Anthropology is the comparative study of human diversity through time and across the world. Its scope spans the humanities, the social sciences, and the biological, physical, and evolutionary sciences. As a history of the human species, anthropology studies all human biological and behavioral variation from the earliest fossil records to the present; it includes the study of nonhuman primates as well. As a social science, anthropology aims at uncovering the patterns of past and present societies. As one of the humanities, anthropology seeks to understand the ways cultural meaning and political power have shaped human experience.
At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, anthropology consists of three subfields: archaeology—the investigation and analysis of the remains from past cultures, uncovered through excavation; biological anthropology—the study of human evolution and the roots of the biological and genetic diversity found among contemporary peoples; and cultural anthropology—the comparative study of society, politics, economy, and culture, whether in historical times or in our contemporary moment. UW–Madison also offers some classes in anthropological linguistics—the analysis of language and its place in social life. Comparative and empirical work—and fieldwork in particular—are the hallmarks of anthropology on this campus.
Thus, anthropology at UW–Madison is characterized by a comparative point of view, a focus on humans and societies in all their variation and similarity, and an effort to reveal and understand the complex but organized diversity that has shaped the human condition, past and present.
Requirements for the Major
105 Principles of Biological Anthropology, 3 cr
300 Cultural Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography, 3 cr
490 Undergraduate Seminar, 3 cr
Majors must also take two of the following three archaeology courses:
212 Principles of Archaeology*, 3 cr
321 The Emergence of Human Culture, 3 cr
322 The Origins of Civilization, 3 cr
A minimum of 30 credits within the department is required, including 105, 300, 490, and two courses from the following: 212, 321, or 322. No more than 40 credits may be taken as part of the major. Undergraduates may substitute a graduate seminar for Anthropology 490 only if they have permission of the instructor, permission of an L&S academic dean, and a GPA of 3.5 or better. If advanced degree study is planned, additional courses in related fields should be discussed with an advisor in the department.
*Anthropology 212 was previously designated as Anthropology 112. Anthropology 112 also fulfills the requirement.
All students must fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Courses 300 and above can be counted toward this requirement, with the exception of elementary Quechua and Yucatec Maya language courses (361, 362, 366, 376, 377).
By arrangement with a supervising professor, certain upper-group students may substitute a thesis for 4 of the above required credits, to be written in biological anthropology, archaeology, or sociocultural anthropology.
Students wishing to declare an anthropology major should go to the Department of Anthropology, 5240 William H. Sewell Social Science Building.
Students planning to go on to graduate-level study should talk to their advisor about foreign languages, field experience, or other training needed for advanced anthropological research.