Our Anthropology Programs


Anthropologists study human beings, globally and cross-culturally, and recognize that each way of life is but one possibility among many. In a pluralistic world, where people from different places and backgrounds frequently interact, anthropology is an important tool for helping us understand each other and the rapid changes going on around us. Anthropology offers the potential to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a person, to question what passes as “normal” or “natural”, and to examine the world we inhabit as interconnected by environmental, political, economic, cultural and social forces.

Our social relationships and cultural understandings create and respond to the changes in our increasingly complex and changing world. Anthropologists analyze the patterns of these relationships and responses, studying the world’s peoples within a cross-cultural, comparative framework. Anthropology focuses on diverse areas of social and cultural life such as religious rituals, livelihood strategies, international development, health and illness, gender, human rights, and environmental stewardship in remote communities as well as cosmopolitan centres. Anthropologists engage in ‘hands-on’ research, often living long-term within the communities in which their research takes place.

While anthropologists have traditionally studied in small scale, non-Western societies, today we apply our participatory research methods and a combination of humanistic and social scientific perspectives to all kinds of situations: if people do it, you can study it as an anthropologist.

Why Anthropology?

By studying Anthropology, students will better understand key issues pertaining to contemporary social and cultural life such as immigration, international development, religion, health, and gender, race, and class dynamics. Students undertaking a Bachelor of Art in Anthropology will acquire a substantive knowledge of the discipline as well as a strong set of transferable skills in research, group work, critical analysis, writing, and oral presentation that will enable them to apply their expertise in a wide range of fields on completion of the BA degree.

Some graduates apply their social sciences knowledge directly in research, teaching, policy development, or in personnel or correctional services. Others go on to careers in federal government departments such as Canadian International Development Agency, Canadian Heritage, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Many other graduates work in the fields of international development and community development, as researchers and analysts for non-governmental organizations, Indigenous organizations, and for Members of Parliament. At the municipal and regional levels, social sciences graduates are found in areas such as consultation, research, policy planning, and administration.

Graduates from the BA Honours program in Anthropology may also be eligible to go on to graduate studies in anthropology as well as a variety of fields, including development studies, Canadian studies, political economy, women’s studies, resource management, religious studies, and related fields. Anthropology could also be a strong foundation for a number of professional programs such as urban planning, medicine, teaching, and law.

Anthropology at Carleton

Carleton’s anthropology program specializes in socio-cultural anthropology, which is the study of contemporary societies and cultures through direct engagement, participant-observation and other qualitative methods. Our faculty work in various contexts and communities in Alaska, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Thailand, the Andes, and Sub-Saharan Africa, among others. Our faculty specialize in a range of topics including:

  • the study of Indigenous people’s lives in context (e.g. indigenous-state relations; governance & colonialism; language; urban indigenous communities).
  • environmental issues (e.g. human-environmental relations; subsistence politics; the Anthropocene; climate change; natural resources)
  • transnational & global issues (e.g. transnational adoption; development; migration; diaspora; sex tourism)
  • race, ethnicity, and nationalism (e.g. ethno-history; ethno-politics)
  • selfhood, personhood, subjectivity, identity, psychiatric anthropology, and phenomenology;
  • genders and sexualities (e.g. motherhood; reproductive health; gendered childhood; feminist theories/methodologies).
  • political economy (e.g. global capitalisms; processes of commodification; capitalist and non-capitalist societies)

Students wishing to gain practical work experience while completing their undergraduate degree can enroll in the University’s Co-Operative Education Program.

For more than thirty years, the Carleton anthropology M.A. program has promoted exploration of cultural practices and social conditions in diverse contexts throughout the world. Beginning in Fall 2009, we have added a new and innovative Ph.D. program to our well-established M.A. program. The Ph.D. program focuses on ‘Engaged Anthropology,’ and encourages students to immerse themselves in the situations and practices they wish to study, to reach out to non-academic publics, to engage in apprenticeship, advocacy, and policy-related activities; in short, to engage with research subjects, sociopolitical environments, and the public at large through their scholarly work, whether that work be applied or theoretical in nature.

The anthropology faculty at Carleton conduct research in societies across Africa, Asia, North America, South America, and Oceania. This wealth of global experience serves not only to inform their teaching in areas ranging from the study of symbolism and culture to issues in global development and underdevelopment, but additionally facilitates research opportunities for anthropology graduate students worldwide.

The Department strives to achieve a blend of research and formal graduate instruction in its graduate programs while guiding students to take advantage of the extensive research opportunities available both in Ottawa, and internationally.

Carleton’s anthropology M.A. students have conducted a broad range of international field research in locations as diverse as the Philippines, Thailand, India, South Korea, Ghana, Tanzania, Belize, Mexico, Peru, and Greece. Closer to home, they have researched sociocultural issues affecting diverse Canadian subpopulations and subcultures with research participants ranging from members of aboriginal or immigrant communities to homeless populations and community organizations.

As Canada’s capital city, Ottawa provides linkages to innumerable national and international contexts. Its increasingly diverse population and borderland location between anglophone and francophone Canada gives immediate relevance to the comparative and interactive approaches to culture and society that anthropology promotes. As home to many governmental and non-governmental institutions, Ottawa provides exceptional institutional resources upon which our students can draw in their research and learning. As part of their course of study, graduate students in anthropology may pursue a placement in one such organization, linking practical work with their thesis research area of interest. The nation’s capital also houses a variety of library, archival and museum collections that provide unique opportunities for those interested in the anthropological study of material culture, art, ethnohistory, and historical texts.

What do Anthropologists Do?

Explore our research blog to see examples of what anthropologists do.

Photo taken by Akintunde Akinleye, Ph.D. Anthropology student