University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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About the major

Anthropology is the study of cultural and social diversity and remains distinct in the social sciences for its emphasis on long term field research (ethnography) in specific social settings. As well as studying small-scale societies and groups in both rural and urban settings, anthropology is concerned with understanding modern nation states and transnational movements. Its in-depth study of society and culture enables new insight into major issues like multiculturalism, gender and race, religion and globalisation, inequality, class and power. By studying anthropology, you will discover that a genuine understanding of other societies and cultures requires awareness that your own way of life is but one among many.

You will explore core methods and theories of social and cultural analysis and will come to appreciate how your own social and cultural setting shapes your understanding of yourself and others.

Key research and teaching areas include:

  • area studies (China, Indigenous Australia, Latin America, Melanesia, Southeast Asia)
  • the study of key issues in the world from the perspective of different cultures and societies, including economic inequality, health outcomes and healing systems, religious traditions and movements, gender relations and kinship systems
  • analyses of race and racism, multiculturalism, humanitarian development, and human interactions with the environment
  • 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 wherever they occur. These are important skills for employment in a wide range of public, private, and non-profit organisations.

Requirements for completion

A major in Anthropology requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Anthropology requires 36 credit points from this table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First year

In first year we explore how people make relationships, livelihoods and meaning and how they are integrated into distinctive social and cultural contexts. As importantly we examine the ways in which cultural ideas and social practices divide, exclude and empower or disempower people. The combination of these perspectives on social life cultural values allows us to ask key questions about globalisation as a process that intensifies both connection and division around the world. We will examine anthropology’s distinctive research method of living amongst the people whose lives we seek to understand holistically, and the ethical and political importance of cultural understanding in the contemporary world.

Second year

In the second year, Anthropology majors select two units that focus on particular themes around which societies and cultural norms develop. These include illness and wellbeing, race and ethnicity, urbanisation, economy and livelihood, religion, globalisation and development. These themes will allow you to explore distinctive ways in which people build relationships with others and with the environment in different global settings. These themes give anthropologists precise ways of identifying and describing cultural difference, and allow us to compare and contrast cultures in informed ways. 2000 level units critically examine the assumptions that underlie these themes.

Third year

3000 level units focus on diverse cultural areas around the world, exploring how anthropologists use competing and sometimes conflicting theories of society and culture to understand life in particular communities from small villages and social groups to nation-states and transnational organisations.

Third year units explore central questions in Anthropology in depth. This includes units that focus on a single cultural area and the debates amongst anthropologists working in that region; units that review different theories of culture, society and the human condition; and units that help you develop skills in Anthropology’s unique research method, participant-observation/ethnographic field work. On completion of a major you will understand how anthropology complements and contributes to the work of other social science and humanities disciplines. As part of a major you will also complete at least one substantial project that requires a synthesis of research, analytic and writing skills.


Anthropology Honours provides you with the opportunity to research in greater detail a region of the world or comparative theme that you have become interested in during the completion of your major. In your first semester you will do two seminar based units of study 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 dissertation. They 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 following skills:

  • time and work management over a prolonged period of time;
  • efficient reading and note-taking practices
  • how to organise large volumes of research material and references;
  • how to structure and write a literature review;
  • how to integrate analysis with your empirical data in the writing of your chapters;
  • and, how to revise and edit text in several draft stages

Most importantly you will gain the intellectual satisfaction of developing and completing your own project and of turning anthropology to your own purposes.

If you commenced your degree prior to 2018: Admission to Honours requires a 42cp in senior Anthropology units, including units ANTH3601 and ANTH3602, with an average grade of 70 percent or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018 or later: Admission to Honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major and an added 6 senior credit points in Anthropology, including units ANTH3601 and ANTH3602, with an average of 70 percent or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing Honours.

Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in Anthropology provides students with a major in Anthropology the opportunity to develop superior research, writing and communication skills through advanced level coursework. The BAdvStudies in Anthropology is a one year program that will open up new career options, building on knowledge and skills developed in your undergraduate major and adding significant value.

The degree requires you to complete two 6 credit-point advanced coursework units and a 12 credit-point project in Anthropology. One coursework unit focuses on questions of cultural difference, inequality and power in local and international settings. The second unit deals with competing visions of inequality, environmental change and cultural difference in conservation and development projects. The project units give you an opportunity to apply anthropological skills and knowledge to a contemporary social question that you choose, and to do so in a supportive seminar environment of structured planning, progress review and exchange of ideas and experiences. You may complement your project and advanced coursework units in Anthropology with two electives. On completion of the BAdvStudies in Anthropology, you will have superior skills and knowledge of the discipline that will enable you to contribute to constructive new perspectives on contemporary social questions, in ways that have wider public impact and employment value.

Contact and further information

Department website:
Chair of Department: Dr Robbie Peters