Programme Description

Anthropology questions what it means to be human by exploring as wide a range of human experience as possible. Anthropologists begin from an appreciation of the diversity of human social and cultural life across time and space. They investigate the lived experience people have of their society, exploring differences of language and culture, gender and sexuality, social class, caste, race, ethnicity, religion and locality. As anthropologists frequently focus on life among people who are geographically and socially marginalised, themes of power and powerlessness, identity and otherness, belonging and migration are central to the Anthropology major. Anthropologists produce knowledge about human social life through empirical description in fieldwork and archival research, and ask larger philosophical questions of the human condition at large, based on their thick interaction with and study of the people with whom they work.

The major is designed to help students develop their skills in written, oral and visual expression, in fieldwork, ethnography, and survey design, and in the interpretation of social science information. The field’s unique focus on the diversity of human experience is also ideally suited to the development of global awareness at a culturally and historically deep level. Such awareness can lead to new kinds of civic engagement around the world as well as novel modes of moral and ethical reasoning. Anthropology students will learn to offer ethnographically and historically grounded descriptions of the human condition; to provide concrete examples of alternative ways of being human; and, upon that basis, to question what it means to be human in the world. Such a major is particularly relevant to the increasingly transnational world of the 21st century.


All Anthropology majors are required to complete 50 Modular Credits (MC) [Class of 2017 and 2018) or 54 MC [Class of 2019 onwards) of Anthropology courses to fulfil the major:

Class of 2017 and Class of 2018 will take the following: Two courses – “Ethnography” (a methods class), and “Anthropological Imagination” (a theory/history class); six additional courses, two of which must be “advanced seminars”, and two of which can be advanced or intermediate language classes relating to the capstone project; and two capstone seminars.

Class of 2019 onwards will take the following: three required classes – “Introduction to Anthropology” (a survey of the discipline), “Ethnography” (a methods class), and “Anthropological Imagination” (a theory/history class); six additional courses, two of which must be 4000 level course (or “advanced seminars”), and two of which can be advanced or intermediate language classes relating to the capstone project; and two capstone seminars.

  • Required courses (2-3 required):
    • ‘Introduction to Anthropology’ (a survey course) – 5 MC
    • ‘Ethnography’ (a methods class) – 5 MC
    • ‘The Anthropological Imagination’ (a theory/history class) – 5 MC
  • Electives (4 required)
    • Electives are selected from a list of anthropology and related approved courses. Two of them can be advanced or intermediate language classes that are relevant to the capstone project – 20 MC
  • 4000 Level or Advanced Seminars (2 required) – 10 MC
  • Capstone seminars (2 required). During the fourth year, students will take two capstone seminars. During the first semester, students will carry out a research project; during the second semester, students will complete the project and write a capstone report – 10 MC


Required Courses:

Ethnography (Methodology): Students are expected to take at least one course in research methodology. Ethnography, preferably taken in the first semester of the third year (or earlier), will introduce students to ethnographic, visual and linguistic methods of data collection and analysis, from participant observation, interview and survey design, and the collection, recording and transcription of oratory and other kinds of performative speech. As students will be expected to conduct short field research projects over the course of the semester, their training in methodology will feature substantial discussion on and work-shopping of the ethical dimensions of first-person research including: human subjects approval, confidentiality, and the ethics of observation among at-risk populations. Students are also encouraged to take Methods In The Social Sciences, a course dealing with a broader range of methods in the social sciences including survey design and implementation, and quantitative data analysis, as an anthropology elective.

Anthropological Imagination (Theory/History): Students are required to take Anthropological Imagination (preferably in the second semester of their third year or earlier). The theory course is designed to offer students grounding in the philosophical bases of the major questions anthropologists ask.

4000 Level courses or Advanced Seminars (two required): Students are required to take at least two 4000 level course or courses listed as Advanced Seminars in their third and fourth years. Course at the 4000 level as well as advanced seminars require students to create knowledge that engages the discipline and scholarly conversation around a particular topic. Students work independently with primary sources, ethnographic, historical, enumerated, and so forth in projects of their own making under the supervision of the instructor. Course at the 4000 level and advanced seminars presuppose a degree of scholarly maturity and experience and involve significantly more reading and (usually) a longer semester-long independent project. Introduction To Anthropology and Modern Social Thought serve as a pre- or co-requisite courses for 4000 level courses and those labelled as advanced seminars, or permission by the instructor.

Electives (four required): Four courses have been specified above, which leaves four courses open to the student’s discretion. These may be filled with survey courses, such as Introduction To Anthropology or area or topical courses that relate to student interests. They can be filled with additional 4000 level courses or advanced seminars. Up to two advanced or intermediate language courses that are relevant to the student’s capstone project may be counted.  Courses taken at NUS or at other approved institutions and programmes in Singapore or while studying abroad, may be counted in this category, in consultation with the faculty advisor and with the approval of the Head of Studies.

In addition to these requirements, the faculty strongly recommends that Anthropology students should be or should try to become proficient in at least one second language and take advantage of at least one study-abroad experience, either in a semester-long programme, a summer programme, or a Week Seven LAB.


For the capstone project, which is the equivalent of two 5 MC courses, a student majoring in Anthropology is expected to produce a substantial finished product (an essay and perhaps also a film, museum-quality exhibition or piece of academic work in any other medium) based on original field, museum, or library research. Capstone project design and implementation must take place during the capstone year. Study abroad work occurring prior to the senior year capstone can be used for comparative purposes only. During the first semester seminar, during the fourth year, students will work closely with a faculty supervisor to develop a project, ideally building on papers or projects begun in the third year. The first semester will include, if needed, advanced research methodology, proposal writing and human subject approval, and the development of the research project. During the second semester, Anthropology majors will work independently with their supervisors and other faculty mentors. All students will complete a final report and will present the findings of their work to faculty and peers in a public symposium.

The ultimate products of the capstone experience of the major will be the cultivation of the experience, knowledge and attitude of a professional anthropologist along with a final product that meets the standards of junior professionals in the field.


Minimum of 25 MC or 5 courses to qualify for a minor.

For class of 2017 and 2018, students who wish to minor in Anthropology must take at least two electives, two advanced seminars (or Anthropological Imagination and an advanced seminar), and either Ethnography or Methods In The Social Sciences.

For class of 2019 onwards, students who wish to minor in Anthropology must take two required courses, Introduction to Anthropology and either Ethnography or Methods In The Social Sciences, two elective courses, and one 4000 level course or course listed as “advanced seminars” (or Anthropological Imagination).