Ph.D. Program in Anthropology

The Department of Anthropology Ph.D. program at the University of California, Irvine focuses on social and cultural anthropology. Graduate training in anthropology involves a period of long-term, independent fieldwork, generally (though not always) outside the United States, and often conducted in a language other than English. Graduate students generally obtain grants or other external funding to conduct their fieldwork. Attentive to our discipline's past and indeed the paradigm of disciplinarity that has structured social inquiry since the early 20th century, our program gives students a breadth of knowledge in traditional anthropology and the traditional subjects of anthropological study. At the same time, we push the boundaries of the discipline and use our ethnographic work to stretch the anthropological imagination.

The department provides students with superb training in both theory and method. Areas of teaching emphasis include: the anthropology of modernity and development; political, legal, and economic anthropology; ethnographic method; and the anthropology of science, technology, and medicine. In addition, Ph.D. students have the option of enrolling in a number of graduate emphases that involve interdisciplinary work in a number of schools and programs across the campus, including feminist studies, critical theory, visual studies, translation studies, and others. The department is committed to fostering new and innovative approaches to anthropological inquiry in a pluralistic and intellectually open academic environment. The faculty take diverse theoretical and methodological approaches to a variety of substantive issues. They are united, however, in a willingness to question taken-for-granted theoretical premises and analytic frames, and to engage in intellectual dialogue about alternative models and approaches.

The department's graduate students have an unparalleled record of research funding, receiving prestigious grants and fellowships at higher rates than the national average. Since 1995 they have garnered over $1.5 million to support their dissertation research. They publish their work in top-ranked journals, and the department has an excellent track record of placement. Please refer to the section on Ph.D. recipients to learn more about the employment opportunities secured by Ph.D. recipients from the Department of Anthropology.

Graduate Specialization in Anthropologies of Medicine, Science, and Technology

The department offers a graduate specialization in anthropologies of medicine, science, and technology to all Ph.D. students enrolled in any department at the University of California, Irvine. Click here for more information.

Program Requirements by Year

The program involves three years of course work. The bulk of the curricular requirements are ordinarily satisfied after the first two years, and in the normative cases, the third year involves development of a research proposal, advancement to candidacy, and the securing of funding for fieldwork, in addition to further course work. The fourth (and in many cases, some or all of the fifth) year is devoted to extended anthropological fieldwork. The sixth year (in some cases also part of the fifth) is devoted to writing the dissertation, in close consultation with the advisor and members of the dissertation committee.

Year by Year Overview (in more detail)

First Year: In your first year you should take the three required proseminars in sequence, as well as other elective seminars offered in the department or in other departments. You should contact your two initial advisors and meet with them. Different graduate students will make different use of initial advisors. Some meet frequently with both of their initial advisors, some with only one of them, and some rarely with either. We suggest you meet with at least one of your initial advisors once a quarter during your first year, but the arrangement is entirely up to you. More generally, you should seek to familiarize yourself with department faculty and with faculty across campus. There are many exciting graduate student groups and events campuswide, as well as centers, workshops, and so on. Get to know our library, including its extensive online resources. If you have already decided on a fieldsite, you might begin studying a field language if appropriate. In Winter Quarter of your first year, if you choose you can apply for summer funding. This can be used for preliminary research, more informal explorations of possible fieldsites, language training, or any other legitimate purpose related to your developing project. If this summer work will involve some kind of preliminary research that involves data gathering that could be used in a conference talk or publication, you should get Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, and you should file that paperwork as soon as possible as well.

Second Year: You should plan to complete most or all of your required coursework by the end of your second year. You will take the three-quarter sequence of ethnographic methods, research design and grant writing. Develop your expertise further through electives and begin to clarify what your dissertation project will entail. You may be able to choose an advisor and/or other members of your committee for your admission to candidacy (“orals exams”). This committee will have 5 members, and either 1 or 2 of them will be from outside the department. Ideally you will be able to take your orals exams by Spring Quarter of your third year. As in your first year, you can apply for summer funding this year if you so choose.

Third Year: You should complete required coursework during your third year, and aim to take your orals exams in Spring Quarter. For this reason, you will ideally confirm the composition of your committee by the end of Fall Quarter of your third year. Your committee will have 5 members, and either 1 or 2 of them will be from outside the department. You will be submitting external grant applications to fund your dissertation research (most deadlines fall between October and January), and obtaining Institutional Review Board (IRB) clearance for your research. See the forms page for details and deadlines.

Fourth Year: If you have not yet advanced to candidacy, you should do as soon as you can. Ideally, you will have successfully obtained some fieldwork and can spend this year conducting your research. If that is not always the case, you may need to submit a second round of grant applications, reformulate your project, or both. In any case, your top priority is to conduct the research upon which your dissertation will be based and to complete all preparations necessary for successfully conducting that research, including health insurance. You will need to register for in-absentia or leave of absence (LoA) status while conducting fieldwork; graduate students can consult the internal graduate webpage for more details.

Fifth Year: You are completing your fieldwork and beginning to write your dissertation. If you have lost touch with committee members, this is the time to reconnect and get their guidance.

It is worthwhile to think about publishing some of your research before completing the Ph.D. This will be helpful when you go on the job market.

Sixth Year: You are in the process of finishing your dissertation. It is probably a good idea to start applying for jobs before you have finished.

Program Requirements by Year

  1. Students are required to take the following courses:
    • The six courses that comprise the first-year proseminar sequence: 202A (Prosem A), 202B (Prosem B), 202C (Prosem C) and the second-year sequence: 215A (Ethnographic Methods), 215B (Research Design), and 215C (Proposal Writing).
      Six graduate-level, anthropology elective courses taught by core or affiliated faculty of the department.
      Any additional courses you wish to take beyond these 12 courses. Given that graduate students usually take two courses each quarter, you should be able to take 3-9 additional courses, depending on how often you TA and other factors. These other courses can be anywhere on campus and can be a great way to get to know faculty in other departments. They can be Independent Study courses taken with core or affiliated faculty in the department or with faculty elsewhere on campus. (Note that an Independent Study course taken with a department core or affiliated faculty does not count as one of the six elective courses mentioned at (2) above; in rare cases an exception may be granted by the Graduate Director.) They can be courses taken on other campuses.
  2. To continue in the program, students must pass a formal evaluation at the end of the first year. The evaluation will be made by the department on the basis of
    • The first-year course work; and
    • Examinations to be taken as part of the Proseminar.
  3. Students should advance to candidacy during their third year in the program. In order to advance to candidacy, students must
    • Complete all course work requirements;
    • Initiate the formation of a candidacy committee of five members which shall include at least three members of the Department of Anthropology and one member from outside the Department of Anthropology but from the UC Irvine Academic Senate;
    • Submit a research proposal, review of the literature, and bibliography, which must be approved by the committee; and
    • Pass an oral examination by the candidacy committee, which shall include a defense of the proposal and the literature review.
  4. Candidates for the Ph.D. in Anthropology will undertake extended fieldwork for their dissertation research. Students intending to conduct field research must present to the department, prior to the commencement of research:
    • Evidence of competence in the field language appropriate to the dissertation research project, or
    • A satisfactory plan for acquiring such competence in the field, where necessary. This field language requirement will in some cases be met simply by establishing that the appropriate field language for the proposed research is English.
  5. The student must demonstrate competence to read one scholarly foreign language, in accordance with the requirements of the Ph.D. degree in Anthropology. Students who have not fulfilled the foreign language requirement will not be able to file their dissertations.
  6. In the normative case, the student will advance to candidacy by the end of the third year, and will complete the program by the end of the sixth year.
  7. Having advanced to candidacy, the student must initiate the formation of a dissertation committee and submit a satisfactory dissertation to this committee. The dissertation committee must be chaired by a member of the Anthropology department and consist of three members, at least two of whom are from the department.


Student Progress Evaluation
At the end of every academic year the entire department will evaluate each student. The evaluation will be summarized in a letter written by the Graduate Director. The letter may contain suggestions to students regarding their progress and performance in the program. A copy of this evaluation will be given to the student, a copy to the student's advisor, and a copy placed in the student's file. Evaluations are based upon a broad range of criteria, including: development, GPA, class performance (with particular attention paid to proseminars and other required courses), TA evaluations, quality of written work, and relevant professional activities (if any) such as papers presented, grants, fellowships and awards received, or publications.

Independent Study 299s
Students are encouraged to take independent study courses to work closely with faculty on individual research projects. A 299 counts as course for full-time enrollment but does not count as towards fulfilling any program requirement. However, a student may petition the graduate committee to ask that a 299 be counted as an elective. Only one 299 can count as an elective.

Undergraduate Courses
Upon petition, upper division undergraduate courses taught by members of the department may count as anthropology electives.

Transfer of Credits
Students may petition the graduate committee to have courses taken at other universities or departments count towards their requirements. Only in exceptional cases the committee will grant these petitions and only when the contents of the courses as expressed in their syllabi are compatible with the program's curriculum.

Summer Research Money
In the past, the department has been able to fund predoctoral summer research projects and we expect to continue to do so. We encourage students to use this opportunity to get field experience and to make contacts in the area they hope to conduct their doctoral research. Most students are best prepared to benefit from his opportunity at the end of their second year. Each year the graduate committee will solicit and review proposals for summer research.



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