Social Anthropology is concerned with the social and cultural diversity of contemporary human communities and groups. Social anthropologists study topics, including gender, race and ethnicity; religion and belief; economic development; illness, healing and global health; human rights and political violence; popular culture and the role of media in society; food and consumption; and the impact of globalization. Ethnographic research methods emphasize intensive participant observation of community life over an extended period of time in settings such as urban neighborhoods, college campuses, global markets, refugee camps, hospitals, and government offices and courtrooms as well as in rural towns and backcountry settlements. 

A secondary field in Social Anthropology can be a valuable complement to many concentrations, especially for students who are interested in an international career or simply wish to become informed citizens of a globalized world. Social Anthropology courses emphasize skills that enable students to operate in different cultural environments, skills that can be transferred to careers in education, journalism, law, business, medicine, politics and public service, as well as in humanitarian and development fields. 

There are several options to consider in planning a secondary field in Social Anthropology. You might wish to explore the wide range of departmental offerings in order to gain a general sense of the field. Or you may prefer to focus on a particular world region, such as Asia, Latin America, or Africa and the African diaspora, or specialize in a particular topic or approach. Some popular areas of specialization include: 

• Medical Anthropology, which concerns the social dimensions of healing and illness, issues of global and community health care, and the culture of biomedicine. 

• Anthropology of Human Rights, which focuses on issues of conflict and violence, economic and political inequality, indigenous rights, truth and reconciliation, humanitarianism and social justice. Related topics of inquiry also include social stratification and distinction, race, ethnicity, inequality, and gender. 

• Political Ecology and Development, which examines human social relationships with the natural and built environment, including social, political and economic dimensions of resource utilization and control; the politics of environmental conservation and degradation; the impact of economic and technological interventions on local social worlds. 

• Media Anthropology, which covers both training in the use of documentary media such as film, photography, and sound recordings in ethnographic settings; and the study of art, mass media, and, more broadly, the sensuous elements of human experience - sight and images; sound; taste; tactility; dance; and movement. 

Whether you choose a general or a focused approach, the Social Anthropology advising team (Director of Undergraduate Studies, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Undergraduate Program Coordinator) can help with planning and course selection for the secondary field. In some cases, students may also wish to discuss their plans for a focused secondary field with an appropriate member of the Department faculty. You can find more information about the Secondary Field in Anthropology as well as some model study plans on our department website. 

Whichever approach you choose, your transcript will indicate that you have taken a Secondary Field in Anthropology. 

REQUIREMENTS: 4 courses (16 credits) 

Four courses in Social Anthropology are required to complete the secondary field. There is no fixed sequence in which these courses must be taken, but students are strongly encouraged to enroll in Anthropology 1610 (“Ethnographic Research Methods”) or another course that provides a broad overview of the discipline of Social Anthropology. Consult the DUS or ADUS for appropriate courses. 

Courses can be drawn from any departmental or formally cross-listed courses offered by regular Social Anthropology faculty. One of these may be a Freshman Seminar. Graduate courses offered by Social Anthropology faculty may, with instructor's permission, be taken for secondary field credit. One course in Archaeology taught by a member of the Department faculty can be counted for credit toward the Social Anthropology secondary field. 


All four courses must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of the Freshman Seminar, which must receive a grade of SAT. Letter-graded courses must receive a grade of C or better to count for the secondary field. 

Under ordinary circumstances, courses taken abroad or in the Harvard Summer School will not be counted towards a secondary field unless they are taught by a regular member of the Social Anthropology Faculty. 


To discuss the secondary field in Social Anthropology or for specific questions about secondary field requirements, contact the Department of Anthropology Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) or Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies (ADUS). For general information, please contact the Anthropology Department's Undergraduate Program Coordinator at, or stop by the Undergraduate Office, Room 103B, Tozzer Anthropology Building, 21 Divinity Avenue.