Building Your Focus

Cultural anthropologists study human cultures, relationships, technologies, religions, healing practices, art, foodways, and more. Using a social research method called ethnography, anthropologists deepen their study by considering specific political, historical, and economic contexts. Ethnography can reveal local solutions to global challenges: from racism to climate change, and from healthcare access to economic inequality.

Cultural Anthropology majors can adopt a broad course of study of many places and communities. Or, they can focus on a particular area of the world or topic. Either way, the discoveries you make in your Cultural Anthropology training are widely applicable to many careers.

For students interested in focused study, Cultural Anthropology offers many options. Our course offerings are dynamic, and we encourage you to discuss with your CulAnth major advisor what a focus in the major might look like based on current course offerings. For instance, you may wish to find courses that extend your interests developed in Duke Engage, Duke Immerse, FOCUS, or Study Away programs. You may also wish to build a portfolio that supports your professional aims.


· Identifying a focus is not required for the Cultural Anthropology major or minor.

· Nor is there any expectation around a set number of courses that make a focus.

· How you build your focus is up to you, and is something to discuss with your major advisor by taking into account the most current course offerings.

Should you choose to do so, here are some different approaches to building a focus in Cultural Anthropology, based on past student experiences.

· A student has a strong interest in the politics of human migration. They discuss this with their CulAnth major advisor, and identify courses such as The Anthropology of Race or Culture and Politics of the America Borderlands to deepen this interest. They use course assignments to hone their expertise on the topic.

· A student wishes to deeper their study of the culture, politics, and economy of Southern Africa. With their advisor, they identify World Music or African Hashtag Activism as compelling options. They take an Africa-focused CulAnth course and decide to pursue an honors thesis based on what they've learned.

· A pre-health student is eager to explore the links between environment and health. With their advisor, they identify CulAnth electives addressing similar themes, such as Energy Futures and Environmental Justice or Medical Anthropology. Based on their work in these classes, they identify gap year opportunities in an advocacy organization focused on health/environment connection.

· A student pursuing a career in tech wants to think more about the ethical implications of new technologies. They discuss this with their advisor, and discover related course options such as Global Apple or Cultures of New Media. After taking a course in this area, they collaborate with their classmates to develop a house course on similar issues to sustain the conversation.

Interested in building a focus in Cultural Anthropology? Contact your major advisor and set up a time to meet.