Graduate Study

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago offers doctoral programs in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology and in archaeology.

Doctoral Programs

The program in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology offers opportunities to pursue a wide range of ethnographic and theoretical interests. While the Department does not emphasize a particular theoretical perspective, it is well known for its attention to classic problems in social theory along with an engagement with the latest developments in theories of history, culture, politics, economics, transnational processes, space and place, subjectivity, experience, and materiality. 

Shared topical interests among its members include culture and colonialism; postcoloniality and globalization; gender and sexuality; historical anthropology; history and social structure; politics and law; political economy; religion; ritual; science and technology; semiotics and symbolism; medicine and health; and subjectivity and affect. Africa, the Caribbean, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the United States of America are among the geographic areas of faculty research.  

Coursework and study with faculty in other departments enable the student to pursue interdisciplinary interests, language training, and other regional studies.

The archaeology program enables students to articulate archaeology, history, and sociocultural anthropology, with emphasis on the integration of social and cultural theory in the practice of archaeology.

Current faculty specialize in the archaeology of Latin America (the later prehistory and colonial periods of the Andes and Mexico), Europe and the Mediterranean (the “Celtic” Iron Age and Greco-Roman colonial expansion), the Southeastern U.S. (urban history, colonialism, landscapes), East and Southeast Asia (from the Neolithic to the early colonial periods), and West Africa (history, landscape, complexity and political economy), as well as ethnoarchaeology in East Africa and experimental archaeology in South America.

Research interests include: urbanism; state formation; colonialism; industrialization; art and symbolism; spatial analysis; politics; ritual and religion; human-environment interactions; agricultural systems; material culture; economic anthropology; political economy; the archaeology of the contemporary; and the socio-historical context and the history and politics of archaeology. Faculty members have ongoing field research projects in Bolivia, Mexico, China, Cambodia, France, Senegal, and the United States (New Orleans). The program in anthropological archaeology also has strong ties to many other archaeologists on campus through the UChicago Archaeology Nexus (UCAN).

Teaching in physical anthropology, mainly directed towards evolutionary anthropology and primatology, is offered by Russell Tuttle.

In addition to linguistic anthropology as a sub-field within the Department of Anthropology, there is also a joint Ph.D. program available to students who are admitted to both the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Linguistics. Administratively, the student is admitted to, and remains registered in, the primary, or “home” department, and subsequently seeks admission to the second department in joint residence status. Students approved to pursue the joint degree program must complete the requirements of both departments, including the distinct introductory and advanced courses stipulated by each, the departmental qualifying examination in appropriate special fields, and the language requirements, including additional foreign languages for the Linguistics Ph.D. The student’s dissertation advisory committee consists of three or more members of the faculty; at least one must be a member of the Department of Anthropology but not of the Department of Linguistics, and at least one in Linguistics but not in Anthropology. After approval by the advisory committee, the student’s dissertation proposal must be defended at a hearing open to the faculty of both departments. Generally, an Anthropology student may apply to Linguistics for the joint degree program at the end of the second year or later, after having successfully completed the first-year program in Anthropology and the core (first-year) coursework and examinations in Linguistics. However, students should declare interest in the Joint Degree Program on the initial graduate application to the Department, and should discuss this interest personally with linguistic anthropology faculty soon after arrival on campus.

Although Anthropology has no other formal joint degree programs, students admitted to Anthropology may subsequently petition the University to create a joint program with another department. For instance, there is considerable precedent for pursuing a joint Ph.D. in Anthropology and History. To create this joint program, Anthropology students spend their first year taking the required first year courses in the Anthropology Department; in the second year, they take a two-quarter history seminar and write an anthropologically-informed Master’s paper in coordination with that seminar which will be acceptable to both Departments. The Master’s degree is awarded by one of the two departments and is accepted for equivalence by the other. The Anthropology student then applies for admission to History at the end of the second year or later, having already demonstrated a proficiency in both disciplines. Applicants to Anthropology who are interested in a joint degree program with History should declare interest at the time of the initial application.

Also by petition, it has been possible for students to create other joint Ph.D. programs. In recent years, individual programs combining Anthropology and Art History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and Cinema and Media Studies have been created. An M.D./Ph.D. program is coordinated through the MeSH program in the medical school. A J.D./Ph.D. with the University of Chicago Law School or another law school is also possible, and we have facilitated joint degrees with the School of Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago.

Such individually-created joint degree programs begin in the second year of graduate studies or later. In all cases, students complete the separate program requirements for each degree, with no additional residence requirement, and write one Ph.D. dissertation that separately meets the dissertation requirements of each department. The specifics of each joint degree program, such as any requirements that may be jointly met, any overlapping examination areas, and the composition of the dissertation committee, are agreed upon by both departments at the time of the petition.

Students interested in pursuing an ad-hoc Joint Ph.D. should consult with the Dean of Students Office to understand the application process.