The Princeton University Department of Anthropology takes an interpretive approach to contemporary realities and to the social worlds that people create and inhabit. We are interested in the comparative study of cultures, their interplay and relation to the past. The Department offers both an undergraduate major and a Ph.D. program.
Our framing of anthropological inquiry encompasses cultural process and change, the meanings of social action for participants and observers, the politics of the production of knowledge, cultural diversity and transnational flows of people, objects, and ideas. We are committed to ethnographic curiosity: methods adapted to intensive fieldwork in particular places, conceptual innovations in the use and organization of evidence, depth in which questions are explored, and modes of ethical engagement in generating knowledge and social and political action, which not only critique the past or present but also enable ongoing relationships that might contribute to reshaping the world outside the academy.
The thirteen full-time faculty in our Department are invested in the study of social and cultural encounters in both familiar and unfamiliar parts of the world, with strengths in North Africa and the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Africa, the Pacific Islands, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. In addition, anthropologists in other programs affiliated with the Department work in Japan, China, Korea, Bolivia, and the former Soviet Union.
Our theoretical and topical orientations are multiple and interdisciplinary, forward-looking, informed by a reflective appreciation of the history of the discipline as it has developed in various locations and of its distinct understandings of itself. In our pedagogy we emphasize individual and collective advising that supports independent thinking, experimentation, and versatility in the pursuit of research.
Our common interests and special orientations include the study of:
- Interpretive methodologies, fieldwork experience, social theory, and disciplinary knowledges and ethics
- Comparative religion, ritual, literature, languages, and the media
- Psycho-social life, intimacy and sexualities, gender, and psychoanalysis
- Biomedicine, global health initiatives, wellbeing and human rights, and social studies of science
- Law, criminality, property, indigenous rights, and concepts, forms, and practices of power
- International orders, development, war, violence, and the globalization of culture, exchange, and values
- Implications for modern humans of biological and cultural evolution
The Department hosts an annual Clifford Geertz Commemorative Lecture, inaugurated in 2009:
- 2009 - Philippe Descola, Chair of the Anthropology of Nature at the Collège de France
- 2010 - Dame Marilyn Strathern, Emerita William Wyse, Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University
- 2011 - Paul Willis, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University
- 2012 - Michael D. Jackson, Distinguished Visiting Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School
- 2013 - Tania Murray Li of the University of Toronto
- 2014 - Michael Lambek, Canada Research Chair & Chair, Department of Anthropology at University of Toronto Scarborough
- 2015 - Jean Comaroff, Harvard University
- 2016 - Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (March 30, 2016)
- 2017 - James Scott, Yale University (March 9, 2017)
We also maintain an ongoing colloquium and intra-departmental works-in-progress series.