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Program Information

Working in an Interdisciplinary Context

The Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History includes nearly sixty faculty associates from History and Anthropology as well as anthropologists and historians employed in other departments, including African and Afroamerican Studies, Asian Languages & Cultures, Comparative Literature, Middle East Studies, Sociology, Women's Studies, as well as the professional schools. 

The Program builds on, and contributes uniquely to, a strong tradition of interdisciplinarity at the University of Michigan. The University supports and encourages interdisciplinary work in all areas of its intellectual life, providing grants to Program faculty and students to develop working groups, conference programs, and lectures that bring people and ideas together from across the disciplines. Graduate seminars in the two core departments attract a cross-section of students from a wide range of other departments. The Program's own year-long signature course, the Core Seminar in Anthropology and History, runs from January through December, encompasses a reading portion in the first segment and a research seminar in the second. A required course for students in the Program, the Core Seminar attracts graduate students from other departments who are admitted by permission of the instructors.

The Program also offers an interdepartmental undergraduate course: Introduction to Anthropology and History. As well, faculty associated with the Program, including visiting faculty and post-doctoral teaching fellows, develop and offer other undergraduate courses that thicken the Program's ongoing support of critical interdisciplinary dialogue.

Although all students in the program take a core set of classes together with students in the two affiliated departments, they combine the basic elements of their graduate training in a wide range of creative and innovative ways. Their research covers all geographical areas of the world and a variety of topical interests. In addition, each combines the disciplines of history and anthropology in unique ways. Some lean towards archaeology while others favor oral history. Some use anthropology to enrich their interpretations of archival sources. Others use archival research to add depth to extensive ethnographic research. Below are some of the formal requirements of the program that facilitate this easy movement between the disciplines of anthropology and history.

More detailed information on the degree requirements can be obtained from the Program Student Handbook or from the Program Graduate Student Assistant. Students are expected to fulfill all requirements (coursework, languages, and prelims) and to move into the dissertation research stage of their studies by the end of the third year.


The program requires courses in anthropology and in history, and courses in the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History. Students must take the two core ethnology classes that all ethnology students take, Anthropology 526 and 527 (Traditions I and II), which provide an overview of theoretical approaches in cultural anthropology. They also must take one core course from any of the other three sub-disciplines of anthropology (archaeology, linguistic anthropology, or biological anthropology). Program students take History 615 (An Introduction to History: Theories and Methods) and one 700-level history seminar that requires a term paper based on original research with primary source materials. Students in the program also take the required year-long Core Seminar in Anthropology and History, beginning in the second term of their graduate program, as well as participating in the Programs regular workshops and reading groups.


Students must demonstrate basic proficiency in at least two languages with a scholarly literature, besides English. In some cases exceptions are granted to permit languages with strong oral traditions. Students are expected to fulfill at least one of the language requirements during their first year in the program. They should complete both in the first two years of study.

Preliminary Exams

Prelims should be taken by the end of the students' third year in the program. Students prepare four fields: ethnology plus three fields that are bi-disciplinary. Students may "course off" one of the fields, i.e. they may fulfill that requirement without an exam by taking six credits (or more) of course-work. Students take two written exams and one oral exam to test the other fields. These exams test critical knowledge of the key theoretical approaches, methodological issues, and research orientations in the fields chosen.


Each student must present a dissertation prospectus at an early stage of his or her dissertation research, preferably within three months of completing the preliminary exams. This is an opportunity to receive faculty feedback and discussion on the proposed research before the student has invested a great deal of time in the dissertation. Students are strongly encouraged to do pre-dissertation research during one or two summers prior to completing their preliminary exams. University and Program resources are available to support such pre-dissertation research activities.

The Ph.D. requirements are completed with a dissertation based on individual, original research and write-up approved by the student's dissertation committee.

Admissions Review Process and Criteria for Admission

The Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History only accepts applications from students intending to complete the Ph.D. We accept applications each year for admission in the fall semester. The deadline for receipt of all application materials is December 1st.

The Executive Committee of the program and appropriate faculty of both the Departments of Anthropology and History evaluate applications. Applications are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Prior academic record and training, including areas of strength and trends in scholastic performance
  • GRE scores
  • Quality of proposed research interests
  • Background and ability to carry out the proposed course of study
  • Quality of scholarship and writing evidenced in the writing sample
  • The ability of the Program and associated faculty to help the student develop intellectually in his or her proposed areas of study
  • Letters of recommendation

Funding Your Graduate Education

There are a limited number of highly competitive fellowships for first-year students. You should also pursue funding possibilities outside the University of Michigan. More information can be obtained from the Fellowship and Recruitment office at Rackham on their web site.  You should also contact the Office of Financial Aid and the International Institute at the University of Michigan. The following are a few suggestions and possibilities for funding that have been used by program students in the past.

University Fellowships for Entering Students

There are a few University of Michigan fellowships for which the Program can nominate students. Students should apply for other, external, fellowships on their own initiative. With the exception of the FLAS Fellowship all program applicants are considered for the University of Michigan fellowships listed below as part of the admission application process.  However, applicants must submit a separate application to the International Institute to be considered for a FLAS Fellowship.

Regents' Fellowships

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies awards the Regents' Fellowships through competitions based on Program and Departmental nomination of students who have applied for admission. These are multi-year awards that provide three to five years of funding for incoming graduate students through a combination of fellowship and teaching assistantship. The Regents' fellowship provides a stipend of approximately $16,000 per year plus tuition and health insurance.

Rackham Merit Fellowships

These fellowships also provide a multi-year package of support that combines fellowship and teaching appointments for under-represented minority students. Rackham Merit Fellowships are awarded through competitions based on Program and Departmental nomination. Only United States citizens or permanent residents are eligible for this award.

The Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS)

Fellowships are competitive fellowships, funded through the Title VI program of the U.S. Department of Education. They are available to current and entering University graduate and professional school students however, only United States citizens or permanent residents are eligible for this award.   An academic year FLAS provides for full tuition, fees and a stipend. These awards are generally incorporated into multi-year packages of support with teaching appointments through the Departments of Anthropology and History to cover the second and third years of study. Students apply directly to the Area Studies Centers for the FLAS and must notify the program of their application.  FLAS application information is available on the website of the International Institute.

U-M College of LSA International Travel Policy

All U-M students traveling abroad for university-related purposes (i.e., participating in study, research, or internship programs organized or supported by LSA departments/units or for which LSA in-residence credit is granted) are bound by the College of LSA International Travel Policy

To receive funding/credit for their international experiences, students are required to:

  • Register their travel in the MCompass Travel Registry
  • Purchase U-M’s Travel Abroad Health Insurance and upload card to MCompass
  • Provide contact information in case of emergency on MCompass
  • Submit a safety plan if traveling to a U-M Travel Warning/Restriction destination. (Safety plans must be submitted at least 3 weeks prior to departure and MUST be approved before funding can be released)

Learn more about the requirements and find travel resources on the LSA Travel website. You can also find additional resources on Global Michigan.

Funding for Summer research and language training

Generous support for summer research and language training is available and the program expects that students will take advantage of these opportunities. These include the Program Block Grant, and funds from Rackham, and the Area Studies Centers.

Funding for Dissertation Research

Students are expected to obtain external grants to cover the cost of their fieldwork. There are a number of sources for such funding and students in the past have had no problem obtaining sufficient funds to carry out major research projects.

Funding for the Writing of the Dissertation

There are a number of grants and fellowships available to write the dissertation after research has been completed. Many of these are external and students should apply for these. Internal, University, sources of funding include the Rackham Pre-doctoral fellowship, the Michigan Society of Fellows, and the Institute for the Humanities.