Graduate Program in Anthropology
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The field of anthropology at Cornell has a long intellectual tradition. Its current emphasis is on understanding complex social and cultural systems through the analytical lenses provided by sociocultural anthropology, archaeology and biological anthropology. We deal with past and present sociocultural systems through our courses, taking special concern for cultural diversity in communities around the world.
The graduate program in anthropology aims to combine anthropologically-grounded knowledge with an understanding of the history of the discipline and the development of current theoretical debates. Methodological training emphasizes ethnographic and archaeological techniques embracing allied approaches that range from the humanities to the physical sciences.
Most members of the field of anthropology are also members of one or more of Cornell's many area studies, ethnic studies or interdisciplinary programs. Students can take courses and work with faculty from any of these programs.
Cornell's unique structure, which joins the private university to the land grant university, provides students with the opportunity to gain substantial training in a broad range of theoretical and practical applications of the discipline. Cornell's Libraries offer extensive holdings of special interest to anthropologists, including the world-renowned Wason-Echols Collections on South, Southeast, and East Asian history, cultures and languages in the Kroch Library.
The field of anthropology considers applicants for admission only once a year, for admission in the fall term. THE DEADLINE FOR RECEIPT OF APPLICATIONS IS JANUARY 1ST. Please note that applications are submitted and reviewed online, so make every effort to prepare digital versions of all supporting material. We urge fellowship applicants to apply as early as possible, to ensure that their folders will be complete prior to the fellowship competition review in late January/early February. (Please see Financial Assistance for related information.)
All applicants must submit a score for the GRE test. It is a good idea to take the GRE in October so that your score can be considered with the rest of your application materials. If you are not sure that the official report from the Educational Testing Service will reach us on time (e.g., from the December test), you may send an unofficial report as a stopgap. Scores up to five years old are acceptable. Although the requirement for GRE scores may be waived under extraordinary circumstances for prospective students living outside North America, all applicants should take the examination if possible.
An important component of the application is the statement of purpose. The admissions committee reads this essay to evaluate an applicant's focus in anthropology, to assess both his or her level of preparation and the fit between the applicant's aims and Cornell's resources. Please consider this essay an opportunity to explain not only why you seek training in anthropology, but why you seek it at Cornell, stating clearly the plan of study you propose to undertake.
All applicants whose native language is not English must provide proof of competency in the English language. All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by submitting official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Cornell must receive official TOEFL or IELTS scores before the university can process your application. TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid only if dated within two years of our application deadline. Scores must be submitted directly to the Graduate School by the Educational Testing Service.
For applicants living in regions where the TOEFL iBT is not available, Cornell will accept scores for the paper-based test (PBT). The Graduate School's official minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL iBT are:
Send scores to Cornell University Graduate School, Code # 2098.
Photocopies of TOEFL score reports will not be accepted.
Take the TOEFL early enough to have the results submitted at the time of your application. Exam dates are posted on the TOEFL web site.
The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.
When you register for the exam, you may select up to five institutions to which you would like to have your Test Report Form (TRF) mailed. You may also submit a request to your test center to have additional TRFs sent to institutions not originally listed on your registration form.
Have IELTS send your Test Report Form (either by postal mail, or electronically) to Cornell University -- Graduate Admissions. Please do not e-mail a scanned copy, or mail a photocopy of your TRF.
The English language proficiency requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:
- is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. are not exempt from the requirement.
- at the time you enroll at Cornell, you will have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa. Even if English was the language of instruction at your school, if you did not study in one of these countries you are not exempt from the requirement. You must submit a transcript that shows you attended college in one of the approved locations, and that your academic program was at least two years in length.
Be sure your complete application includes the following:
- The completed application form
- Transcripts from all relevant institutions (undergraduate and graduate schools)
- Letters of recommendation (minimum of 3)
- Statement of Purpose
- Writing sample (e.g., a term paper relevant to Anthropology)
- GRE scores
- For some non-native speakers of English, the TOEFL score
The application is online at the Graduate School website (http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/)
Students are free to design their own program of study both within the discipline and across disciplines, within a framework of requirements set by the field or the graduate school. Since individual students' backgrounds and objectives differ, it is not possible to define a "typical" program. The actual program for each student is determined by the student in consultation with, first, their temporary advisors and then with the three or four faculty who form their special committee. In general, Ph.D. students spend three years taking courses before initiating dissertation research. Dissertation research typically takes 1-2 years, followed by 1-2 years of dissertation writing. Entering students can therefore expect to spend a minimum of six years as fulltime students before receiving the doctoral degree.
Assignment of a Temporary Advisor
The Director of Graduate Studies will assign entering students a temporary advisor from the members of the field. This advisor will help the student develop a preliminary program of study and research, advising the student on how to fulfill the field requirements or, where applicable, on how to petition for exemption.
Anthropology Field Course Requirements
During the first year of graduate study, all students in sociocultural anthropology are required to take a two-semester sociocultural proseminar in anthropological theory. In addition to this core sequence, all students in sociocultural anthropology must take The Development of Anthropological Thought and Research Design before completing the Admission to Candidacy Examination (see below). This core would constitute four of the approximately 15-18 courses students would take while pursuing a normal two- to three-year program prior to the Admission to Candidacy Exam. Students with previous graduate training in anthropology may, in consultation with their advisors, petition the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Affairs Committee to waive one or more of these requirements. Students who have formed their special committee can petition their committee directly. The Special Committee can grant exemptions to any field requirement.
During the first two years of study, all students in archaeological anthropology are strongly encouraged to take the two-semester sociocultural proseminar in anthropological theory, the Development of Anthropological Thought seminar, and Research Design. In addition, all students in archaeological anthropology must take one graduate-level course in archaeological theory and the one-credit Introduction to Cornell Archaeology class offered each fall prior to completing the Admission to Candidacy Examination. Graduate students in archaeology are strongly advised, moreover, to be informed of subject matter and issues in related subfields, and the disciplines that articulate with their individual programs of study and professional aspirations, e.g., sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, the natural sciences, humanities-based archaeologies, area studies and statistics. Regardless of subfield, students with previous graduate training in anthropology may, in consultation with their advisors, petition the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Affairs Committee to waive one or more of these requirements. When students have formed their special committees, they can petition their committee directly. The Special Committee can grant exemption to any field requirement.
During the first two years of study, all students in biological anthropology are strongly encouraged to take the two-semester sociocultural proseminar in anthropological theory. In addition, all students in biological anthropology must develop a course of study acceptable to their committee before completing the Admission to Candidacy Examination. Graduate students in biological anthropology are strongly advised to be informed of subject matter and issues in related subfields and disciplines that articulate with the individual programs of study and professional aspirations, e.g., sociocultural anthropology, archaeology and the natural sciences. Regardless of subfield, students with previous graduate training in anthropology may, in consultation with their advisors, petition the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Affairs Committee to waive one or more of these requirements. When students have formed their special committees, they can petition their committee directly. The Special Committee can grant exemption to any field requirement.
Forming a Committee
Students form their own committees in the course of the first year of study. The structure of the committee reflects the students' own intellectual objectives. Any member of the field may serve as the committee chair for anthropology students. The remaining two or three members may be drawn from the graduate faculty at large. Thus, students' committees may reflect focal interests within anthropology; for example, all members are drawn from within the field or they may reflect interdisciplinary objectives, such as minor fields, area studies and/or other disciplines.
Within Anthropology, students can choose among the various concentrations: sociocultural anthropology, archaeology and biological anthropology.
Before the end of the first year, but after they have formed a Special Committee, students must convene a meeting with their committee and pass a "Qualifying Exam" (often called a "Q Exam"). The contents of this exam are determined by the committee and focus upon defining an appropriate course of pre-fieldwork study.
At the discretion of the committee, students may be required to learn one or more foreign languages pertinent to their proposed area of study and research.
Admission to Candidacy Examination
This exam, often called the "A Exam," is taken between the fourth and sixth semesters in residence and is the culmination of pre-dissertation fieldwork preparation. It is administered by the special committee. The examination consists of written and oral parts and successful completion formally admits a student to candidacy for the doctoral degree. Students who successfully pass these A-examinations are awarded a Masters Degree.
Teaching is a vital part of training in the field of anthropology at Cornell. Graduate students are expected to gain active experience as teachers before being awarded the Ph.D.
Dissertation Field Research
The Cornell program in anthropology values intensive field research. Our students regularly undertake two full years of largely independent work, funded externally with the advice and backing of their Special Committee.
The final exam, often called the "B Exam," is an oral examination of the thesis. This exam is administered and evaluated by the Special committee.
The major sources of financial aid for entering students in anthropology are listed below. Some applicants manage to obtain funding from sources not usually tapped by anthropologists. Your college advising center can help you in this search. We advise prospective graduate students from abroad to apply for any appropriate grants offered by public or private institutions in their home country or by American or International agencies (such as Ford Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Harvard Yenching Foundation, Organization of American States) that support foreign nationals undertaking advanced study in the U.S. All continuing students, regardless of nationality, are eligible to apply for teaching assistantships and other Cornell awards.
Cornell University Fellowships Students who are offered admission to the PhD program who have no outside funding sources are simultaneously awarded a package of support consisting of a combination of Cornell University Fellowships, usually for the first academic year, and Field guarantees (a promise to provide an assistantship should other sources of fellowship support not be forthcoming) for support during subsequent years of a student's program. It is the goal of this field to provide some form of tuition and stipend support support for a minimum of four years to all students who are admitted. Continuing students are expected to apply to external sources of support in order to increase the Field's total resources available for graduate training.
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS)
Citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. who plan to minor in one of Cornell's International Studies Programs (ISPs) (East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Western Societies, Slavic and East European Studies) should request a FLAS application form from the fellowship office, Sage Graduate Center. Applications become available in November and are due in January. Any applicants considering research that involves one of the following languages should contact the relevant area program for a FLAS application. These fellowships provide a stipend and tuition fellowship. Programs likely to receive federal funds this year are:
- Africa: Swahili, Yoruba (For further clarification, contact the Africana Studies Program.)
- East Asia: Chinese, Japanese, Korean (Separate application procedure; contact East Asia Program, 140 Uris Hall, 255-6222.
- Latin America: Portuguese, Quechua (Not available 2008-2009)
- South Asia: Bengali, Hindi-Urdu, Nepali, Sinhala
- SouthEast Asia: Burmese, Khmer (Cambodian), Indonesian/Malay, Javanese, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese
- Institute for European Studies: Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Swedish. (For further clarification, contact the Institute for European Studies.)
Teaching Assistantships (TAs)
TAs spend about 15 hours per week assisting the faculty in undergraduate courses. Second- and third-year students who are making satisfactory progress toward the PhD degree have priority in the allocation of TAships. TAs are paid a stipend and are offered full-tuition fellowships. Other teaching positions are also available through the John S. Knight Institute.
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships
The fellowships are intended for U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are college seniors or first-year graduate students at the time of application. Awards are for a period of three years and provide a 12-month stipend plus a cost of education allowance. The deadline for receipt of preliminary applications is in mid-November.
In addition, NSF Minority Graduate Research Fellowships are available to U.S. citizens who are members of an ethnic minority group underrepresented in the advanced levels of the nation's science talent pool. Minority fellowships are available on the same terms as the NSF graduate fellowships. All eligible candidates should make timely application for this fellowship. For more information please visit http://www.nsfgradfellows.org.
Financial Assistance for Continuing Students
The Director of Graduate Studies and other faculty members assist graduate students in locating financial support to continue their studies and conduct field research. In addition, summer research funds and support for conference participation are also available on a competitive basis.
Cornell-Nepal Study Program
The Cornell-Nepal Study Program is a joint program of Cornell University and Tribhuvan University, the national university of Nepal. Qualified graduate students work with faculty from both universities to prepare for and undertake field research projects in Nepal. Students receive 15 credits per semester. Application is through the Cornell Abroad Program.
The field occasionally permits an applicant to register for coursework only, without admitting the student to either the doctoral or MA program. Non-degree candidates include graduate students at other American universities who wish to devote one or two semesters to intensive study of the language or culture of the region where they will later do fieldwork, students from abroad who desire some exposure to American anthropology and employees of government agencies or corporations who have been sent to Cornell for specialized training, among others. In all cases, the admissions committee must pass on the applicant's qualifications and must approve the specific objectives he or she has in mind. The field does not regard non-degree candidates as graduate students on probation, and strongly discourages anyone from applying for this status with the intention of improving his or her chances for admission to the PhD program later on. Non-degree candidates pay the same tuition as degree candidates. Non-degree candidates are not eligible for fellowships from Cornell sources.
For More Information
For more information on the Graduate Program in Anthropology, contact our Director of Graduate Studies:
Office: McGraw 200
Current Graduate Students
- Sena Aydin (email) Sociocultural anthropology | political economy/neoliberalism, politics of value, informal economies and bottom-up economic models, social movements and civic engagement, citizenship, democracy, feminist and engaged ethnography, Spain, Southern Europe
- Jason Blaesing (email) North Peruvian curanderismo (healing); anthropology of numbers; medical anthropology; materiality and embodiment; ethnohistory; philosophy and epistemology of the social sciences
- Gabrielle Borenstein (email) archaeology of the South Caucasus and Ancient Near East; prehistory; ritual and religion; space and landscape; ethnicity and identity; social archaeology
- Rebekah Ciribassi (email) medical anthropology; science and technology studies; ethnohistory and historiography; nation-building and nationalisms; embodiment and bodily ontologies; biomedical epistemologies; sickle cell disease; Tanzania, African studies
- Amy Cromartie
- Alexandra Dalferro (email) materiality, visual anthropology, sensory ethnography, cultural heritage discourses, craft and embodiment, textiles; Thailand, Cambodia
- Sampreety Gurung (email)
- Oradi Inkhong (email)
- Anastasia Kotsoglou (email)
- Austin Kramer (email)
- Liam Lawson (email) "Functional foods", herbals and other informal medicinals, non-human subjects and their worlds, ecological approaches to anthropology; transgenics, the use of model organisms, the ethnography of bioscience, epistemology in the life sciences; the ethnography of health and safety regulation, anxiety as motivation, risk and rationalization, "precarity" and existential insecurity; the anthropology of Japan, current demographic change in Japan.
- Austin Lord (email) Economic anthropology, political ecology, Nepal & Himalayan studies, disaster studies, the water-energy nexus, affective infrastructures, development finance, risk and uncertainty, electricity in the global south, environmental justice, citizenship and subjectivity, securitization and shareholder value, corporate social responsibility, disaster risk reduction, resilience and vulnerability, sovereignty and territory, borderlands, place and landscape, material agencies and flows, hope and anticipation, the politics of memory, future-making practices, mobility, radical cartography, public anthropology, visual ethnography.
- Amir Mohamed (email)
- Natalie Nesvaderani (email)
- Rachel Odhner (email) human/environment relationships; agriculture and agricultural development; knowledge; political ecology; Nicaragua/Latin America
- Christos Panagiotopoulos (email)
- Jinglin Piao
- Simon Posner
- Samantha Sanft (email) Archaeology, cultural entanglement, interculturation, agency, exchange of exotic materials; North America, Iroquois
- Elif Sari (email) Anthropology of borders, migration, asylum, displacement, diaspora; gender, sexuality, body, desire; Middle East, Turkey, North America; queer asylum from the Middle East to North America via Turkey.
- Trishna Senapaty (email)
- Xisai Song
- Jose Castaneda(email) Latin America; urban anthropology; violence and conflict; incarceration; security; U.S.-Mexican border culture; immigration policy and issues; immigrant health; transnationalism; informal economy; labor markets
- Adam Dewbury (email) Development, Conservation, Political Ecology, Time, Morality; North America
- Aimee Douglas (email)
- John Gorczyk (email) Zooarchaeology, anthropology of human-animal relationships, early farming communities, hunting and herding, archaeological theory, European prehistory; Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe.
- Emily Hong (email)
- Mariangela Jordan (email)
- Ting Hui Lau (email) Chinese ethnology, Southwest China, ethnicity, healing, perceptions of time, and ritual practices.
- Pauline Limbu (email)
- Eudes Lopes (email) ethnography of law and politics, federal power, citizenship and identity, relationship between aesthetics and epistemology, United States
- Tim Mclellan (email) Anthropology of law, technocracy, ethnoracial identity, constitutional theory, law and development, economic anthropology
- Laura Menchaca (email)
- Erin Routon (email) Academic Foci/Interests: religion, material and visual culture/material theory, U.S.-Mexico borderlands, refuse, immigration, agency, gender, religious asceticism and pilgrimage
- Annie Sheng (email) Food, consumption, global capitalism, identity and social meaning production, diaspora, transnationalism, popular culture; East Asia: Japan, China, Taiwan; US
- Marcel Taminato (email) Buddhism, Monarchy, Politics of Knowledge, Ethnographic Writing, Anthropology of the State, Corruption and Elites, Anthropological Theory, History of Anthropology, Linguistics, Thailand, Brazi
- Blanca Torres (email) U.S./Mexico borderlands, indigenous diaspora, trans-border Mixtec and Zapotec communities, immigrant women, transnational identity, autonomy, and agency
- Namgyal (Nanjie) Tsepak (email)
- I-fan Wu (email) Media, exchange, religion, performance, the politics of language use, dance, healing and the body; Malaysia
- Mirabelle Yang (email) Gender, globalization, youth culture, popular media, love, friendship, the self, modernity, comparative ethics, psychological anthropology, the post(?)colonial. Southeast Asia; Cambodia, Singapore.
- Charis Boke (email) Anthropology of time and resource, embodiment, activism, locating the local; North America, New England
- Thi Thuy Hong Bui (email) Sustainable development, urban planning, poverty reduction, Vietnam, Southeast Asia
- Michael Carpentier (email) Native American Languages, language ideologies, translation politics, orthography, semiotics; Ojibwe, USA/Canada.
- Dambar Chemjong (email) Adivasi history and territoriality, Hindu colonial state, politics of difference and identity, cultural rights, Politics of Limbuwan, Limbu, Nepal Himalaya, South Asia
- Laura Cocora (email) Environmental and development policy and legislation, policy discourse, cultural heritage, bio-cultural diversity, sustainable agriculture, agro-food systems, water resources, landscapes, international organizations, FAO, global/local interactions, constructions of locality and culture in policy; ritual, performing arts, visual anthropology, Japanese religion, esoteric Buddhism; Japan, East Asia, the Andes, Ecuador.
- Can Dalyan (email) Biodiversity, climate change, plant sciences, biopolitics, anthropological theory, temporality, science and colonialism, postcolonial technoscience, fiction, Cold War cultural studies; Turkey
- Karlie Fox-Knudtsen (email) Anthropology of religion, sovereignty and class, temporality and modernity, corporations and environment; India, Odisha.
- Peregrine Gerard-Little (email) Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Archaeology and History, human/landscape interactions, colonialism, wood charcoal, archaeogeophysics.
- Alexander Gordon (email) Anthropology of insurance, climate change, law and culture, ecologies of risk, pollution
- Elena Herminia Guzman (email) Caribbean, Black diaspora, diaspora studies, performance, visual anthropology; Haiti, Dominican Republic
- Vincent Ialenti (email) Temporality, legal knowledge, foresight, epistemology, risk, environmental regulation
- Emily Levitt (email)
- Juliana Duque Mahecha (email) Food, ethics, modernity: cuisine, identity, nationhood. Latin America, Colombia
- Mariana Saavedra Espinosa (email)
- Ashley Smith (email)
- Scott Sorrell (email) Queer theory, urban anthropology, politics of recognition, sexuality, intimacy, and space; South India, Bangalore
- Emiko Stock (email) ethnography, ethno-history, Inter-ethnicities, (de ?)-construction of identity/ies, anthropology of the self, visual anthropology, the politics of tradition.Cambodia, Chams, Muslims in Cambodia
- Kathryn Weber (email) Archaeology, political authority, power and inequality, social zooarchaeology, spacial analysis and landscape, GIS; Eurasia: South Caucasus, Republic of Georgia