Catalogue PDF Version

Catalogue - PDF Version


Department Faculty
Christopher Annear, Associate Professor, Chair
Jeffrey Anderson, Professor
Brian Clark, Visiting Instructor
Brenda Maiale, Associate Professor
Ilene Nicholas, Emeritus Associate Professor

The Anthropology program at Hobart and William Smith offers students a number of ways to examine in-depth a most fundamental concept—what it means to be human. Our courses look at the communities, communications, customs, and traditions of a panoply of cultures, from prehistoric times through the contemporary moment. Students choose a concentration from among cultural anthropology, archeology, or physical anthropology. Yet they take a number of courses outside their primary subfield as well. This ensures the most comprehensive coverage of the discipline. In addition to studying the history of anthropological theory and methodological practice, anthropology majors also become well-versed in intercultural communication, cross-cultural gender roles, prehistoric ecology, and the quest for egalitarian social formations.

Anthropology is unique among academic fields for the way it emphasizes: (1) fieldwork engaged in human communities or sites of their material remains; (2) an overview on the human condition through time and space; (3) holistic, thickly contextual approaches involving multiple perspectives; (4) a balance of overarching theory and concrete lived ethnographic examples; (5) the ability to suggest links between different areas of study; and (6) grappling in engaged ways with concrete social problems in human contexts.

The Anthropology program emphasizes both the development of our students’ research skills and their overall growth as interculturally competent persons. Our major combines an invaluable perspective on humanity’s long-term past with exposure to a remarkable array of diverse present-day cultures. Students also receive training in ethnographic and interpretive methods that enable them to quickly zero in on what matters most to people in situations that would just be puzzling to others. We seek to produce graduates with an enhanced openness and ability to work with others in challenging intercultural environments as well as persons who can more wisely evaluate hotly-debated proposals for social and cultural change.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Anthropology B.A. degree program is to train students in cross-cultural competency, intercultural communication, research-oriented fieldwork, and deep engagement in what it means to be human—in all our diversity and commonalities. Anthropology majors are encouraged to get out of the classroom and get their hands dirty, literally and figuratively. Participating in field research and spending a semester abroad are two very popular and useful educational components. Whether they decide to excavate for ancient artifacts, unearth fossils, or immerse themselves in a foreign culture, HWS students put their learning into action.


The Anthropology Department provides a major and a minor in Anthropology and offers courses toward the combined Anthropology/Sociology major; all courses to be credited toward any major or minor in the department must be passed with a grade of C- or better.

Anthropology Policy on Courses Transferred Into the Major/Minor:

  • Students participating in an HWS term abroad program may count one "culture area" course towards an anthropology major, even if the course is not taught by an anthropologist. This is limited to one such course per student. The student will consult with their anthropology advisor about whether this course will count within or outside the student's area of specialization.
  • Anthropology majors/minors must take the core courses (ANTH 273, 306, 465 and the 300- level seminars) at HWS. No exceptions.
  • Students who take anthropology courses at US accredited institutions that HWS accepts for graduation credit will receive credit toward their anthropology major or minor for that course(s) provided that an appropriate faculty member has checked the course description/syllabus against our own course offerings (with the intention of not allowing students to take essentially the same course, albeit under slightly different titles, both here and elsewhere).
  • Students who take anthropology courses outside the U.S., even on HWS programs (with the exception listed in the first item above), taught by instructors from non-U.S. areas, must petition the department if seeking to count a course for anthropology credit, providing thorough documentation of the course content and instructor qualifications.
  • Anthropology majors may apply one Sociology course (200-level or higher) toward their major as an elective that is outside the student's primary specialty.

Anthropology Major (B.A.)

disciplinary, 11 courses
Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize and understand human cultural diversity.
  • Comprehend evolutionary, biological, cultural, and social characteristics common to all humanity as a single species.
  • Conduct ethnographic fieldwork and integrate it into anthropological analysis.
  • Recognize how human cultural knowledge relates to human social behavior, including perceptions of race, class, and ethnicity.
  • Connect global and local sociocultural processes, including how these scales are interconnected.
  • Examine and understand the conditions and effects of inequalities in power, wealth, and privilege.

A 100-level course in the student's required primary specialization of either (1) sociocultural and linguistic anthropology or (2) archaeology and physical anthropology; ANTH 273, ANTH 306, and ANTH 465; one anthropology course on a geographic area in the primary specialization; and six additional anthropology electives of which at least two must be at the 300-level. Four of the electives must be in the primary specialization and two outside the primary specialization. One 200-level or higher course in sociology may count as an elective outside the primary specialization. All courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. No more than one course with a CR grade may be counted toward the major.

Anthropology Minor

disciplinary, 6 courses
One course in cultural anthropology and five additional courses in anthropology, of which at least three must be at the 200-level and at least two at the 300-level or higher (ANTH 450 does not fulfill this requirement). All courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. No more than one course with a CR grade may be counted toward the minor.

Anthropology-Sociology Major (B.A.)

disciplinary, 11 courses
Learning Objectives:

  • Examine and understand the reciprocal relationship between individuals, small groups, social processes, and social structures.
  • Conduct anthropological and sociological research using appropriate methodology, including but not limited to ethnographic fieldwork and quantitative analyses, and integrate this research into anthropological and/or sociological
  • Interrogate how dimensions of difference (e.g., race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, ability) intersect to produce disparate experiences of power, belonging, and inequality in the social world.
  • Recognize how human cultural knowledge relates to human social behavior, including perceptions of race, class, and ethnicity.
  • Read, write, communicate, and apply sociological and anthropological ideas verbally and visually, explaining social patterns and societal issues.
  • Interpret, clarify, and assess major theoretical platforms in anthropological and sociological thought.

ANTH 110; SOC 100; any four of the five courses from department core offerings (ANTH 273, ANTH 306, SOC 211, SOC 212, SOC 300); a 465 in either anthropology or sociology; two electives in anthropology and two electives in sociology that together form a cluster, to be chosen in consultation with the advisor. All courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. No more than one course with a CR grade may be counted towards the major.

Anthropology Areas of Specialization

Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology
ANTH 110 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 115 Language and Culture
ANTH 205 Race, Class, Ethnicity
ANTH 217 Precolonial Africa
ANTH 220 Sex Roles
ANTH 221 Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
ANTH 222 Native American Religions
ANTH 260 Medical Anthropology
ANTH 280 Environment and Culture
ANTH 282 North American Indians
ANTH 296 Africa: Beyond Crisis, Poverty, and Aid
ANTH 298 Modern Japan
ANTH 330 Anthropology of Creativity
ANTH 340 Anthropology of the Global Commons
ANTH 341 Making Babies
ANTH 354 Food, Meaning, Voice
ANTH 370 Life Histories

Archaeology and Physical Anthropology
ANTH 102 Archaeology & World Prehistory
ANTH 217 Precolonial Africa
ANTH 228 Physical Anthropology
ANTH 260 Medical Anthropology
ANTH 310 Experimental Archaeology and Paleotechnology
ANTH 326 Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica

Course Descriptions

ANTH 102 World Prehistory  This course seeks to replace myths of "killer apes" and "ancient astronauts" with archaeological reality. A broad survey of archaeological knowledge of both New and Old World prehistory provides a framework for analysis of major transitions in cultural evolution and of selected archaeological puzzles, such as the enigmatic markings of the Peruvian desert near Nazca. This course is designed for non majors who want a general understanding of what "happened" in prehistory. The course is also suitable for prospective majors who need an overview of the archaeological record against which to set more specialized courses in archaeology. (Clark, offered annually)

ANTH 110 Intro Cultural Anthropology  This course explores the anthropological understanding of human society through ethnographic case studies of particular societies. In the holistic approach of anthropology, the interrelations of kinship, economics, politics, and religion are stressed. Special emphasis is also placed on anthropological theories of human behavior and the wide range of creative solutions to the problem of social living devised by various cultures of the world. (Staff, offered each semester)

ANTH 115 Language and Culture  This course introduces students to the study of language as a natural phenomenon and as a human creation. Different approaches to the analysis and study of language as a social and symbolic system are presented. Topics include the Sapir Whorf hypothesis (the idea that language determines how and what we think), the relationship between language and gender, how social forces alter the shape of language, and what language tells us about the structure of the human mind. (Anderson, offered annually)

ANTH 205 Race, Class & Ethnicity  This course explores race, class, and ethnicity through comparative study of the diverse experiences, histories, and life conditions of indigenous peoples, immigrant groups, diasporas, religious minorities, and oppressed classes in various local and global contexts. Analyzed and compared are the conscious and systemic social, cultural, economic, and political forces that have developed in history and function at present to maintain unequal access to wealth, power, and privilege according to differences of race, ethnicity, and class. Also examined are the various modes of thought and social action oppressed peoples have employed for political empowerment, economic justice, cultural survival, integrity of identity, and recognition of human rights. (Anderson, offered occasionally)

ANTH 217 Precolonial Africa  Were you aware Africa is not a single country, hut over 50 countries, spanning an area greater than the USA, Europe, and China combined? Did you know that while East African merchants sailed to India and Asia, African empires in the Western Sahara were building libraries, universities, and funding the European Renaissance with caravans of gold? Or that Ethiopia is one of the oldest continuous Christian states in the world, and has preserved Biblical texts long thought lost by the rest of the world? If not, you are not alone: great minds from Hegel to Hugh Trevor-Roper pointed to their own ignorance as proof that Africa had 'no historical part of the world.' This course will dispel such ignorance. Using research from oral historical studies, archaeology, anthropology, and history, we will explore the great cultures and civilizations of Africa that flourished before the Colonial Period. Emphasizing Africa's unique contributions to world history, anthropological theory, and the study of global systems. Simultaneously, we will also examine how scholarly knowledge of this period has been produced, beginning with the bias introduced by colonial-era scholars and the work of current scholars to 'decolonize' the work of their predecessors. (Clark. offered occasionally)

ANTH 220 Sex Roles  What do "sex," "sexuality" and "gender" mean, and how have anthropologists dealt with these concepts? This course will explore ethnographic approaches to sexuality and gender, and the complex relations between sexual and gendered practices, identities, and roles. We will focus our studies on ways that sex and sexuality have intersected with traditional anthropological concerns about the developmental process and rites of passage as related to kinship, family, and community. We will examine ethnographic studies, both US and non-US focused, to assess how cross-cultural studies of sexuality and gender have contributed to more complex understandings of these areas of human experience. A focus on ethnographic studies will be complemented by films and readings in other bodies of literature that have informed sexuality and gender studies.

ANTH 222 Native American Religions  This course explores Native American sacred ways of speaking, acting, knowing, and creating in diverse historical and contemporary culture/contexts. Indigenous views and practices are studied as a groundwork for interpretative and theoretical formulations about the role of Native American religion, history, culture, and language. Native American religious traditions are further comprehended as dynamic modes of survival, empowerment, and renewal in the face of Euro-American domination, past and present. Upon these understandings, indigenous, anthropological, and Euro-American domination perspectives on religion are brought into balanced dialogue and exchange. (Anderson, offered alternate years)

ANTH 228 Physical Anthropology  Physical anthropology studies humans as biological organisms (members of the Primate Order). This course provides an overview of the three major divisions of physical anthropology: anatomical and behavioral characteristics of living non-human primates; the fossil evidence for human evolution, including discussion of the origins of culture as a major adaptive characteristic of humankind; and examination of human variability today, including a discussion of race. (Clark, offered alternate years)

ANTH 260 Medical Anthropology  This course explores the interconnected cultural, social, political, historical, and economic dimensions of illness, health, and healing in diverse human contexts. The first phase of the course involves study of the way anthropologists research and understand human practices, meanings, and experiences related to illness and medical treatment in diverse sociocultural contexts. A second facet is an inquiry into how anthropologically informed models and field methods can enhance biomedical approaches to knowing about and healing physical and mental illnesses. The third phase of the course is an in-depth critical analysis of the structural conditions that deny access to health care and vital resources to billions of people in the world today. Fourth, the course turns to appreciating the ways individuals and communities actively create meaning, purpose, and value in confronting suffering and structural violence. The course culminates with close study of the ways medical anthropologists today are actively addressing global and local public health inequalities by providing adaptively emerging health care programs that can comprehensively improve the lives of individuals and contribute to the long-term well-being of communities.

ANTH 273 Field Methods  This course considers the practice, problems, and analysis of field and library research in social and cultural anthropology. It examines the theoretical background and social and political role of ethnographers, and gains an understanding of the basic skills and qualitative methods of inquiry, including participant observation, interviewing, photography, life history, ethnohistory, and network and structural analysis. Students conduct research projects locally. Students must have taken at least a 100-level anthropology course, or have declared an anthropology major or minor, sociology major, or anthropology-sociology major, or have permission of the instructor. Majors should plan to take this course at the earliest opportunity in order to complete their programs. (Maiale, Annear, offered spring)

ANTH 282 North American Indians  The course is a survey of the experiences and sociocultural systems of past and present indigenous American peoples north of Mexico. Examined are relationships between ecological factors, subsistence patterns, modes of social organization, language, architecture, art, gender relations, ways of knowing, and religious beliefs. Also studied are historical and contemporary issues of political-legal relations, survival strategies, social activism, economic development, cultural identity, language renewal, land rights, cultural vitality, resource rights, and artistic creativity. (Anderson, offered annually)

ANTH 296 Africa: Beyond Crisis, Poverty, and Aid  This course explores the continent's diversity by reexamining broadly held stereotypes, delving into its history, and researching daily realities of modern day Africans. We will examine a cultural mosaic of different African societies from a variety of perspectives, including anthropology, politics, history, and economics. While this course focuses on small-scale communities and case studies, it also looks at wider sociocultural and geopolitical interconnections. We will ask how common representations of Africa shape our understanding of this diverse continent and gain insight into the many different ways Africans live their lives. (Annear, offered annually)

ANTH 298 Modern Japan  Japan is a remarkable society. The only non-Western nation to repel colonization and industrialize independently, Japan now has the third largest economy in the world. This course looks at contemporary Japanese society from the perspective of cultural anthropology. In addition to considering anthropologists' overall interpretations of Japanese culture, personality, and ways of thinking, it explores Japanese society through ethnographies or in depth case studies of changing Japanese families, schools, businesses, religious groups, villages, cities, and towns. (Henry-Holland, offered alternate years)

ANTH 306 Theorizing Culture  This course explores the range of anthropological theory by reviewing works identified with different theoretical perspectives: 19th century evolutionism, Boasian empiricism, British social anthropology, structural idealism, cultural ecology, neo-evolutionism, practice theory, and post modernism. The emphasis is on developing the student's own ability to evaluate and use theory. Prerequisites: Several anthropology courses or permission of instructor. This is ideally a junior year course for majors and students from related fields. (offered every Fall)

ANTH 310 Experimental Archaeology and Paleotechnology  So easy a cave man could do it? Contrary to popular depictions, survival strategies and technological innovations of our early ancestors were complex and often challenging. This course will introduce students to the field of 'experimental archaeology,' the scientific replication of ancient technologies and technological processes to test hypotheses about how our ancestors adapted to their environments. Using archaeological and ethnographic research as a foundation, students will learn to reproduce ancient technologies and generate hypotheses about them in weekly outdoor activities. To heighten the verisimilitude and gain further insight into the lives of our ancestors, students will form hunter-gatherer 'bands,' striving to adapt and thrive in cooperation or competition with their fellow hominins throughout the replication and experimental processes. Students will complete the semester with a novel, independent experimental archaeology project of their own design to be presented in a poster session for the HWS community.

ANTH 316 Visual Anthropology  Culture is manifested in visual symbols embedded in gestures, ceremonies, ritual performances, and artifacts. In this course students will explore the history and development of anthropology's relationship to visual practices, focusing on, but not limited to, photography and film, both as a mode for representing culture and as a site of cultural practice. Our central goal will be to move away from concepts of objectivity or subjectivity toward the use of deeply situated spaces to investigate the making of reality. Critical theory, methods, and ethical concerns are all part of the current refashioning of visual anthropology and as such will be critical components of the class. Students must have declared an anthropology major or minor, sociology major, or anthropology-sociology major, or have permission of instructor. (Maiale, offered annually)

ANTH 326 Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica  This course surveys the broad outline of Mesoamerican archaeology, with a special focus on cities viewed in their ecological and cultural contexts. Cities studied include Monte Alban, Teotihuacan, Tikal, Tula, Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Tenochtitlan, and others. The course familiarizes students with various descriptive and theoretical models of ancient urbanism and discusses the relationship between these theoretical models and the data from Mesoamerica (as well as the relationship between theory and research design). No prerequisites, but ANTH 102 or ANTH 206 provide helpful background. (Clark, offered alternate years)

ANTH 330 The Anthropology of Creativity  Creativity flows continually through all human cultures and languages with spontaneity, novelty, and unfolding meaning. The course offers a survey of various anthropological perspectives on the power of individuality, interpretation, resistance, and imagination in the aesthetic process of creation. Considered are music, poetics, literature, and graphic arts in various historical and contemporary cultural contexts, with special attention to creolization and hybridization in the process of globalization. Students must have taken at least one anthropology course, or have declared a major or minor in anthropology, a major in sociology, or a major in anthropology-sociology, or have permission of the instructor. (Anderson, offered annually)

ANTH 340 Anthropology of the Global Commons  This course offers an exploration of common property resources (CPRs) and civic associations around the globe. These include questioning conventional assumptions about how humans manage CPRs, meaning cooperatively owned or commonly accessed environmental resources such as pastures, fisheries, and the earth’s atmosphere. We will also investigate how people associate in groups by studying a long celebrated thesis that declares (U.S.) Americans to be civically minded and naturally oriented toward the democratic process. Students must have declared a major or minor in anthropology, or have permission of the instructor. (Annear, offered occasionally)

ANTH 341 Making Babies  This course explores the emerging field of the anthropology of reproduction. Because reproduction is so strongly associated with biology in our society, viewing it through a cultural lens poses significant challenges to some of our most basic beliefs. In this course we will examine cross-cultural representations of fertility and conception, delve deeply into comparative ethnography of reproductive practices and meanings, and analyze changes in cultural constructions of pregnancy wrought by new reproductive technologies. Topics include ultrasound imaging, sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, frozen embryos, designer babies, and cyborgs. This seminar will approach these issues from a critical theory perspective, pursuing themes such as nature/culture, personhood, kinship, hegemony, and human rights.

ANTH 354 Seminar: Food, Meaning, Voice  Everyone eats and the meanings attached to food are bountiful. Anthropologist Jack Goody notes that cuisine like music is not hampered by language and is able to easily cross cultural barriers. So food communicates within language and can also communicate like language. Food speaks. But what does food have to say? This course explores anthropological approaches to the study of food and cuisine. In our readings and writings, we will examine the way food is produced, prepared, exchanged and given meaning in cultures around the world. Food plays an important part in identity construction, religion, and socialization, and we will explore the communicative significance of foodways in past and present societies as expressed through symbols, rituals, everyday habits, and taboos. Course readings will investigate the way that cultural ideas about gender, ethnicity, national identity, class, and social value are communicated through activities such as cooking, consuming special diets, feasting, and fasting. Prerequisite: Students must have declared a major or minor in anthropology, or have permission of the instructor. (Annear, offered alternate years)

ANTH 370 Life Histories  Human beings are natural storytellers. Whether reciting oral traditions or recounting personal experience, people everywhere use narratives as a way to express and to understand themselves. The life history focuses on the expressive side of culture - i.e., how people experience the meaningful events and crises of their lives and how they feel about what they do (or at least what they say about what they do). This course explores the ways that anthropologists elicit, study, and create narratives, whether through ethnographic observation, conducting interviews, gathering folklore, or interpreting material culture.

ANTH 465 Engaged Anthropology Capstone  A seminar for senior majors to learn advanced forms of intensive writing, critical reading, oral presentation, and media application for conveying and analyzing anthropological knowledge. Students will conduct original research culminating in a substantial portfolio of work. The topic will vary with the research specialization of the faculty member teaching the seminar each year. Prerequisite: Students must be senior anthropology majors or senior anthropology-sociology majors, or have permission of the instructor. (Staff, offered annually)

ANTH 450 Independent Study  Permission of the Instructor.

ANTH 456 1/2  Credit Independent Study  Permission of the Instructor.

ANTH 495/496 Honors  Permission of the Instructor.

ANTH 499 Internship in Anthropology  A minimum of 150 hours of work or practice under the supervision of an anthropology faculty advisor. Students are expected to keep a reflective journal and to produce a paper that relates their experience to more general issues in anthropology. The length and scope of the paper shall be determined in consultation with the internship faculty advisor. Internship advisor permission is required to take this course, and prior departmental approval is required for any students who wish to repeat ANTH 499. Permission of the instructor.