Cultural Anthropology

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Foreign:$ 85.2 k / Year(s) Deadline: Dec 8, 2023
20 place StudyQA ranking:1998 Duration:5 years You need IELTS certificate

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The graduate program in Cultural Anthropology aims to provide students with a thorough grounding in both current theory and methods of research. Issues that concern the faculty include transnational and national processes; political economy and history; identity and ethnicity; popular culture, the media and advertising; culture and the individual; religion; public health; aesthetics; and class, gender, and race relations. The program as a whole takes a comparative perspective that encourages field research in diverse societies, including the contemporary United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the African Diaspora, South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Interdisciplinary work in other departments and programs is encouraged. 

18 graded courses

  • At least 10 must be regular courses listed or cross-listed at or above the 500 level, including:
    • 2 Theory Courses:  focused on core debates and themes within the history of socio-cultural anthropology and related fields.
      • CULANTH 801 and CULANTH 802 - Theories in Cultural Anthropology
    • 1 Research Method Course: Taken in the spring of your second year, this course focuses on ethnographic methods, using the students summer fieldwork as the basis of the exploration.
      • CULANTH 803 - Research Methods/Portfolio Seminar
    • 1 Grant Writing Seminar: Taken in the fall of your third year, this course focuses on the development of the dissertation research proposal and the preparation of grant proposals; it will also allow students to work further on their portfolios.
      • CULANTH 804 - Grant Writing
  • 8 additional courses
    • No more than 5 (non CULANTH) courses may be Individual Research/Individual Reading courses (independent studies).
      • We recommend that 3 independent studies courses be reserved for the spring of the third year, when you are preparing for the Portfolio Workshop.
    • At least 2 courses in a discipline outside of Cultural Anthropology. You may, however, take more than 2 courses outside of Cultural Anthropology.

Typical Course of Study

Year 1

  • Students begin assembling materials for their portfolios
  • Plan of Study due by last Friday in January
  • Provide research assistance to faculty
  • Identify at least one Ph.D. committee member by end of year
  • At end of year, successful completion of CULANTH 802 (Theories in Cultural Anthropology) final exam required for continuation in graduate program
  • In Summer after Year 1, conduct preliminary research

Year 2

  • By February 1, identify and establish remainder of Ph.D. committee
  • In April, participate in a Field Specializations Workshop with Ph.D. committee
  • Provide teaching assistance
  • In Spring, at least one independent study recommended
  • In Spring, overall progress evaluated by regular graduate faculty, utilizing the Plan of Study
  • In Spring, students should collect information about relevant grants for their field dissertation research in the fourth year
  • By September 30, submit portfolio contract for DGS approval
  • In Summer after Year 2, conduct preliminary research

Year 3

  • Finish assembling portfolio, with a focus on writing the dissertation prospectus and the synthetic essays
  • Provide teaching assistance
  • In Fall, apply to all relevant sources of external funding for fourth year dissertation research
  • In Spring, overall progress evaluated by regular graduate faculty, utilizing the Plan of Study
  • In Fall, students required to take CULANTH 804 (Grant Writing Seminar)
  • By December 15, complete at least one field section of portfolio
  • By March 15, remaining sections of field sections of portfolio must be submitted
  • Final version of dissertation prospectus to all committee members at least 2 weeks prior to Portfolio Workshop (typically in April)
  • Students notified if they can proceed to oral Portfolio Workshop

Year 4

  • Field dissertation research
  • In Spring, overall progress evaluated by regular graduate faculty, utilizing the Plan of Study

Year 5

  • Provide teaching assistance
  • In Spring, overall progress evaluated by regular graduate faculty, utilizing the Plan of Study
  • Final semester, dissertation defense
  • Applicants must submit their applications and supporting documents online. There is an $80.00 application fee.
  • All requested supporting documentation should be uploaded electronically via the online application. An official hard copy of your transcript will only be requested after admission. We strongly encourage you to apply by December 1 and no later than December 8. If you apply later, there may not be time for all your supporting documents (transcripts, recommendation letters, etc.) to arrive by the time our departmental reviews begin in early January. An incomplete file may affect your consideration. All supporting documents must be electronically submitted along with your application to the Duke Graduate School. They should not be submitted directly to the department. 
  • The statement of purpose is an especially important part of the application as it gives applicants a chance to describe their research interests. There is no single way to write a good statement of purpose, but click for some sample statements of purpose from successful recent applicants.
  • At the beginning of their statement of purpose in the application, all applicants must also list three keywords best describing their research interests and geographical area of study (for example: Mass Media, Indigenous Rights, Latin America). 
  • Applicants must upload a roughly 10-20 page sample of relatively recent written work electronically via the online application or to by December 8.
  • December 8: Departmental deadline for submission of Ph.D. applications for admission and award for the fall semester. 


Graduate students are awarded fellowships, scholarships, and teaching and graduate assistantships to the fullest extent permitted by available funding. Graduate Fellowships provide tuition plus a living stipend for 5 years, contingent on continued appropriate progress toward the Ph.D. degree. Stipends and fellowships require service in the form of teaching and/or graduate assistance. Other university awards are given on a competitive basis to outstanding students. These include the James B. Duke Fellowships, International Fellowships, and Deans' Fellowships.

You are also encouraged to seek fellowships for graduate study in Anthropology that are awarded by non-university agencies, as these frequently offer high stipends and several years of continuous support. Various university and external funding sources provide awards for pre-doctoral and doctoral research, including field research in Anthropology, and students are encouraged to apply for these at the appropriate time. Some additional funding as well as part-time teaching positions may be available to students beyond the fifth year.

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