Brown University’s doctoral program integrates graduate students into the vibrant and dynamic intellectual life of the department, university, and discipline through a holistic approach to the study of human sociality, past and present. The value of the training we offer is reflected in the success of our graduates. They have found academic and professional positions at leading universities and colleges, museums, research centers, and other institutions where they draw directly on their anthropological expertise.
While all of our doctoral students complete a core curriculum stressing comprehensive grounding in the field’s key methods and theories, our students specialize in one of three areas of faculty strength: socio-cultural anthropology, anthropological archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. Some students further specialize in one of the our particular areas of strength, including demographic anthropology, the anthropology of development, Mesomaerican archaeology, historical archaeology, medical anthropology, the anthropology of Latin America, or the anthropology of Africa. Some of these specializations entail formal affiliation with other units on campus, including the Population Studies and Training Center and the Graduate Program in Development, housed in Brown’s Watson Institute for International Affairs. Faculty research and teaching cover a wide range of anthropological interests; additional areas of strength at Brown include political anthropology, historical anthropology, linguistic and semiotic anthropology, ethnicity, gender, ancient writing and representation, bioarchaeology, and urbanism.
Brown’s graduate program is primarily PhD granting. Although doctoral students must complete requirements for a Master's degree during their course of study, no students are admitted to the department solely to seek a Master's degree. Terminal Master's degrees are granted at departmental discretion. In recent years, the department has received roughly 120 applications for graduate study. We have typically made offers of admission to roughly 8 students, all of whom receive full five-year funding packages.
Prospective students are encouraged to reach out to the Director of Graduate Admissions, Andrew Scherer. The Director of Graduate Training, Paja Faudree, is the primary point of contact for first and second year graduate students. Any other inquiries related to the graduate program should be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies, Nadje Al-Ali.
The program in socio-cultural anthropology is both deep and broad, and allows students to pursue a wide range of ethnographic and theoretical interests. The training we offer encourages graduate students to engage the full breadth of the modern human experience through the lens of ethnography: the long-term qualitative study of social processes in a particular context or setting. While we do not stress particular theoretical perspectives, our training stresses a synthesis of foundational approaches and cutting-edge contemporary developments in the field. Our core classes equip students to engage critically with the distinct analytical lenses by which anthropologists understand the modern world, especially the nebulous concept of "culture," which continues to define the discipline even as its use poses ongoing challenges. Specialized courses engage with particular theoretical, methodological, and topical issues of importance, such as medical anthropology, war and violence, human trafficking, and transnationalism. Courses are also offered that focus on particular societies around the world, or on particular theoretical trends.
The program in anthropological archaeology combines theoretical and methodological rigor with a focus on the indigenous and colonial past of the Americas. Current faculty and graduate research is especially focused on colonial New England, the American Southwest, and the ancient Maya. In order to conduct their research, anthropological archaeology Ph.D. students study the history of the discipline, contemporary archaeological theory, and train in a diversity of areas including, but not limited to, artifact analysis, survey and mapping, remote sensing, bioarchaeology, and epigraphy. Our students also capitalize on archaeological training at Brown's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology in the Ancient World and at other univerisities in the greater New England area. Ph.D. students are expected to engage in original field and laboratory research and opportunities are available to collaborate on faculty sponsored projects.
The program in linguistic anthropology involves the study of language in social context, both past and present, with a particular emphasis on viewing the intersection of language and society from a semiotic perspective. Like the discipline of anthropology as a whole, linguistic anthropology at Brown is grounded in comparative methodologies. Linguistic anthropology at Brown emphasizes the dynamic synthesis of social theory and ethnography with the analysis of linguistic forms, practices, and ideologies. Thus while training for students in linguistic anthropology involves engagement with the linguistic structures that have been the central focus of research by linguists and others, our approach inserts this study of linguistic forms into a much more holistic approach to the social life of language. Through this focus, researchers are able to explore the ways that language not only makes human societies and human social relations possible, but how linguistic practices allow societies to be both reproduced and transformed. Furthermore, this approach allows students in our other programs (socio-cultural anthropology and anthropological archaeology) or even in other disciplines to take the theoretical and methodological insights of linguistic anthropology and apply them to their own research. Graduate course offerings in linguistic anthropology include a basic introductory course to the subfield as well as more advanced offerings on topics aligning with faculty research interests. Courses in this latter category draw on some of Brown’s broader strengths, including the study of language in Latin America, discourse and the media, historical approaches to language and society, and the intersection of politics, society, and speech.