Anthony Jack visits a class at Amherst College
Anthony Jack ’07 in a classroom discussion with Professor Leah Schmalzbauer’s class (“Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class and Gender in the United States”)

About the Major

Our courses foster the kind of critical thinking that enables students to meet the challenges of global citizenship in the 21st century. Students learn to question conventional wisdom, wherever they find it.

The Anthropology and Sociology program is committed to familiarizing students with the systematic analysis of culture and social life. While anthropology once tended to focus on pre-industrial peoples and sociology on peoples in industrial societies, both disciplines are now thoroughly involved in understanding the contemporary, globalizing world--albeit through the use of somewhat distinctive methodologies. Moreover, both disciplines share a common theoretical and epistemological history such that insights garnered from one are relevant to the other.

Students will major in either Anthropology or Sociology (though a combined major is, under special circumstances, possible).

Anthropology majors will normally take ANTH 112 (Sociocultural Anthropology), 323 (History of Anthropological Theory), and 332 (Topics in Contemporary Anthropology), and at least one Sociology course. In addition, majors will take at least four additional Anthropology electives. At least four of these courses, including 323 (History of Anthropological Theory), and 332 (Topics in Contemporary Anthropology), should be taken at Amherst College.  Anthropology courses at levels 100 or 200 are well suited for students with little or no background in Anthropology as well as for students who have taken previous Anthropology courses.

Sociology majors will normally take SOCI 315 (Foundations of Sociological Theory), and 316 (Social Research) and at least one Anthropology course.  In addition, majors will take at least five additional Sociology electives. At least four of these courses, including  SOCI 315 (Foundations of Sociological Theory) and 316 (Social Research) should be taken at Amherst College. Courses especially well suited for students with little or no background in Sociology include SOCI 112 (Self and Society: An Introduction to Sociology), 226 (Unequal Footprints on the Earth:  Understanding the Social Drivers of Ecological Crises and Environmental Inequality), 234 (Social Class), and 237 (Dilemmas of Diversity:  The Case of Higher Education).

Candidates for degrees with Departmental Honors will include ANTH/SOCI 498 and 499 (Senior Honors) in addition to the other major requirements. 

Majors fulfill the department’s comprehensive examination by getting a grade of B or better in the relevant theory course ANTH  323 (History of Anthropological Theory) or SOCI 315 (Foundations of Sociological Theory). Those who fail to do so will write a paper on a topic in theory set by the Department.

Students who wish to start exploring our department are welcome to start with almost any course in our department. All our courses at levels 100 and 200 are well suited for students with little or no background in Anthropology or Sociology, as well as for students who have taken Anthropology or Sociology courses before. Many of our 300 level courses have no prerequisites and may also be suitable for students who have never taken a course in Anthropology or Sociology before, though most 300 level courses tend to be more specialized, have heavier workloads, and/or have more students with more background knowledge of the topic of the course (even if they have no background in Anthropology or Sociology per se) than 100 and 200 level courses.