University of Massachusetts Amherst

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The Graduate Program

Deadline to apply is December 15

The graduate program in anthropology enables students to become fully competent anthropologists. This goal is common to all the programs our graduate students in anthropology pursue; yet it is realized differently from one student to another according to the expectations of faculty and students and the notions of what constitutes a competent anthropologist. While there is considerable diversity among our faculty concerning these expectations, there is a general consensus about the vision, making this a distinctive place to become a fully competent anthropologist. So what is that vision?

Traditionally, anthropology has been considered a four-field discipline, one comprised of the study of the cultures of peoples past and present, of human biology, and of language. The merging of these rather disparate concerns arose in the context of the development of the American research university in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The tendency, in the over-specialized late twentieth century, is for each of these sub-fields to be treated as independent of one another. However, we believe that one who is sensitive to the interplay of the past and the present, biology and culture, symbols and action, is most likely to come to a distinctively anthropological understanding of the human condition -- one that appreciates both the holism and the diversity of the ways of being human.

A practical implication of this understanding is that we have designed a set of requirements which embrace a four-field approach to anthropology. In choosing courses and in selecting topics both for statements of field and for the thesis and dissertation, students will find the faculty encouraging the development of breadth as well as particular skill in a chosen sub-field. Students in this program can expect to be regularly asked about the relevance of their work for practitioners in other sub-fields.

In realizing this vision of holism and diversity in educating fully competent anthropologists, we aim to interact with students as colleagues. Colleagues excel at making good presentations at professional meetings, writing interesting research papers and monographs, keeping one another up to date on the field, offering constructively critical commentary of one another's research, writing, and teaching, and participating actively in other ways in the community of anthropologists.

Though course work, theses, and defenses are crucial in fostering some of these collegial abilities, others develop only outside of classroom settings --in informal reading groups, one-on-one conversations, discussions in the lounge (Machmer 201), and regular all-department seminars, or regional or national meetings. These abilities cannot be learned in a simple rote manner, but require continual practice borne out of a substantial commitment on the part of students to craft their own understanding and its practice. As a practical result of this vision, students are expected to take responsibility for their own education and will be expected to do this outside of course work.


Graduate Handbook

Graduate Handbook (2015 Version being updated)