Areas of Specializations

Global Development and Sustainability

Global development and sustainability are keywords that have defined--and continue to define-- important areas of scholarship and practice in anthropology. This research and teaching cluster brings together faculty members from different theoretical, topical, and regional specializations around common concerns of inequality, poverty, gender inequity, political marginalization, food insecurity, and/or environmental/climate variability and change.  Current topics in this theme include sustainable food systems, governance and development, land rights, globalization, conflict and conflict resolution, and the effects of neoliberal policies, as well as the intersection among two or more of these.  Faculty and students with interests in this cluster can draw on several resources on campus, including the Masters in Development Practice (MDP), Global Development Studies Program, African American Studies, Global Health Institute (GHI), Institute for Developing Nations (IDN), Halle Institute, and several area studies programs such as the Institute of African Studies (IAS) and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.

Peggy Barlett
Peter Brown
Bayo Holsey
Bruce Knauft
Peter Little
David Nugent
Kristin Phillips
Debra Vidali

Politics, Social Justice, and the State

Anthropology approaches politics, social justice and the state from a broad, comparative perspective that sheds light on the diversity of ways in which human societies seek to organize and distribute power, manage conflict, legitimize difference and challenge inequality. Faculty in this specialization do research in a variety of cultural settings, from Africa to East Asia, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, from Europe and the US to Papua New Guinea. We train students in the diverse understandings of the political that emerge from this across this broad range of human experience. We explore the variety of ways that power and inequality are encoded and reproduced as well as challenges to these constructions, whether those challenges take the form of micro-political negotiations, broad social movements or revolutionary upheavals. We also explore ways of blurring the boundary between the academy and the world beyond its borders, so that students may explore ways of having an impact on the world of which they are a part. 

Justin Hosbey
Bayo Holsey
Bruce Knauft
Peter Little
David Nugent
Michael Peletz
Kristin Phillips
Debra Vidali

Ritual, Religion, and Meaning

Humans are suspended in webs of meaning they themselves have spun; we call these webs “cultures”.  Cultures are grounded in sets of ideas, beliefs, and commitments concerning the meaning, value, and purpose of existence and about the sort of cosmos we inhabit.  Cultural anthropology tries to describe and understand these systems of meaning, represented in rituals, myths, religions,, arts, and other forms of expression that each culture produced.  We study how religion both enables social cohesion while also being deeply involved in social conflict, and how ritual behavior is central to healing and coping with the inevitability of disease and death.  We consider how religion is performed, whether in everyday life or in in more formal rituals and ceremonies, and how culture represents, reveals, and enacts those basic concepts and conflicts that make us who we are, both in our own culture and in the many other cultures around the world.

Peter Brown
Bruce Knauft
Mel Konner
Chikako Ozawa-de Silva
Bobby Paul
Michael Peletz
Bradd Shore

Health, Mind, and Well-Being

From the outset, anthropology has sought to map and understand the varieties of human experience, the roots of human capacities and welfare, and their disparate sources across time, place, and culture. In addition to yielding deep historical and evolutionary insights, this quest has fostered critical inquiry into the sources of disparity, inequality, and differential well-being at present. Tackling these issues invites multiple approaches and as such, draws together faculty and students with diverse specializations, theoretical foundations, and modes of inquiry.  Approaches range from the subjective and individual to the quantitative and population or societal, from phenomenological to experimental. The continuously evolving research foci in this dynamic arena comprise a similarly expansive range, including social and cultural production of health, embodiment, life course and life history, biocultural processes, evolution of brain and mind, cognition, cross-cultural mental and physical health, subjectivity, self, emotion, masculinity, faith and religion.

Peter Brown
Craig Hadley
Bruce Knauft
Mel Konner
Chikako Ozawa-de Silva
Bobby Paul
Bradd Shore
Debra Vidali
Carol Worthman

Brain and Behavior

Faculty in this specialization investigate the evolution of human and non-human primate brains and behaviors, as well as the ultimate and proximate bases of human and non-human primate behavior. Faculty draw on modern neuroimaging, behavioral, and endocrinological methods to explore the proximate basis of language (Stout, Rilling), technology (Stout), cooperation (Rilling), parental caregiving (Konner, Rilling) and behavioral sex/gender differences (Konner). Faculty also rely heavily on a comparative approach to identify conserved and derived aspects of human brain and behavior. 


Mel Konner
Jim Rilling
Dietrich Stout

Evolution and Ecology

Faculty in this specialization use methods and theory from ecology and evolution to study the behavior and adaptations of primates and humans, past and present, in their environmental context. This includes field studies on primate and human behavioral ecology (Konner), describing genetic and cultural adaptations, population history, and ecological context of past human populations through the use of ancient DNA and archeology (Lindo, Thompson, Stout), as well as using the comparative method to identify shared and unique traits of humans and our closest living relatives, as in the realm of neuroanatomy and brain function (Rilling, Stout) or social behavior. Faculty also apply evolutionary theory and logic to better understand population health and wellbeing. By covering a wide range of study populations and methods, unified by evolutionary theory, faculty in this specialization provide a highly comprehensive approach to evolutionary anthropology.

Mel Konner
John Lindo
Jim Rilling

Archaeology and Human Origins

Archaeology is the study of the human past through material culture - the physical objects that ancient people and their pre-human ancestors left behind. Archaeology at Emory Anthropology is distinguished by its close integration with biology and evolutionary theory. Faculty focus on the material culture record of human origins, the co-evolution of human biology and behavior, and the investigation of deep-time records of our past. Humans have used material culture to solve problems for more than two million years, starting most noticeably with the first stone tools. At Emory, the relationship between stone tool use and important aspects of our biology - such as brain organization and social learning - are examined using a battery of novel approaches that include experimental artifact production and brain imaging (Stout Paleolithic Technology Lab). The influence of past environments and human subsistence behavior form the basis of research at the Osteoarchaeology Lab (Thompson). The Ancient DNA lab (Lindo) examines the relationships of past people to one another and to modern groups as they themselves underwent a number of recent adaptive processes.  

John Lindo
Dietrich Stout

Media, Communication, and Performance

Faculty in this specialization explore a range of topics and approaches relating to media, communication, and performance.  These include a focus on issues of power, epistemology, representation, resistance, social justice, social movements, lived experience, and engaged & public anthropology.  Faculty do research and train students in a variety of media and modalities, including digital and deep mapping, experimental ethnography, ethnographic theater, ethnographic film, visual anthropology, sonic & sensuous ethnography, and installations. We also communicate in newspapers, magazines, on radio, and in podcasts, to inform a wider public about all aspects of anthropology and how our field can help us understand ourselves and each other, making better policy choices as a result.

Anna Grimshaw
Justin Hosbey
Mel Konner
Bradd Shore
Debra Vidali

Race, Difference, and Inequality

Faculty in this specialization explore Race, Difference, and Social Inequality from sociocultural and biological perspectives.  Critical understandings of race and difference — from both cultural and biological perspectives — have been important to anthropology from virtually its origin as an academic and professional field.  They continue to be vital today. Research foci address a wide range of issues in this regard, including issues of power, representation, population genetics, the political economy of racism, diaspora, racial justice, genomics, indigeneity, ally-ship, educational inequality, social movements, embodiment, and engaged & public anthropology.  Faculty in our department do research and train students in a variety of approaches, including ethnography, digital and deep mapping, visual anthropology, ethnographic theater, and epidemiology.

Justin Hosbey
Bayo Holsey
Bruce Knauft
John Lindo
Peter Little
David Nugent
Michael Peletz
Debra Vidali

Gender and Sexuality

Social, cultural, and politicoeconomic dimensions of gender and sexuality – and their intersection – have been central to Anthropology now for almost half a century, including in relation to inequalities of race, class, nationality, religion, and a host of other factors.  Informed by the incisive contributions of critical and queer theories as well as by a range of received feminist approaches, the study of gender and sexuality is central to the concerns and scholarship of faculty in the Department of Anthropology at Emory.  We bring these conceptual and empirical perspectives on gender and sexuality to bear on our fieldwork and ethnography as well as on our theorizations of domination and subordination, resilience and resistance, and formations of institutional and organizational control, including in the United States and across borders transnationally.

Bruce Knauft
Mel Konner
Michael Peletz
Kristin Phillips

Subjectivity, Embodiment, and Personhood

In recent years, anthropologists have become increasingly interested in exploring agency, embodiment, and the internal subjective experience of individuals and communities in addition to, and in relation to, the social, political and economic structures they inhabit and co-constitute. This anthropological work attends to how lives and modes of selfhood and embodiment are impacted by and resist such structures through methods such as experience-near ethnography, which focuses on small numbers of interlocutors to understand their subjective experience and to establish a bond between ethnographer and research participants, as well as experimental methods such as collaboration, co-creation, and multi-sensory research. Common themes of this work, and areas where department faculty have conducted research, include experiences of suffering and healing, identity and selfhood, political and moral personhood, disability, cross-cultural and global mental health, altered consciousness, religious and contemplative practice, theater and performance, and the ethics of representation.

Justin Hosbey
Bruce Knauft
David Nugent
Chikako Ozawa-de Silva
Bobby Paul
Michael Peletz
Bradd Shore
Debra Vidali
Carol Worthman