Research course

Social Anthropology

Harvard University

Entry requirements

A previous background of study in anthropology is not a prerequisite for admissions. However, successful candidates, whether they have studied anthropology previously or not, must be able to state clearly their interests in anthropology and demonstrate familiarity with intellectual issues in current anthropological theory and method.

Generally, successful applicants have a strong background in either a geographic, cultural region and/or a particular topical or theoretical interest in anthropology. The personal statement is required as part of the application and should make such backgrounds and interests very clear.

Prior preparation in languages related to an applicant’s intended area or areas of specialization is advantageous. Current language abilities should be explained in the application essay. Students in the graduate program are required to demonstrate that they have sufficient abilities for research in both a language they will use for conducting fieldwork and in a language in which there is a body of anthropological writing relevant to their proposed research.

Months of entry


Course content

The graduate program in Social Anthropology focuses on issues of globalism, ethnic politics, gender studies, “new” nationalisms, diaspora formation, transnationalism and local experience, medical anthropology, linguistic and semiotic anthropology, and media. Our mission is to develop new methodologies for an anthropology that tracks cultural developments in a global economy increasingly defined by the Internet and related technologies. Our graduate students (drawn from over 30 countries) expect to work in the worlds of academe, government, NGOs, law, medicine, and business. 

Knowing that material culture is a key element in the study of globalism and the new world economy, we work closely with staff from Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, who share our interests in redefining the study of popular culture, art, and the origins of industrial society. Research at the museum also makes it possible for us to maintain close ties to our departmental colleagues in the archaeology program. 

Fees and funding

5 years’ funding is guaranteed to all Harvard PhD students.

British citizens who are – or will be – graduates of British universities should check out both Kennedy Scholarships and Frank Knox Fellowships

Both of these awards typically offer full tuition and health insurance coverage and a generous stipend towards living expenses. They are offered annually in competition. A Frank Knox Fellowship can be particularly welcomed during the early stages of a doctoral degree and both awards offer considerable personal support from their networks.

Please note that you will need to submit your application to either or both awards ahead of the deadline for your Harvard application. Kennedy Scholarship and Frank Knox Fellowship applications are to be made online via their websites between mid-August and late-October in the same application season as you will submit your application to Harvard. Please also note they are totally separate from, and independent of, admission to the program. Awards made at interview in London in January are provisional, pending confirmation of a place on the course.

See both websites for full information.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    60 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Graduate Program Administrator
001 617 495 5564