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Historical Archaeology, Bioarcheology and Maritime Archaeology

We focus on historical archaeology and bioarchaeology and teach a wide range of courses covering early humans through the recent past, archaeological method and theory, material analysis, and field archaeology. The historical archaeology emphasis within Maxwell draws upon our strengths in social and cultural anthropology as well as from history and geography. We offer hands-on opportunities in our classes and involve students in field programs in New York and the Caribbean. Teaching and research is facilitated by our new suite of archaeology and bioarchaeology Laboratories in Lyman Hall.

Historical Archaeology

Historical archaeology at the Maxwell School draws on our strengths in not only social and cultural anthropology but also history and geography to deepen our understanding of world cultures and topical issues both international and domestic. For example, historical archaeology sheds significant light on both the formation of colonialism and capitalism as well as its impact at the local, regional and global levels. In the Americas, archaeological studies of contact period sites illuminate lifeways of the colonizing setters, the indigenous peoples encountered, and the laborers who were brought in to facilitate both colonial and capital objectives. 

Artifacts and Materials Analysis

Detailed and refined analysis of materials are critical to any interpretation of archaeological findings. Our research and teaching involves detailed analysis of assemblage based data as well as refined analysis of particular sets of data including glass, beads and a range of ceramic analysis. Onsite collections are maintained in a controlled environment, and the materials are available for comparative study and analysis. In partnership with the Digital Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), with support from the Mellon Foundation, we offer a fully equipped satellite laboratory for accessing and entering archaeological data in the DAACS system.


Our program focuses on the study of human remains in their specific social and historical contexts, examining the physical and social landscape, cultural setting, and historic time within which people have negotiated daily life. We offer undergraduate and doctoral training, including courses in human osteology, mortuary and death studies, and theories of embodiment and materiality. Our faculty and students are engaged in studies of medieval Bohemia, colonial Guatemala, and several sites in 19th-century America, including New York City, Arkansas and Utah. Their research interests include identity and personhood, political and gender violence, health and social inequality, migration, childhood and the life course, religion, historical memory, and the symbolic and political manipulation of dead bodies.

Maritime Archaeology

Historically, the exploitation of marine resources and travel by water was often a key aspect of human adaptation. Coastal lagoons, navigable rivers and sea crossings formed the trade routes of ancient civilizations; and over the past 500 years, sea routes played a central role in trade patterns and the Columbian exchanges that shaped the modern world. Given the Anthropology Department's focus on the period of European expansion, faculty and graduate student research projects in maritime archaeology have focused on sites relating to the emerging Atlantic World.  Examples of projects include island communities, such as the East End (St. John, US Virgin Islands); the African settlement of Elmina (Ghana); Bunce Island (Sierra Leone); and the European shipwreck sites (Ghana and Sierra Leone). 

Applied Anthropology

Transferable knowledge. Adaptable skills.

Applying anthropology involves combining theory, ethnographic insight and methodological expertise towards practical ends. Applied anthropologists work diverse fields including law, health care, agriculture/forestry, social and environmental planning, tourism, cultural resource management (including archaeological sites), indigenous rights, conflict management, social services, and communications. The Maxwell School's unique structure at the nexus of social science and public affairs is designed to develop students' ability to work in inter- and multi-disciplinary settings—a major aspect of applied anthropology and a central feature of our graduate program.

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Peace and Conflict Studies

We offer undergraduate and doctoral training in peace and conflict studies including courses on peace, war and security; culture and disputing; negotiation; peacekeeping; and intercultural conflict and communication, among others. Faculty members are actively researching and working in diverse settings such as international peacekeeping in Egypt and Palestine, post-conflict reconstruction in Mali and Darfur, and local efforts in reducing and preventing violence in Syracuse neighborhoods. Faculty and student activities have been supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United States Institute of Peace, the Near East Foundation, the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stabilization Institute, the U.N. Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations, U.N. Interagency Framework for Coordination on Preventative Action, and the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services.

Political Anthropology

The field of political anthropology encompasses the analysis of power, leadership, and influence in all their social, cultural, symbolic, ritual, and policy dimensions.  It includes the examination-in both state and stateless societies-of forms of authority and domination, the dynamics of political identity, social and political violence, nationalism, ethnicity, colonialism, war and peace, and modes of political reconciliation and peace-building. This subfield provides a rich empirical and theoretical grounding for students planning careers in academia; international development; humanitarian work; international, state and local governance; international diplomacy; and transnational advocacy, among others.

Social Activism and Social Movements

Our department has a rich tradition of research and teaching on the social and cultural forces that generate, sustain, and weaken social movements, and on the impacts such movements have had historically and in the contemporary world. The department also has a tradition of engagement with hands-on, participatory, activist, action-oriented and applied research projects that seek to work in conjunction with movements for social change.

We offer coursework at both the undergraduate and graduate levels on social movements, focusing on both theory and methods. Other related courses in political anthropology and specific world areas complement these.

Heritage Management and Public Policy

We offer graduate and undergraduate classes in Public Policy and Archaeology, World Heritage Sites, and Museums and Indigenous Peoples. The public policy and archaeology class examines legal structures for archaeological site protection and heritage management in the United States and provides a survey of global perspectives on cultural resource management. The World Heritage site class examines UNESCO’s program and explores the potentials land problems in protecting cultural and natural resources from local and global perspectives.  At Syracuse University, we have been active in heritage management and interpretive archaeology, completing large scale preservation planning projects in Central New York and stepping in to assist in the protection of fragile and endangered resource. 

Go further

Students interested in applied anthropology often pursue a master's degree in public administration. Maxwell's new 4 + 1 option allows undergraduates to apply in their junior year to earn an M.P.A. or M.A. in international relations with just one additional year of study. Midcareer option also available. 

Explore M.P.A. Options

Cultural Anthropology

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Cultural Anthropology

Our strengths in cultural anthropology include political anthropology, medical anthropology, gender and sexuality, globalization and culture change, conflict resolution, religion, and social movements. Our students conduct intensive and often multi-sited fieldwork in pursuing their doctoral degrees, while undergraduates develop skills in anthropological methodologies through coursework and internships. We work closely with the departments of History, Sociology and Geography in the Maxwell School and with the departments of Religion and Women and Gender Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as with programs in LGBT Studies, Native American Studies and regional offerings through the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs.

Culture Change and Globalization

Societies are not static. One focus of anthropology is on the changes that have taken place and are taking place at increasingly rapid rates as colonialism, economic transformations such as neo-liberalism, the media and other factors impinge on communities throughout the world. Our historical archaeologists look primarily at the changes connected to colonialism while socio-cultural faculty look at changes related to new patterns of education, the role of television and film on local cultures, and the massive effects related to what is termed globalization. Courses looking at culture change and globalization tend to be focused on specific regions of the world, as the complex factors of change are also very context-driven and require the in-depth understandings provided by an area focus. Students often pursue undergraduate minors or graduate Certificates of Advanced Study in a world region.

Gender and Sexuality

Syracuse University has one of the oldest Women and Gender Studies Programs in the country, and anthropology course offerings and expertise have informed it for decades. Social and religious constructions of gender/sexuality as well as issues related to citizenship and governance are the primary focus of our department. Anthropology faculty and students have done research on issues of gender/sexuality in many ethnographic regions, including Native and non-Native populations in the U.S. as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Central Asia, and Europe.

Medical Anthropology

Medical anthropology is one of the most vibrant and useful areas of anthropological research and practice. Our emphases are on studies of health and medical disparities around the globe, global health policy, health consequences of violence and war, the body and personhood, mental health, culture and biomedical technologies, gender and health, and  evolutionary psychology. We offer an undergraduate minor and doctoral training in medical anthropology. Students and faculty collaborate with the Consortium for Culture and Medicine which includes the Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition, in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, and the SUNY Upstate Medical University. Additionally, many students of medical anthropology also enroll in the MPH program at Falk College.

Religious Systems

Anthropological studies of religion focus on lived practices, rather than primarily on textual doctrines, and on the intersections between religion as practiced and other aspects of society, whether systems of economics, gender, politics, medicine and more. Religious beliefs and practices are infinitely varied from society to society and are developed and tailored with symbols, oral traditions, and rituals that complement and support the social systems in which they are embedded. At Syracuse University, our faculty members examine, amongst other issues, religion and gender systems; rituals and oral traditions as representative especially of those marginalized by elite institutions; religion and politics, whether in Brazil, India, China, Europe or the U.S.; and the interface of religious and medical systems, including religious and medical pluralism, in societies across the globe.

Space and Place

The earth as viewed from outer-space

Space and Place

Based on anthropologist  Edward T. Hall’s seminal idea of proxemics—the structure of the person’s micro-space—as well as the work of environmental psychologists and cultural geographers, Space and Place incorporates the theory of Bourdieu, Giddens, Foucault and LeFebvre, and it explores issues such as the cultural aspects of design, the production of space and the politics of space. Research has been carried out in most ethnographic regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, East Asia, Central and South America, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe. Course offerings bridge anthropology, geography and history.

Explore our scholars by regional expertise


Since the 1960s, anthropology at Syracuse has had a focus on Africa. The anthropology faculty are part of a critical mass of Africanist faculty in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences. The Maxwell African Scholars Union through the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs and the Department of African American Studies are supported by holdings in the University Library and the only set of The Kenya Archives in the United States. Swahili is offered through the Department of Languages, Literature and Linguistics. The Department of African American Studies offers an M.A. in Pan African Studies, as well as fellowships in African American Studies, open to students from across the university.

Caribbean and Latin America

Our research in Latin America and the Caribbean focuses on both cultural and archaeological studies. Currently our faculty are engaged in research in Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba and the U.S. Virgin Islands with research interests and experience spanning the region and graduate students working in more than a dozen Caribbean and Latin American countries. The interdisciplinary Program on Latin America and the Caribbean (PLACA) hosts speakers, seminars and working groups and mobilizes the expertise of 15 faculty and more than 40 graduate students from history, sociology, public administration, geography and anthropology. Graduate students Interested students can earn a Certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and apply for small research grants.


Through fieldwork research and teaching, we engage in the careful anthropological study of European societies and cultures. Our professors specialize in and offer courses on modern Europe and its cultural background, political economies of Europe, Eastern Europe, socialism and post-socialism, and conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. The faculty and students who conduct fieldwork in Europe have active projects in Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the Balkans. Our faculty and students are active members of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, the Council for European Studies and the European Association of Social Anthropologists.

South Asia

The University is home to a National Resource Center for South Asian Studies (SAC), part of the Moynihan Institute for Global Affairs, with funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education. SAC hosts lecture series and workshops, and links together more than 20 faculty and 70 graduate students from across campus with interests in South Asia. The Center offers a Graduate Certificate and an undergraduate minor in South Asian Studies. American citizens can apply through SAC for Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships from the U.S. Dept. of Education. Funding for non- U.S. citizens must be sought from the department or university. The South Asia Center and GAI provide funding for pre-dissertation research through the Bharati Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Certificates of Advanced Study

are available for qualifying graduates in women and gender studies, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, NGO management, environmental decision-making, security studies, South Asia studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, Middle East affairs, Europe and the EU, and more.

View All Maxwell Certificates

Anthropology Department
209 Maxwell Hall