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We live in a world inhabited by seven billion people speaking 5,000 languages. Understanding the many ways of “being human” — past, present, and future — is key to all of us living together in mutual respect and equity. Engaging diverse theoretical and methodological approaches, anthropologists at the University of Washington work toward a common goal: to document and understand our many interconnected ways of being human.
- UW’s Anthropology program ranks as one of the top twenty in the nation
- The Department is one of the oldest anthropology departments in the country, launched in the 1920s by three students of Franz Boas, the "father of American Anthropology."
- We are structured around the traditional subdisciplines of our field (archaeology, biological anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology) but also offer specialized undergraduate options that give students the knowledge needed to tackle complex questions in a wide range of careers.
Our mission is to expand students’ abilities to critically engage with fundamental issues concerning how humans inhabit the world. We prepare undergraduate and graduate students with the technical and theoretical skills to become successful, compassionate individuals suited for a diverse range of careers.
Undergraduate students receive a well-rounded education in three anthropological subdisciplines and may earn either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree. Students may focus on one or more subdiscipline, or may deepen their studies in one of our specialized options, including medical anthropology and global health, anthropology of globalization, archaeological sciences, Indigenous archaeology, and human evolutionary biology. Many of our undergraduates conduct original research, supervised by or in collaboration with anthropology faculty, providing the rare opportunity to practice qualitative and quantitative research skills at the bachelor’s degree level. Students have gone on to graduate training in anthropology, but also in fields as diverse as education, law, business, medicine, and public administration. Others pursue careers in social work and advocacy, advertising, sales, land management, and environmental protection.
We offer three graduate programs, with the unique opportunity to earn a Public Health M.A. concurrently with an Anthropology Ph.D. Our doctoral students hold a strong commitment to social change and justice in their research. Graduate students also collaborate with many other disciplines, creating rich cross-disciplinary partnerships for their research. Notably, we aim to support graduate research through our distinctive pilot research funds, allowing students to conduct research in their first year and immediately gain experience, hone quantitative and qualitative research skills, and produce rigorous, quality research.
Our students have access to resources that include cutting edge laboratories, undergraduate field schools in the U.S. and abroad, partnerships with dozens of programs and centers across campus, and community partnerships with numerous groups, from Seattle Children’s Hospital to the International Rescue Committee.
- 512 Undergraduate majors
- 55 Graduate students
- 220 Bachelor of Arts degrees
- 23 Bachelor of Science degrees
- 4 Master of Arts degrees
- 5 PhD degrees
*September 2019 - August 2020
Major Student Awards*
- 2 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (GRFP)
- 1 Wadsworth International Dissertation Fellowship (Wenner-Gren Foundation)
- 1 GO-Map Stroum Dissertation Fellowship
- 3 Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS)
- 1 Graduate School Presidential Dissertation Fellowship
- 1 Simpson Center Society of Scholars Fellowship
- 1 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad
- 1 American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Junior Fellowship
*2019 - 2020
- 11 Professors
- 9 Associate Professors
- 3 Assistant Professors
- 1 Teaching Professor
- 2 Teaching Assistant Professors
- 2 Lecturers
- 1 Research Professor
- 17 Emeritus Faculty
The work of Department of Anthropology faculty members has been recognized through awards and grants from:
- Guggenheim Foundation
- Fulbright Foundation
- World Health Organization
- National Science Foundation
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute on Aging
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- National Institute of Mental Health National Endowment for the Humanities
- Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
- Social Science Research Council
- American Council of Learned Societies
- Ford Foundation
- Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
- Fetzer Institute
- American Philosophical Society
- National Academy of Sciences
- American Council of Oriental Research
Among current Anthropology faculty members, four have received UW Distinguished Teaching Awards, and one has received the UW Graduate Mentor Award.
Our faculty and students conduct research around the globe and on topics that span the breadth of our diverse discipline. On campus, our work is supported by facilities that include:
- Biodemography Lab for research projects in human and non-human primate ecology;
- Luminescence Dating Lab that offers dating service for ceramics, lithics, and sediments, for research projects that can solve archaeological problems for which other dating techniques are not assessable;
- The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, which offers collections for research and public education in ethnology, archaeology, geology, and zooarchaeology and is a hub for natural history and heritage in the Pacific Northwest;
- Digital Archaeology Research (DigAR) Lab, which provides training and support for projects related to study on human-landscape interactions, spatial distribution of archaeological sites and artifacts in sites, and modeling cultural change through time, through the use of a wide range of computing software;
- Molecular Anthropology Lab, which provides training in techniques to analyze genetic variation and gene expression patterns in an effort to better understand how evolutionary forces and environmental variation influence human biology, health, and behavior; and
- Primate Evolutionary Biomechanics Lab, which trains students to be researchers using energetics, gait parameters, and morphological changes in an effort to understand the posture and locomotion of humans and our closely related ancestors.
Areas of Research & Scholarship
- Colonialism and Post-colonial Theory
- Critical Development Studies
- Environmental Anthropology
- Ethnicity and Nationalism
- Gender and Sexuality
- History of Archaeology and Anthropology
- Human Evolutionary Biology
- Human Reproductive Ecology
- Medical Anthropology and Global Health
- Science and Technology Studies
- Social Movements
- Visual Anthropology
Throughout the year, the department sponsors a variety of colloquia, lectures, and seminar series that are open to the public. Increasingly, anthropology faculty are taking the classroom and students into communities near and far. Each spring, an annual outreach event provides a forum for the department to share its research with the wider community. Each year the department’s electronic newsletter, e-AnthropoLog, reaches out to friends and alumni.
Department of Anthropology
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
Fact sheet last updated: December 2020