A photograph of a quilt with MIT Anthro stitched alongside two quilted people

(Photo courtesy of the MIT Anthropology department.)

Anthropology studies humankind from a comparative perspective that emphasizes the diversity of human behavior and the importance of culture in explaining that diversity. 

While the discipline encompasses the biological nature of our species and the material aspects of human adaptation, it takes as fundamental the idea that we respond to nature and natural forces in large part through culture. Anthropology, then, is the study of human beings as cultural animals. Sociocultural anthropology draws its data from the direct study of contemporary peoples living in a wide variety of circumstances, from peasant villagers and tropical forest hunters and gatherers to urban populations in modern societies, as well as from the history and prehistory of those peoples.

The Anthropology Program at MIT offers students a broad exposure to the discipline as well as an anthropological perspective on problems and issues relevant to other fields in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering. It also provides more intensive introduction to areas of faculty specialization, which include social and political organization, economics and human ecology, religion and symbolism, and the anthropology of medicine and scientific research. Geographical specializations include cultures of Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States.

The anthropology curriculum is divided into six groups that show the breadth of the field, with particular emphases: introductory, social anthropology, technology in cultural context, and areal and historical studies. Special topics in anthropology and advanced graduate subjects are also offered.

MIT Anthropology students learn about the concept of culture, the nature of anthropological fieldwork, and the connections between anthropology and the other social sciences. They study the various theories that attempt to explain human behavior as well as the range of methods anthropologists use to analyze data. Students can focus on geographical areas, and on issues like neocolonialism, gender studies, religion and symbolism, or comparative political organization.

Anthropology Courses

Course # Course Title Level
21A.00 Introduction to Anthropology Undergraduate
21A.01 How Culture Works Undergraduate
21A.110 Anthropological Theory Undergraduate
21A.112 Seminar in Ethnography and Fieldwork Undergraduate
21A.113J The Supernatural in Music, Literature and Culture Undergraduate
21A.114J Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies Undergraduate
21A.142 Japanese Literature and Cinema Undergraduate
21A.143J Gender and Japanese Popular Culture Undergraduate
21A.150 Teaching and Learning: Cross-Cultural Perspectives Undergraduate
21A.211 Magic, Witchcraft, and the Spirit World Undergraduate
21A.212 Myth, Ritual, and Symbolism Undergraduate
21A.215 Disease and Health: Culture, Society, and Ethics Undergraduate
21A.217 Anthropology of War and Peace Undergraduate
21A.218J Identity and Difference Undergraduate
21A.219 Law and Society Undergraduate
21A.224J Introduction to Latin American Studies (Fall 2005) Undergraduate
21A.226 Ethnic and National Identity Undergraduate
21A.230J The Contemporary American Family Undergraduate
21A.231J Gender, Sexuality, and Society Undergraduate
21A.232J Rethinking the Family, Sex, and Gender Undergraduate
21A.235 American Dream: Exploring Class in the U.S. Undergraduate
21A.240 Race and Science Undergraduate
21A.245J Power: Interpersonal, Organizational and Global Dimensions Undergraduate
21A.260 Culture, Embodiment and the Senses Undergraduate
21A.265 Food and Culture Undergraduate
21A.270 Anthropology Through Speculative Fiction Undergraduate
21A.302J Dilemmas in Bio-Medical Ethics: Playing God or Doing Good? Undergraduate
21A.303J Anthropology of Biology Undergraduate
21A.319 History and Anthropology of Medicine and Biology Undergraduate
21A.336 Marketing, Microchips and McDonalds: Debating Globalization Undergraduate
21A.337J Documenting Culture Undergraduate
21A.338J Gender, Power, and International Development Undergraduate
21A.341J Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies Undergraduate
21A.342 Environmental Struggles Undergraduate
21A.344J Drugs, Politics, and Culture Undergraduate
21A.348 Photography and Truth Undergraduate
21A.350J Cultures of Computing Undergraduate
21A.360J The Anthropology of Sound Undergraduate
21A.411J People and Other Animals (Fall 2013) Undergraduate
21A.430J Introduction to Latin American Studies (Fall 2006) Undergraduate
21A.441 The Conquest of America Undergraduate
21A.442J Violence, Human Rights, and Justice Undergraduate
21A.445J Slavery and Human Trafficking in the 21st Century Undergraduate
21A.453 Anthropology of the Middle East Undergraduate
21A.460J Medicine, Religion and Politics in Africa and the African Diaspora Undergraduate
21A.461 What is Capitalism? Undergraduate
21A.470J Gender and Representation of Asian Women Undergraduate
21A.500J Technology and Culture Undergraduate
21A.501J Art, Craft, Science Undergraduate
21A.506 The Business of Politics: A View of Latin America Undergraduate
21A.550J DV Lab: Documenting Science Through Video and New Media Undergraduate
21A.801J Cross-Cultural Investigations: Technology and Development (Fall 2012) Undergraduate
21A.419J People and Other Animals (Fall 2013) Graduate
21A.750J Social Theory and Analysis Graduate
21A.839J Cross-Cultural Investigations: Technology and Development (Fall 2012) Graduate
21A.850J The Anthropology of Cybercultures Graduate

Archived Anthropology Courses

Some prior versions of courses listed above have been archived in OCW's DSpace@MIT repository for long-term access and preservation. Links to archived prior versions of a course may be found on that course's "Other Versions" tab.

Additionally, the Archived Anthropology Courses page has links to every archived course from this department.