The Anthropology Department offers a rigorous and comprehensive program for graduate students, who examine and experience anthropology through fieldwork, laboratory work, and close study. Our faculty members are experts in the study of Islamic societies, including those found in today’s hot spots like Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey. Other areas of faculty expertise—like the effects of religion on politics and society, democratic transitions, and evolutionary biology—are at the forefront of current trends in anthropology.
Social anthropologists typically measure themselves along two lines: areas of ethnographic expertise and areas of theoretical significance. Ethnographically, the Department has concentrated on developing three overlapping strengths: Africa, Asia broadly conceived, and the Islamic world. These specialties mesh with strengths of the entire University, and many of us have been closely involved in those developments. We spread more broadly for theoretical topics, but we have a number of important synergies for which we are known. One is the study of religion and modernity. There is, in addition, something of a BU Anthropology school on problems of social capital and civil society (with recent books by Robert Hefner, Richard Norton, Jenny White, and Robert P. Weller). Another concentration of energies is developing in issues of youth and popular culture (Nancy Smith-Hefner, Fallou Ngom, Kimberly Arkin).
Boston University has also committed itself to a program of intensive development in biological anthropology, with the goal of producing a world-class center of research and education. Four teaching faculty have been added to the Department’s roster since September 2008, with an additional job-search being undertaken in Fall 2013. Current faculty research projects afford opportunities for students to become involved in cutting-edge paleoanthropological research and field and laboratory study of primates and other mammals. Highlights include Matt Cartmill’s and Jeremy DeSilva’s work on the evolution of locomotion and Cheryl Knott’s work on orangutan ecology. Her Gunung Palung Orangutan Project in Indonesian Borneo reopened in 2008, after an interruption for several years due to intense illegal logging.
Director of Graduate Studies