First-Year Course Information

Welcome, Class of 2024! Learn more about courses and opportunities in the Anthropology Department.

About Anthropology

Anthropology explores the diversity and complexity of humanity in contemporary cultures and in the “deep past.” We integrate the specifics of indivudal experience, local particularities of landscapes and communities, and broad regional and global contexts to better understand human actions and meanings, including relations of power, identity, and inequality. In our courses in cultural anthropology and anthropological archaeology students learn how to “make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange” through analysis of material, visual, sonic, and textual data.

Information Sessions on Zoom

July 8, 11 a.m.–12 p.m.
July 14, 3 p.m.–4 p.m.

Join us to hear about Fall courses, meet faculty members, hear about student research, and ask any other questions you may have about Anthropology at Bowdoin. You are welcome to drop-in anytime during the hour. No need to stay for the whole session.

Tips for First-Year Students

The Anthropology Department welcomes first-year students into several of our courses. This fall the anthropologists are offering one First-Year Seminar, “Ties that Bind: The Anthropology of Relatedness” (ANTH 1025). We also will teach two sections of “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” (ANTH 1101) and one section of “Introduction to World Prehistory” (ANTH 1103). We will also teach an additional section of “Introduction to Anthropology” in the Spring 2021. We always save several seats for first-year students in these introductory courses.

Additionally, in the Fall 2020, first-year students are invited to enroll in two intermediate-level courses, neither of which carries a prerequisite. These courses are “Who Owns the Past? Contemporary Controversies and Contested Narratives” (ANTH 2105) which is cross-listed in Classical Archaeology, and “Descendants of the Sun: The Inca and their Ancestors” (ANTH 2830), which is cross-listed in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies.

None of these courses assume any prior work in anthropology. All of these courses contribute to the major or minor in Anthropology. We encourage students who are interested in majoring or minoring in Anthropology or who may want to take additional 2000-level Anthropology courses (including courses that fulfill the College’s International Perspectives or Exploring Social Differences requirements) to take the introductory core courses (ANTH 1101, ANTH 1103) as soon as possible.


Course Descriptions

ANTH 1025 (FYWS): Ties that Bind: Anthropology of Relatedness (Prof. Van Vleet)

Understanding relatedness, or kinship, illuminates the intimate and hierarchical relationships through which human beings, across time and place, live their lives. Drawing cases from small-scale indigenous societies and industrialized states across Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Oceania, the course challenges assumptions about “natural” relationships and biological givens. Introduces concepts, methods, and ethics in anthropology and encourages students to critically reflect on emergent global issues. Topics may include fosterage and adoption; reproductive governance, rights, and technologies; migration and transnational care networks; intimate violence; aging and personhood; and/or human/non-human relations. Incorporates attention to gender, race, ethnicity, age, and sexuality as dimensions of inequality that intersect with relatedness. Shows how relatedness is vital to understanding our personal dilemmas and relations that structure the global political economy.

ANTH 1101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (2 sections: Prof. Lempert and Prof. Van Vleet)

Sample Syllabus

Cultural anthropology explores the diversities and commonalities of cultures and societies in an increasingly interconnected world. Introduces students to the significant issues, concepts, theories, and methods in cultural anthropology. Topics may include cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, fieldwork and ethics, symbolism, language, religion and ritual, political and economic systems, family and kinship, gender, class, ethnicity and race, nationalism and transnationalism, and ethnographic representation and validity.

ANTH 1103: Introduction to World Prehistory (Prof. Kohut)

Sample Syllabus

An introduction to the discipline of archaeology and the studies of human biological and cultural evolution. Among the subjects covered are conflicting theories of human biological evolution, debates over the genetic and cultural bases of human behavior, the expansion of human populations into various ecosystems throughout the world, the domestication of plants and animals, the shift from nomadic to settled village life, and the rise of complex societies and the state.

ANTH 2105/ARCH 2207: Who Owns the Past? Contemporary Controversies and Contested Narratives (Prof. Kaplan)

Detailed course description



Students examine the meaning and significance of monuments, artifacts, archaeology sites, historic documents, and art from a variety of perspectives. They wrestle with colonial and racist legacies and how decolonizing practices are transforming interpretations of the past. They consider the ethical, cultural, and legal considerations of who owns, controls, and has access to heritage materials; whether they should be displayed or published; and if so, by whom. They examine the impact of politics, conflicts, and war on historic and prehistoric sites and monuments. They discuss the responsibilities of museums and archives charged with safeguarding, displaying, and interpreting documents, objects, and art. Case studies are drawn from controversies involving public monuments, archaeology sites, exhibits, and illegally trafficked artifacts. Readings, class discussions, and lectures by guest speakers are augmented by work with resources drawn from the campus museums and archives.

ANTH 2830/LAS 2730: Descendants of the Sun: The Inca and their Ancestors (Prof. Kohut)

Sample Syllabus

Considers the Inca figure in contemporary imaginations, from mummies to archaeological sites like Machu Picchu. This course examines 12,000 years of cultural change in the Andean region of South America. Situates the Inca, perhaps the most well-known of the early civilizations that predated the European invasion, in relation to other cultures, including the Chavin, Paracas, Moche, Nasca, Wari, Tiwanaku, and Chimu. Topics include the peopling of South America; early religious traditions; cultural adaptations to mountainous and desert environments; origins and development of agriculture; domestication of llamas and alpacas; rise and fall of states; imperial expansion; artistic expression; architectural traditions; treatment of the dead and ancestor veneration; and Spanish colonization. Considers both archaeological and ethnohistorical research from the region that includes Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Includes opportunities to work with artifacts from the region.