About the Department

The University of Chicago’s Department of Anthropology is one of the leading centers of socio-cultural, linguistic, and archaeological research in the United States. Faculty and students pursue knowledge in areas such as archaeology, linguistic anthropology, human rights, indigenous groups, globalization, the politics of race, gender, sexuality, mass media, visual culture, and the study of science and technology. In research seminars, workshops, conferences, and weekly colloquium, MAPSS students interact with senior scholars and doctoral students in a collaborative and supportive environment. In addition to Department faculty and students, MAPSS Students also work with anthropologists and archaeologists in the Divinity School, Oriental Institute, and the Harris School for Public Policy.

MAPSS Support for Anthropology

MAPSS and the Department of Anthropology collaborate closely to advise and mentor the approximately 40 MAPSS students who concentrate in Anthropology each year. Preceptors provide advice on course selections, faculty advisors, and thesis projects.

Victoria Gross and Ella Wilhoit are MAPSS preceptors and Earl S. Johnson Instructors in Anthropology. Dr. Gross holds a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University, an MA in Religious Studies, and a BA in Sociology and Religion from McGill University. Her research interests include the politics of affect and emotion, performative hierarchy and masculinity, urban community formation, and parastate sovereignty in the context of India’s young democracy. 

Dr. Wilhoit holds a PhD and MA in Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Northwestern University and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from Vanderbilt University. Her research interests include gender, sexuality and labor, governmentality and statecraft, rural life and 21st-century kinship strategies. 

Recent MAPSS graduates have gone on for the Anthropology PhD at NYU, UC-Irvine, UChicago, and Stanford, among other programs.

Recent Anthropology Classes Taken by MAPSS Students

A full list of graduate courses is available here.

ANTH 34730/22765. Ethnographic Approaches to Power and Resistance. This introductory graduate course will examine understandings of power articulated by influential political theorists and ethnographers. We will explore key theoretical concepts, including discipline, governmentality, sovereignty, hegemony, agency, and resistance, as well as their application within textured, intersubjective, and affectively oriented ethnographic texts. Seeing power grounded in tentative and unstable practices, we will focus on the tensions between nation-states, informal networks, and the actions and aspirations of individual subjects. How are attempts to consolidate power articulated in performances, narrative histories, and acts of exclusion and violence? How are competing de facto and de jure powers negotiated in various spaces ranging from the institutional to the intimate? The centrality of both physical violence and the complacency born of the naturalized hegemony of political institutions and economic rationality will arise in our examinations of political mobilization and possibility. This course will give students opportunities to develop conceptual understandings of various modes of power that offer insights into the forces of colonialism, global interconnectivity, and violence that shape the 21st century world. Victoria Gross, Earl S. Johnson Instructor in Anthropology.

ANTH 37201. Language in Culture (Language in Culture-1 and Language in Culture-2 must be taken in sequence.) The first quarter of the two-quarter Language in Culture sequence introduces a number of analytic concepts developed out of the study of “language” and its limits. We begin with the study of “interaction order” in its multifunctional complexity, teasing out its constitution through the real-time unfolding of indexical (pragmatic) and reflexive (metapragmatic) signs/functions as coherent “text.” We use this attention to the dialectics of indexicality and its various implications to investigate various problematics in the philosophy of language (reference, performativity), linguistics (poetics, grammatical sense, variation, register), and sociocultural anthropology (racialization, relativity, subjectivity/identity, temporality, institutionality). Constantine Nakassis, Associate Professor 

ANTH 51955. Governing by Design. Design governs our attention, albeit in ways that are simultaneously conspicuous and obscure. While we invariably acknowledge and celebrate the grand designs of our buildings and infrastructure, we do not typically recognize the designs embedded in our technological devices and arrays that inform our gestures, thoughts, and politics. Such transparency and opacity complicate not only notions of rational and functional design, but also our implicit experience of so-called “good design,” the commons, and democracy. This seminar will explore these qualities of design through the relationship between governance and design from the 20th century to the present. Treating governance in capacious terms, we will look at but also beyond the work of design in mediating between power and population, bodies and capital. We will consider as well, the ways in which design is called upon to solve social, political, ecological, and technological crises. Course material will draw on theoretical texts on design along with anthropologies of the urban, environment, and technology. Michael Fisch, Associate Professor, and Johannes Bruder

ANTH 52615. Theorizing the State in Africa. In this course, we will examine the ways the state has been theorized in Africa, as shifts within the discipline of anthropology engender shifts in the conceptualization of political life in Africa. The course asks how the theorization of the state in Africa relates to that of the state more broadly in Anthropology, and beyond. In it, we will consider the variegated histories of how state forms emerged in Africa, interrogating the ways colonialism, independence movements, and the postcolonial have informed political formation. We will study the representational politics and discursive practices of how the state is thought and made from within and outside the continent. The course asks: is there such a thing as an ‘African state’? Even as anthropologists are studying the state ‘from the ground up,’ what would it look like to rethink the state from outside of a western canon? The class will draw on a range of sources and materials including African literature, ethnographies, films, music, and political philosophy.  Kathryn Takabvirwa, Assistant Professor

ANTH 58600. Social Theory of the City. This graduate seminar explores various historical, sociological and anthropological theories of cities. The course analyzes major theoretical frameworks concerned with urban forms, institutions and experience as well as particular instances of city development from pre-modern to contemporary periods. The seminar will consist of initial orienting lectures, discussion of selected texts concerned with social theories of the city, and presentation of research projects by class participants. Alan Kolata, Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor


A hallmark of the University of Chicago is the array of interdisciplinary workshops that bring together students and faculty across disciplines, divisions, and schools for a collaborative exchange of ideas around particular areas of interest. Departmentscommittees, and centers and institutes in the Social Sciences organize workshops. For more information on those offerings, visit the unit's website. Many workshops provide a forum for graduate students to present their research and writing, thus facilitating the dissertation process and creating opportunities for professionalization by encouraging students to engage rigorously with their own and their fellow students’ work through discussion, debate, evaluation, and critical feedback.

Department of Anthropology Seminars and Lectures

Related Departments of Interest to MAPSS Students

Art HistoryComparative Human DevelopmentDivinity School,  East Asian Languages and CivilizationsEnglishHistorythe Human Rights ProgramLawLinguisticsNear Eastern Languages and CivilizationsPolitical ScienceSociologySouth Asian Languages and Civilizations