Anthropology is the study of human experience across space and time, and has historically been subdivided into four major sub-disciplines: archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistics. At Sewanee, the Department of Anthropology concentrates on two of these: archaeology and cultural anthropology. 

Learning about other societies through regular participation in their daily lives is the central method of cultural anthropology. Many of our courses provide opportunities for this kind of research on campus and in neighboring towns. Additionally, every student majoring in anthropology is required to complete a semester-long field methods project either in the United States or abroad. Students interested in cultural anthropology are especially encouraged to study abroad as they will gain invaluable experience and expertise in cross-cultural interaction and research through such experiences.

Field methods credit may also be obtained through completion of an archaeological field school through the University of the South or other pre-approved program in the United States or abroad.

Professors: Murdock, O'Connor (Chair), Ray, Wallace

Associate Professors: Sherwood, R. Summers

Requirements for the Major in Anthropology

The major requires successful completion of the following:

Course Requirements 1
ANTH 104Introductory Cultural Anthropology4
Select one of the following:4
Introductory Physical Anthropology and Archaeology
World Prehistory
ANTH 391Junior Tutorial 24
ANTH 401Anthropological Field Methods 34
ANTH 403Social Theory4
Select five additional courses in anthropology (ANTH) 420
Total Semester Hours40
Additional Requirements
A comprehensive examination 5
A department-approved area or a topical specialty 6


In October of the senior year, students may apply for honors if they have a “B+” or higher grade point average in the major. To apply, students submit a project proposal to the department chair for a 40-page paper on their area of specialty. The project is to be researched and written in the second semester of the senior year. Those applicants invited to complete an honors project register for a full course (ANTH 405) and work with a departmental faculty member to submit the project in mid-April.

All courses for the minor are normally taken at the University of the South. One course taken abroad may occasionally qualify for the minor requirement, but approval must be obtained from the department before taking the course. 

Requirements for the Minor in Anthropology

The minor requires successful completion of the following:

ANTH 104Introductory Cultural Anthropology4
Select one of the following:4
Introductory Physical Anthropology and Archaeology
World Prehistory
Select three additional courses in anthropology (ANTH) 112
Total Semester Hours20

Anthropology Courses

ANTH 104     Introductory Cultural Anthropology  (4)

This introduction to the methods and concepts of cultural anthropology will emphasize how action, thought, and belief combine to form coherent cultural patterns. The intensive study of a few cultures will be set within the larger perspective of sociocultural evolution and the anthropological sub-fields of political, psychological and economic anthropology, kinship, religion, and linguistics.

ANTH 106     Introductory Physical Anthropology and Archaeology  (4)

An introduction to the processes of human and cultural evolution. Physical anthropology will focus on hominid evolution, genetic processes, primatology, and physiological characteristics of modern human populations. Archaeology will trace cultural evolution from foraging societies to the great civilizations of ancient times. Both course segments will include a review of pertinent methods and theories. This course is not open for credit to students who have received credit for ANTH 107.

ANTH 109     World Prehistory  (4)

An introduction to world prehistory, this course begins by examining human origins in Africa and the spread of hominid populations across Africa, Asia, and Europe and considers the origins and spread of agriculture and complex societies, beginning with those in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and China. Course topics also explore transitions from tribal societies to chiefdoms and proto-states in pre-Roman Europe. The course concludes by examining the varied paths to state-level societies in North America, Andean South America, and Mesoamerica. Not open for credit to students who have completed ANTH 202.

ANTH 222     Celtic Culture and Archaeology  (4)

Grounded in the anthropological perspective, this course will explore ancient Celtic society through archaeology, ethnohistory, linguistics, and a focus on myth and religion. Our study initially focuses on the people of the European Iron Age (800 B.C. to the Roman conquest). Further course components consider the continuity and influence of Celtic traditions though the Middle Ages to the present in areas least impacted by Roman rule (Ireland, Scotland, and parts of Wales), and the contemporary cultural phenomena known as Celtic Revivalism.

ANTH 290     Women in Cross-Cultural Perspective  (4)

A comparison of women's experiences of family, work, religion, development and war across diverse world regions to see how these can differ widely from one society to another. Anthropological writings and films are used to learn the concepts and perspectives necessary for the exploration of women's similarities and differences. Discussion-centered learning and student research papers help involve students actively in the collective construction of knowledge about women's lives around the world. This course cannot be taken for credit by any student who has earned credit for ANTH 321. Prerequisite: ANTH 104 or WMST 100 or INGS 200.

ANTH 298     Ecological Anthropology  (4)

This course will examine human-environmental relationships from the anthropological perspective. Consideration of theoretical approaches and practical applications will be supplemented by archaeological, ethnographical, and ethnohistorical case studies. We will consider various ecosystems and landscapes as palimpsests that reveal cultural footprints to the archaeologist and human choices to the ethnographer. We will explore how an understanding of both can greatly inform ecological studies and further new thinking about environmental policy.

ANTH 301     American Culture  (4)

An anthropological study of the United States using community studies and topical essays to explore regional differences and national continuities. Symbols of self, home, community, and nation are used to interpret technology, the economy, leisure, popular culture, and social class, and patterns that typify America in general, and, in particular, the region of Appalachia.

ANTH 302     Southern Cultures  (4)

An anthropological study of the southern United States emphasizes cultural continuity in both mountains and lowlands. The course uses community studies and literature to explore how indigenous interpretations fit within and react against national patterns and how locality, race, status, and gender act as social principles.

ANTH 303     The Anthropology of Europe  (4)

This course surveys the major monuments, population migrations, and cultural patterns of continental prehistory; examines how Christianity's arrival shaped myriad chiefdoms, kingdoms, and states into the Europe we recognize today; explores ethnicity and the historical origins of ethnic conflicts; and considers the cultural impacts of European Union membership and 21st-century immigration issues.

ANTH 304     Peoples and Cultures of Africa  (4)

A brief survey of geography, prehistory, and history followed by an evaluation of modern African cultural groups. Special topics considered include African women, labor migration, urbanization, associations, and elites. The overarching theme of the course is the differential effects of modernization on Africa.

ANTH 305     Cultures of Latin America  (4)

An introduction to Latin American cultural traditions as they relate to social identities, religious beliefs, economic practices, political systems, and natural environments. Students examine diverse regional contexts, including the Peruvian Andes, Central American urban centers, and the Brazilian Amazon. Legacies of inequality and political violence are contrasted with powerful social movements and creative cultural productions.

ANTH 306     American Indians  (4)

A consideration of North American native peoples that involves origins and culture areas and the study of several specific groups as to history, economy, kinship, authority, and world view. Special attention will be given to problems of conquest, reservation life, and U.S. government policy.

ANTH 308     Myth, Ritual, and Meaning  (4)

The study of religion and meaning from the perspective of interpretive anthropology anchors the understanding of other cultural traditions in the study of Western religious and social forms. Special attention is given to magic, witchcraft, rites of passage, symbolic classification, and the evolution of religious forms.

ANTH 311     Gender and Class in Latin America  (4)

An examination of gender relations in diverse Latin American contexts. The history of anthropological scholarship on gender and class in the region, as well as contemporary theories of how gender, social class, race/ethnicity, and sexuality intertwine in human experience are key foci of the course. Detailed ethnographic case studies from Amerindian, Afro-Latino, and Mestizo cultural contexts help students apply broader theories to the analysis of gender relations as they are conceptualized by these different groups in Latin America. Prerequisite: ANTH 104 or INGS 200 or WMST 100.

ANTH 312     Place, Ritual and Belief  (4)

An upper-division seminar designed to enhance students' research skills and engage students in thoughtful examination of the relationship between religious beliefs and practices, and natural environments. While including the major religious traditions, the course will focus on indigenous, historic and prehistoric traditions within band, tribe, chiefdom and state societies. The course will focus on religious syncretism due to historical conquest or latter 20th century globalization as it impacts human-historical conenvironmental relationships.

ANTH 314     Gender, Colonialism, and Culture in Greater Mexico  (4)

Starting from the premise that the region encompassing northern Mexico and the southwestern United States can be viewed as a single cultural region, this course examines how colonizing processes mobilized gendered and racialized identities to consolidate new social hierarchies in this part of the world. We learn about the historic interactions between Indigenous, European, and African peoples thrown together by the acts of exploration, conquest, and enslavement, and the hybridized cultural social forms which resulted. With these historical legacies in mind, we move to see how contemporary racialized and gendered identities are constructed and contested in the context of “Greater Mexico.”. Prerequisite: ANTH 104 or INGS 200 or WMST 100.

ANTH 316     Archaeology of the Cumberland Plateau  (4)

This course examines the cultural history of the Cumberland Plateau through anthropological archaeology. After a brief consideration of the subject's environmental context within one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, the class investigates the Plateau's rich prehistoric and historic archaeological record, which spans at least 12,000 years. In addition to ethnohistorical research, students actively engage in laboratory analysis of artifacts from the University Domain. Students also participate in site visits and field survey to explore both the Native American and European American record left as rock art, as well as that found in open habitation, cave, and rockshelter sites.

ANTH 317     The Anthropology of Development  (4)

An examination of the basic assumptions of mainstream modernization approaches. Students explore key aspects of "modernity," as this term has been understood in Western European thought, and explore anthropologists' critiques of the exportation of these key aspects to other contexts. Detailed ethnographic case studies from diverse world regions, including Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America help students to understand the impact of development thinking in Third World contexts. The professor's investigation of development in the war-torn context of Medellin, Colombia, is an ongoing source of material for reflection and debate. Prerequisite: ANTH 104.

ANTH 318     North American Archaeology  (4)

This course reviews Pre-Columbian and Historic Era histories and social landscapes north of Mesoamerica. The course considers the timing and process of the initial peopling of the continent, food production, regional systems of exchange, development of social hierarchies, the rise and fall of chiefdoms, and colonial encounters between Europeans and Native Americans.

ANTH 319     Medical Anthropology  (4)

This anthropological investigation into medical topics with a cultural component (gerontology, substance abuse, nutrition, folk medicine, etc.) will also examine the ways in which various cultural backgrounds may impede or enhance the medical process. Issues such as disease and therapy will also be examined in cross-cultural perspective.

ANTH 341     The Culture and History of Southeast Asia  (4)

A survey of the peoples and polities of Southeast Asia from prehistory to the present, stressing the cultural and historical continuities that unite this ethnically diverse region. Special consideration is given to urban rule, peasants, popular religion, and indigenous notions of power, gender, space, and time.

ANTH 357     Field School in Archaeology  (6)

Conducted on the University Domain or other pre-eminent sites in Tennessee, The Sewanee Field School in Archaeology provides, in an intensive one-month period in the summer, training and experience in the process of conducting research on highly significant archaeological resources. While the fieldwork is the primary component, guest lectures, consulting, and field trips are provided by other Southeastern archaeologists. Prerequisite: Only open to students admitted to the Field School in Archeology program.

ANTH 371     The Anthropology of Water  (4)

This course considers the role of water in shaping human societies. Beginning with an examination of how the search for fresh water resources influenced the global migration of Paleolithic humans, the seminar explores theories about the relationship between the control of water through irrigation, social complexity, the emergence of state level societies, and the place of water in world cosmologies and religious ritual. The course concludes by considering contemporary water insecurity and how understanding water cultures can foster policies for socioeconomic resilience.

ANTH 391     Junior Tutorial  (4)

The course involves students intensively reading and critiquing ethnographies. The course is taken in the second semester of the junior year and prepares students for writing an ethnography in ANTH 401 (to be taken in the first semester of their senior year). Students write bi-weekly papers to enhance their critical thinking and strengthen their writing skills and normally choose a topic for ANTH 401 near the completion of Junior Tutorial. Prerequisite: ANTH 104.

ANTH 398     Special Topics  (4)

A seminar on a topic related to anthropology.

ANTH 399     Anthropology of Education  (4)

An ethnographic research course in which students study the cultural contexts of schools and classrooms, families and youth cultures, hidden curricula and diversity. Students should expect to complete a semester-long, field research project in a nearby school. Not available for credit for students who have completed EDUC/ANTH 204. Prerequisite: One course in education or anthropology.

ANTH 401     Anthropological Field Methods  (4)

Designed to train upper-division anthropology students to develop and carry out field research, the course first focuses on specific field methods used by anthropologists, ethnomethodology, network analysis, and statistical analysis. The second part of the course comprises a supervised field study where such methods can be tested. The last part of the course consists of data analysis and presentation. Open only to students pursuing programs in anthropology.

ANTH 403     Social Theory  (4)

The historical development of theory in American cultural anthropology beginning with positivism and classical evolutionary thinking through that of the neo-evolutionists. Consideration of different historical approaches is followed by exploration of cultural materialism, structuralism, Marxism, symbolic interpretation, and practice theory. Open only to seniors pursuing majors in anthropology.

ANTH 405     Honors Thesis  (4)

Student-initiated forty-page research project in a student's area of specialty. Participation is in the Easter semester of an anthropology major's senior year and is by invitation of the anthropology department. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.

ANTH 411     Research Seminar: Campus Life and Academic Culture  (4)

How do social and academic life interact on our campus? Using interviews, observation, and other anthropological methods, the class explores how enduring academic traditions interact with changing collegiate experience and American culture. Specific foci include spatial culture; styles in studying, writing, class participation, and academic engagement; and various discipline/indulgence scenarios like the "work hard, party hard" attitude. Those in the course also consider how students choose and adapt to majors, and how majors differ in work culture and value orientation. Working collaboratively, students contribute to ongoing research as well as generate individual research papers.

ANTH 420     Sacred Landscapes and Folk Liturgies of Ireland  (2)

This cultural immersion course engages students in ethno-ecological fieldwork in rural Ireland. Students collaborate with local communities in documenting holy well sites and contemporary well-side practices. Students daily interview Irish consultants about folk liturgy, ethno-botany, and localized saint cults. Students also visit holy well sites and hike ancient pagan pilgrimage trails Christianized by Celtic Christian saints in the 5th-7th centuries.

ANTH 444     Independent Study  (2 or 4)

For selected students. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.