BA in Anthropology & Religion

This joint major offers the student numerous ways to understand how religion works as a dynamic aspect of culture, and how individuals interact with their social environments to create systems of belief and ritual in their efforts to make sense of the world.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will learn the general properties of a religious worldview and the appropriateness of regarding our species as fundamentally religious beings.
  • Students will develop an appreciation for the varieties of religious belief, expression, experience, and practice.
  • Students will understand the regional themes and diversity in religious traditions and behavior.
  • Students will master the fundamental religious themes in at least one society other than their own, and the relationship of those themes to the dynamics of social organization.
  • Students will understand the ways in which religious belief and practice both canalize and reflect economic and political forces within and between communities.
  • Students will understand the historical development of anthropological thought about religion, and the relationship of that thought to theorists outside of the discipline who have been influential in the study of religion.
  • Students will understand the relationship of religion to social and ethnic identity in both simple and complex societies.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Anthropology & Religion will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy most BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Communication; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

Six courses in religion and six courses in anthropology are required with a grade of C or higher, as specified below. Those 12 courses must include Anthropology of Religion (taken either as CAS AN 384 or as CAS RN 387, but not both). Candidates for the BA with this joint major may not pursue a second major in religion or anthropology. They are, however, encouraged to take courses beyond the required 12 in either or both disciplines. Anthropology and religion students pursuing honors in the major are required to take a 13th course, AN 462, in either their junior or senior year (see honors program details below). To ensure the most suitable course of study for the prospective student’s areas of interest, courses should be selected in consultation with the program advisor. For further information about the joint program, contact the program advisor or either department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies.

All required courses listed below are 4 credit hours.


Students are required to take:

  • CAS AN 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology or CAS AN 103 Anthropology Through Ethnography (only one of these two courses may be taken for credit in the major)
  • CAS AN 252 Ethnicity and Identity
  • CAS AN 384/RN 387 Anthropology of Religion
  • CAS AN 461 Ethnography and Anthropological Theory 1
  • Two social anthropology courses at the 300 level or above from an annually approved list for the major


Students are required to take:

  • CAS RN 103 Religions of Asia or CAS RN 104 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
  • CAS RN 200 Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion
  • One religion course at the 200 level from CAS RN 209–219
  • Three additional religion courses, numbered CAS RN 220 or higher, from an annually approved list for the major

Honors Requirements

Students wishing to pursue honors in Anthropology & Religion must follow the honors requirements for the BA in Anthropology—Sociocultural Specialization.

Students with a strong academic record (a GPA of 3.5 or higher) are encouraged to pursue honors in the major. Eligible and interested students should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) and request the required forms. If the student’s GPA is between 3.2 and 3.5, they must request permission from the DUS to be accepted into the program. Accepted honors students must fill out an Honors Contract to be signed by a supervising professor as various steps of the program are completed (see below). Part I of the contract must be submitted to the DUS by the start of the semester in which the student begins honors work. Part II should be submitted after the completion of the thesis. The student is expected to maintain a GPA of 3.5 during the semesters they undertake honors work.

For sociocultural and anthropology and religion students, the normal progression through the honors process includes the following steps:

Junior Year

The student enrolls in AN 461 Ethnography and Anthropological Theory I and AN 462 Ethnography and Anthropological Theory II.

By the end of their junior year, the student is required to have identified and met with a faculty member who is willing to supervise their proposed research project.

Senior Year

By the beginning of the senior year, the student must develop a 2–3 page proposal and research plan. This plan should be attached to the Honors Contract (Part I) and signed by the supervising faculty member. The student should return these documents to the DUS.

In the senior year, the student enrolls in CAS AN 401 and/or AN 402 (Honors Research in Anthropology) and undertakes a significant research project under the supervision of their research advisor for either one or two semesters. The student is expected to write a thesis of 35–40 pages (for a two-semester project) or 25–30 pages (for a one-semester project). The supervising professor, in consultation with the student, assembles a committee of one to two additional faculty members and sets a date for the defense of the thesis, giving committee members sufficient time to read the thesis. The student then defends the thesis before the committee. After a successful defense, the supervising professor will submit Part II of the Honors Contract to the DUS.

The student may petition the DUS to change the sequence of these requirements if necessary (e.g., AN 461 and 462 may be taken during the senior year or AN 401 and/or AN 402 may be taken during the junior year under certain circumstances).

Please visit the Anthropology Department website for additional information regarding undergraduate research in anthropology.