You are here: American University College of Arts & Sciences Anthropology PhD in Anthropology

Anthropology students trek through the Dismal Swamp

Doctorate with a Real-World Focus

In the PhD in Anthropology program, you will improve your intellectual and practical skills and apply your research findings to critical issues in contemporary society. You will explore the major arguments shaping classic and contemporary debates in anthropological theory; use key ideas from these debates to plan archaeological and anthropological research and analysis; present your research findings in written, oral, and visual presentations; and learn how to seek external funding for research. By experiencing the complete research process, you will graduate prepared for your career as an anthropologist.

We provide rigorous training in urban anthropology; ethnicity; the anthropology of work; the anthropology of development; language, culture and cognition; gender and culture; cross-cultural quantitative analysis; and historic and public archaeology. Drawing from archaeology, linguistic anthropology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology, your coursework will emphasize anthropology's four-field tradition and utilize the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary resources within the College of Arts and Sciences and across the university.

Whether you concentrate on cultural/social anthropology or archaeology, you will reach beyond the university to work on real-world issues in the US and abroad, exploring policy-oriented questions as well as more traditional, academic themes. At the same time, you will find ample opportunities to develop skills in public anthropology. You will graduate as a public intellectual doing relevant work to promote social justice.

Public Intellectuals Making a Difference

AU Public Anthropology ConferenceIn our department, students train to be public intellectuals. Our alumni are very successful and can be found in university, private-sector, and government positions around the globe. Our graduates have gone on to teach at respected schools in the US, including Northwestern University, George Mason University, and the University of Iowa. They also teach internationally at schools such as the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Other graduates work for government agencies like USAID and the National Park Service or for nonprofits like ACDI/VOCA, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Wherever they go, AU doctors of anthropology are known for their first-rate educations, political savvy, understanding of policy issues, and commitment to social justice.

Active and Engaged Faculty Mentors

Our faculty consists of cutting-edge, widely published scholars with a broad variety of research interests and exceptional strengths in public anthropology. Although they are respected leaders in academia, their work reaches beyond the university as they engage in archaeology, activism, and advocacy worldwide.

Our professors are dedicated to your success and provide personal attention and support to all students. Upon admission, you will be matched with a faculty advisor who will provide guidance and mentorship throughout your doctoral program by helping you design your program of study; choose your dissertation topic, field site, and research methods; analyze data; produce your final dissertation; and make important career choices.

Faculty Profiles

Opportunities For Change In The Capital City

Washington, DC, offers unlimited resources for practical learning, research, networking, and employment. Many graduates find fulfilling work with area museums, government agencies, and private institutions.

Our strategic DC location gives students access to the federal government, museums, think tanks, institutions, and national and international policymakers. Graduate students can present their own scholarship and build their professional networks at anthropology conferences at AU and nearby universities.

Our students distinguish themselves through their service, leadership, and ability to rethink global and domestic challenges. In DC, there are countless ways for you to get involved and make a difference in the world around you.

Public Intellectuals Making a Difference

In our department, students train to be public intellectuals. Alumni are very successful and can be found in university, private-sector, and government positions around the globe. Our graduates have gone on to teach at respected schools in the US, including Northwestern University, George Mason University, and the University of Iowa. They also teach internationally at schools such as the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Other graduates work for government agencies like USAID and the National Park Service or for nonprofits like ACDI/VOCA, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, and Historic Mount Vernon. Wherever they go, AU doctors of anthropology are known for their first-rate educations, political savvy, understanding of policy issues, and commitment to social justice.

People at a farmers' market, woman with stroller.

Research ·

Start a Business, Make a Home: PhD Grad on Local Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Read More

Spotlight

Delande Justinvil

PhD Candidate, AnthropologyDelande Jusinvil, AU Anthropology

Anthropology PhD candidate Delande Justinvil is on a mission to protect Black burial grounds.

As a biocultural anthropologist, Delande researches the grounds and their history, analyzes remains from at-risk burials, and he advocates for their protection at both local and federal levels. During his time at AU, he helped curate the museum’s 2019 exhibition Plans to Prosper You, collaborated with the Society of Black Archaeologists, and conducted dissertation research on recently discovered Black burials in Georgetown. 

What Delande finds most special about AU is the graduate student community. “Even with respect to my doctoral research, it was my friend Shannon Clark who in my first semester here really listened to what I wanted to do and connected me to the dedicated members of DC’s Historic Preservation Office. My colleagues and I show up for each other in ways that reflect how centering care and compassion as an ethical practice can be equally, if not more, rigorous than our respective — and brilliant — scholarly pursuits.”

Delande also praises Dr. Malini Ranganathan and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center (ARPC):

They have produced regular thought-provoking programming that deeply engages antiracist, feminist, and decolonial conversations both within and beyond the walls of the academy in ways that help me rethink and revise the critical approaches in my own work. In my eyes, the ARPC has really become somewhat of an intellectual anchor and integral component of the AU community.

Discover CAS: The Sciences

00:01:59

Explore our social science community and engagements.

Video Take a Video Tour.