a three-person advising committee to help students with the revision process. The committee will be assigned during the Fall Semester of the student’s second year.
  • Students are expected to seek peer review during the revision process, prior to sending their papers to the faculty committee.
  • Each paper will undergo no more than two formal rounds of revisions based on faculty feedback.
  • The first round of revised papers is due to the faculty committee during exam week of the Fall semester.
  • The students should turn their portfolio to the Graduate Program Manager on the last Friday of February. The portfolios will not be anonymized.
  • The cultural faculty will evaluate the portfolios on the first cultural section meeting in March.

Any evidence of plagiarism will result in a failing grade and a referral to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards in accordance with the university’s core values of academic integrity.

Rubric for Cultural Quals

Student Responsibilities in Cultural Section

  1. Attend department colloquia and lectures.
  2. Provide a minimum of two weeks notice to faculty for requests of letters of recommendations (include address and stamped envelopes as appropriate).
  3. Secure Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval as appropriate for research involving human subjects

Awarding of the MA Degree Upon receipt of at least an MA pass on the qualifying exam and the completion of a sufficient number of course credits, the student will be awarded an MA degree.