University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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About the major

Anthropology is the holistic study of humanity. Social and cultural anthropologists document and analyse cultural and social contexts using ethnographic research methods. This involves immersion in the everyday lives of the people we wish to understand. Often, anthropologists work with people who differ from ourselves in language, location and lifeways, but many anthropologists also work “at home”. We seek to understand the values, unexamined assumptions, and relationships that structure lives as lived. We then compare across contexts to understand what it is that people generally hold in common and the scope of human diversity. Ethnographic contextualization combined with comparison enables new insights into major issues like gender, race, religion, environmental sustainability, health, inequality, and cultural difference. Through anthropology, you will appreciate that any given way of life is but one among many.

You will learn core methods and theories of social and cultural analysis and gain the tools to analyse how your own social and cultural setting shapes your understanding of yourself and others.

Key research and teaching areas include:

  • the study of human-environment relations, especially climate change;
  • the study of political and economic power and their alternatives in particular places and societies;
  • the study of how health, wellbeing and humanitarian development are experienced and the culturally specific ways in which people deal with life and death, freedom and unfreedom, peace and violence, or wealth and poverty;
  • the ethnography of Southeast Asia, Indigenous Australia, Latin America, and Melanesia;
  • the study of the history, theories and methods of anthropology and the social sciences more generally.

Graduates with a major in anthropology will have a sophisticated understanding of social and cultural difference in a globalised world, and the capacity to analyse cross-cultural settings. These are important skills for employment in a wide range of public, private, and non-profit organisations.

Requirements for completion

The Anthropology major and minor requirements are listed in the Anthropology unit of study table.

Learning outcomes
No. Learning outcome
1 Be able to identify, compare, and evaluate the range of perspectives in anthropology on the symbolic, institutional, environmental, and historical dimensions of human diversity and commonality.
2 Apply anthropological theories of meaning, value, and power to empirical instances of cultural and social processes at various scales, including the local community, nation-state, geographic regions, and the world.
3 Demonstrate a capacity to engage with ethnography as a mode of scholarly inquiry.
4 Demonstrate the ability to identify the positions in anthropology on the ethical and epistemological implications of ethnocentric assumptions, and be able to critically evaluate the history of anthropology as a part of Western intellectual traditions.
5 Be able to identify and explain the contributions made by anthropology to debates across the humanities and social sciences, and be able to formulate research problems which address the intersection of cultural diversity with structures of inequality and power.
6 Demonstrate the ability to advocate and communicate the relevance of anthropological literature and evidence in interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary social issues and debates, as well as demonstrate proficiency in the communication of anthropological knowledge in various modalities to different audiences.
7 Demonstrate the ability to formulate research problems which can be explored through relevant scholarly literature in anthropology.
8 Demonstrate proficiency in producing written research-based work that demonstrates an understanding of its sources and a capacity to link the conceptual and empirical dimensions of argument.
Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in the School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS) offers students the opportunity to apply their social sciences skills and knowledge to complex and tangible social, cultural, political and economic problems.

Students will apply and further develop their methodological, analytical and communication skills as they undertake primary research, learn to harness big data for critical social science research and diagnose and propose responses to contemporary and persistent social, cultural, political and economic challenges. Students will also be given the opportunity to further develop their capacity to translate social science research and analysis into effective contributions to public and policy debates.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Anthropology advanced coursework units of study page.


Anthropology Honours provides you with the opportunity to research in greater detail a region of the world or comparative theme. In your first semester you will do two seminar-based units that cap off your training in foundational debates in the discipline. You will also begin work with a supervisor on research towards a 20,000-word thesis. The supervisor will support your formulation of a research problem and identification of the literature and empirical material required to address it. In cooperation with your fellow honours students, and supported by a workshop you will develop and extend the skills you learned throughout your degree. Most importantly you will gain the intellectual satisfaction of developing and completing your own project and of turning anthropology to your own purposes.

Honours admission requirements:

Admission to Honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Anthropology with an average of 70 percent or above and must include the units ANTH3601 Contemporary Theory and Anthropology and ANTH3602 Reading Ethnography.

Prior to commencing Honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Anthropology honours units of study page.

Contacts and further information

Website: Department of Anthropology


Example pathways

Sample pathway for honours in Anthropology within the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies

Year 1 Sem 1

Core: ANTH1001 Introduction to Anthropology in the World

Sem 2

Core: ANTH1002 Anthropology in the World

Year 2 Sem 1 Core: ANTH2700 Key Debates in Anthropology
Sem 2 Selective: 2000-level unit listed for major
Year 3 Sem 1 Interdisciplinary project unit: ANTH3999 Interdisciplinary Impact Selective: 3000-level unit listed for major

Sem 2 Core: ANTH3700 Practising Anthropology Selective: 3000-level unit listed for major

Year 4 Sem 1 ANTH4101 Theorising the State in Everyday Life ANTH4102 Anthropology of Mind and Experience ANTH4103 Anthropology Thesis 1
Sem 2 ANTH4104 Anthropology Honours Thesis 2 and 3