Program Information

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Welcome to Graduate Studies in Anthropology at Western!

We are now accepting applications for September 2023 admission.

The graduate programs in Anthropology at Western build on a traditional four sub-disciplinary approach that incorporates Sociocultural Anthropology, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, and Linguistic Anthropology. The department has three recognized streams of research at the master’s level and two at the doctoral level.

The different streams direct students to take courses directly relevant to their program of study. However, the program stresses the holistic view of the discipline of Anthropology and several courses intertwine the Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology, and Archaeology and Biological Anthropology streams. Furthermore, students are encouraged to draw on faculty and courses from outside their stream and even from other departments.

We believe that graduate learning is best when students and faculty can meet face to face, both in formal classroom settings and as part of the life of the department. Our graduate seminars are small and energetic, giving students an opportunity to hone their skills in a collegial atmosphere where close contact with everyone in the department ensures a rich and rewarding graduate experience.

Streams of Study

Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology stream (MA & PhD)

The field of Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology incorporates the two sub-disciplines. These programs build on faculty strengths in ethnography, the use of historical approaches (e.g., historical anthropology, ethno-history, intellectual history, oral and life history) and studies of power and interactions from both centres and peripheries. By integrating the diverse methodological tools from social, cultural and semiotic anthropology, students are required to address complex issues in systematic and reflexive ways. Contrasting approaches to, and definitions of, power and marginalization in social, cultural and semiotic anthropology are presented in the context of historically-grounded and contextualized contemporary cultures.

Diverse faculty research interests crystallize in two core areas of research strength. One area is Environment, Culture and Political Ecology, which takes the social, cultural, and political dimensions of environmental use and ecological change as its point of departure. The range of issues addressed includes the situation of indigenous peoples on resource frontiers, the production and consumption of global commodities, sustainability in rural and urban settings, and the community-nature interface in primate conservation. A second focus is in Borders, Identities and Mobility. This research strand deals with identities and the movement of people (forced and voluntary) in relation to shifting, disappearing and emerging borders/boundaries in the past and present. Our work in this area covers topics including refugees, displacement and identity, labour migration and the history of borderlands and indigenous peoples.

Sociocultural and Linguistic anthropologists at Western conduct fieldwork among diverse groups of peoples throughout the world, including the South Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, the USA and Canada. Current research projects include studies of the impact of mine closure in Papua New Guinea; the relationship between state formation and public health campaigns in Ecuador; ecosystem health, indigenous knowledge, and the history of anthropology; refugees and cultural memory in the Near East and North Africa; language endangerment and revitalization in the Amazon and Canada; migration, development, and tourism in the Eastern Caribbean; weather predictions in Brazil and Canada; how names influence self-perception and the unequal treatment of other; urban agricultural movements in Latin America and Canada as these relate to issues of poverty and sustainability; artisanal mining communities, conservation and ecotourism, commodity production and consumption in Madagascar.

Archaeology and Biological Anthropology stream (MA & PhD)

The field of Archaeology and Biological Anthropology incorporates the two sub-disciplines. Graduate study in these areas takes place within the context of the active research programs of our faculty. Our faculty members undertake research in various parts of the world, including Egypt, Europe, the South Pacific, South America, Mesoamerica, and North America (particularly the Arctic and Ontario). Although the theoretical training is predominantly anthropological, students are also exposed to broader theoretical perspectives through their interactions with students in other streams of study and programs, and gain valuable hands-on experience with our broad range of analytic equipment.

Archaeology is the study of cultures of the past by means of the recovery and analysis of material remains. Faculty research in this area includes the peopling of the New World, the prehistoric and historic archaeology of Ontario, hunter gatherer ecology, early sedentism and early urbanism, complex civilizations in Peru, the integration of GIS with archaeology, remote sensing, 3-D imaging, textile analysis, lithic analysis, faunal archaeology, commercial archaeology, and community-based research.

At Western, we define Biological Anthropology as the study of the intersection of biological, environmental and cultural systems as they existed in the human past. Biological Anthropology has been identified as an area of excellence in the Social Science Faculty at Western. Faculty research in Biological Anthropology includes zooarchaeology, paleogenetics, skeletal biology (including osteoarchaeology and paleopathology), isotopic anthropology, human evolution, paleoradiology, and mummy studies.

Students graduating with a master’s degree from our Archaeology and Biological Anthropology stream have had outstanding success in PhD programs across North America, the UK and New Zealand. Graduates of the program are employable not only in the more traditional jobs found in universities, museums, contract and government archaeology offices, but also in private, community and government labs, and government organizations.

Applied Archaeology stream (MA only)

Applied Archaeology encompasses those dimensions of archaeological practice where archaeology meets, services and negotiates a broader social context. This broader context arises primarily as a result of state-imposed statutory requirements governing archaeological practice and regulating the protection and management of archaeological resources. Commercial consultant archaeologists are regularly engaged by proponents to service their clients’ legislated archaeological heritage management requirements, or work on behalf of heritage interests arising from public, descendant group or other communities’ direct engagement with their past. A notable aspect of all these activities is that archaeologists in applied contexts often are caught up in or mediate issues of practice, ownership, control, value and privileged access to the archaeological record.

The primary aim of this stream is to enable MA research on these various dimensions of applied archaeology, in particular on the issues and challenges facing commercial archaeological practice, through both course work and the focus of thesis research. Students will work with faculty who themselves are actively engaged in research on these subjects, and actively participating in current issues of applied archaeology and commercial practice. The program provides education essential to developing expert applied archaeological professionals through required coursework and a practicum that places the student in an applied context. However, this education occurs as a part of the broader academic focus all MA students gain in the department’s graduate program. This provides students with the opportunity to either enter the applied archaeological industry upon graduating as professional heritage resource managers fully able to engage and advance on the challenges facing that practice, or to continue on and pursue a PhD.

Recognizing that some students in this program will enter already fully employed in commercial archaeological companies in order to advance their credentials to hold professional licenses and to operate as project archaeologists for their company, this stream welcomes students seeking to undertake their degree part time as part of their professional development.

Program Requirements

The Applied Archaeology stream is available as a full- or part-time program. Students in the Applied Archaeology stream have a slightly modified course structure and are required to complete a Practicum in Applied Archaeology along with a total of five required and elective courses.

Intensive Applied Archaeology stream (MA only)

The Intensive option in the Applied Archaeology MA stream is aimed at professional archaeologists with substantial archaeological experience, general knowledge of the subject matter they wish to study, and a dataset they have collected and/or analyzed as part of their work. Such students are therefore ready to start working on their thesis from day one. Students who do not otherwise meet these expectations should consider applying for the full-time option in the Applied Archaeology MA stream.

The Intensive Applied Archaeology option is intended to be completed in 12 months (3 terms) full-time, or 24 months (6 terms) part-time. Current part-time Applied Archaeology students will be allowed to transfer to the intensive option.

Collaborative Programs

The Department of Anthropology participates in the following Collaborative Graduate Programs:

Environment and Sustainability

The Collaborative Program in Environment and Sustainability is an interdisciplinary enrichment program designed for current graduate students (MSc/MA/MESc or PhD) who wish to become specialists in specific aspects of environment and sustainability, and who also wish to gain an appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems and solutions. the student earns a degree in the home department plus credit for participation in the enrichment program.

For information on this program, please contact the Environment & Sustainability program coordinator.

Migration and Ethnic Relations

The Collaborative Graduate Program in Migration and Ethnic Relations at Western brings together graduate students and faculty to study questions of migration, ethnic relations, cultural diversity, conflict, acculturation and the integration of migrants, from the perspective of various social science and humanities disciplines.

For information on this program, please contact the Migration & Ethnic Relations program coordinator.

Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Students in the Collaborative Graduate Program in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction will explore the many aspects of transitional justice and post-conflict reconstruction, including societal and state transition relating to development, democracy, the environment, the economy, human rights, politics, peace agreements, peacebuilding, justice after atrocity, and social rebuilding.

For information please contact Program Director, Dr. Joanna Quinn.

Musculoskeletal Health

The Collaborative Graduate Program in Musculoskeletal Health aims to develop researchers with the scientific and leadership skills necessary to build transdisciplinary teams focusing on integrated approaches for the management of musculoskeletal (bone and joint) diseases. Our long-term goal is to enable discoveries in musculoskeletal research and to translate this new knowledge into improvements in disease prevention, health care, policy and commercialization.

For information please contact