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Department of Anthropology

The study of human culture and society
Anthropologists use long term field research in different parts of the world to gain in depth understanding of the culture, society and economy in which other people live.

Founded in 1925, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney is Australia's first. Placing 24th internationally in the 2021 QS World University rankings, we maintain our strong reputation for theoretical innovation, excellence in ethnographic fieldwork and an outstanding commitment to the training of postgraduate research students.

As well as studying small-scale societies and groups in both rural and urban areas around the world, we investigate modern nation states and transnational networks.

We specialise in social and cultural theory, environmental change, politcal and economic systems, health and wellbeing, and humanitarian development. Our regions of expertise include East and South-East Asia, Aboriginal Australia, Melanesia and Latin America.

Anthropology analyses what human cultures have in common and how they differ. Learn about contemporary lives and issues in the world today, including: healing systems; religious traditions; gender, the body and sexuality; forms of marriage and family; international development; political violence; and Indigenous cultures. 


*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.  


We offer four research degrees in Anthropology and you will need to have a substantial background in this area to be eligible to enrol. 

Understand the challenges of sustainable human development on a local, national and global scale. This degree provides theoretical foundations and opportunities for practice-based understanding of development policy, programs and outcomes. 


Our research

Our academics are currently undertaking anthropological research through a wide variety of projects, including: 

Imagination is the main source of self-creation through which humans forge their own realities and delusions. Our research approaches imagination through philosophical discourses, and through concrete ethnographies of lifeworlds other than our own. It also offers critical clarification of the notion of imagination in philosophy through the works of 20th century thinkers like Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Bachelard, Corbin, Lacan, Castoriadis, and Taylor.

This research theme provides a unifying critical-theoretical framework for the other three themes, and reveals the fullness of an anthropological perspective on the modern challenges we face.

For generations Anthropologists have studied the ways humans live with and transform the environment. Today, anthropologists seek to understand the humans at the centre of the current epoch, ‘The Anthropocene’. Our research continues the discipline’s historical focus on small-scale, marginalised and indigenous communities around the world, asking how climate change is impacting people’s lives. We seek to understand the communities involved in the fossil-fuel industry, as well as the people, politics, laws, social movements and discources that produce and challenge the Anthropocene.

Our key research projects look at the coal economy in Australia and globally, and the cultural politics of climate change in Latin America and indigenous Australia.

How are capitalism, socialism, and democracy reproduced, experienced and contested in the household, the school, the factory, the office, the prison, the rural village, the urban slum or the street? Do they encounter alternatives in these places or does the encounter give rise to alternatives? What can those alternatives reveal about human capacities for continuity and transformation? By focusing on the small things, anthropology reveals how big things not only grow, but how they decline and how, amidst it all, humans and their relationships prevail and form the bedrock of any social system.

Our academics produce internationally recognised research on the kin-based economies of Aboriginal Australia, the informal economies of the urban slum, the joblessness of youth in emerging economies, and on the politics of anti-colonial movements and humanitarian projects in the developing world.

Well-being embodies physical, mental and emotional health, as well as the pursuit of a meaningful and happy life. However, healthcare around the world continues to face challenges such as ageing populations, rising chronic diseases, and growing health inequality.

Our academics are interested in how human beings understand themselves and others as embodied, gendered beings, who are born, get sick, and die. We explore these questions through research on infant and maternal health, indigenous disadvantage, childhood development, poverty and malnutrition and the cultures of death, dying and mortuary rituals in Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Indigenous Australia. We conduct leading research on critical health issues including infectious and chronic diseases, drug use, autism and dementia, contributing new perspectives to multidisciplinary research and to local and global health policies.

Our people


For a full listing of our upcoming events, please visit the School's events calendar.

We hold regular seminars on Thursdays for the general public, staff, students, visiting anthropologists and colleagues from related fields to exchange ideas and discuss new research. Join our mailing list for upcoming seminars and other events in the Department.

Department Chair

Dr Ryan Schram

School of Social and Political Sciences

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