The Department of Anthropology formed in the mid 1970s to create both a first class undergraduate program designed to be of service to a distinguished state university, and a graduate program that would produce anthropologists of international standing. Initiated with a concentration in socio-cultural anthropology, it now balances that inquiry with archaeology, and linguistic anthropology.
Faculty teaching and research and graduate studies take advantage of and overlap these sub-disciplinary boundaries. The Department encourages an integrative, historical, and theoretical approach to the study of social life. Together, the undergraduate majors, graduate students, and faculty comprise a uniquely close-knit and scholarly community in which to study, critique, and practice anthropology.
The Department is committed to the study of global and historical cultural diversity. Faculty and graduate students pursue research both abroad and in the United States.
In socio-cultural anthropology our strengths lie in the study of South Asia (India, Nepal), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Indonesia), East Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan), the Pacific (Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia), the Caribbean, Amazonia, Africa, as well as Canada, the United States, and Europe.
In archaeology, we have particular expertise in the Middle Atlantic and Southwestern United States, East and West Africa, and the Near East.
In linguistics we have special strengths in East Africa, Central America, the Middle East, and Melanesia.
Our theoretical interests are varied and eclectic, extending from classical subjects and places to the more recent critical reconstruction of anthropological knowledge occurring at the interdisciplinary borders of the social and physical sciences, and the humanities. The faculty also has a broad interest in the history of anthropology stressing the development of specific national traditions and theoretical orientations and the ways in which these orientations crosscut and critique one another. The foci of specific faculty include symbolic anthropology, structuralism and post-structuralism, culture theory, linguistic relativity, language endangerment, social dialectology, Marxist theory, political economy, feminist and gender theory, historical anthropology, classic sociological theory, and historical ecology.
The Department sustains a productive dialogue not only among its sub-disciplines but also across the University. Anthropology is a first or second major for many undergraduates heading to futures in, for example, business, professional sports, and professional schools including Architecture, Business, Law and Medicine. As it suits their interests, graduate students are encouraged to take courses and work with other faculty from other departments and schools within the University. Recent interdisciplinary exchanges amongst both faculty and graduate students include the Departments of Environmental Sciences, History and Religious Studies. The University of Virginia supports many outstanding interdisciplinary programs and academic centers that provide opportunities for scholarly collaboration, advanced study, and financial support.