Program Strengths

In addition to our sub-disciplines of anthropology, our faculty and affiliated faculty have specific program strengths. These strengths allow the School of Anthropology continue our history of academic excellence.

Anthropology of the Southwest

The University of Arizona has a long legacy of anthropological research in the Southwest region that spans all subfields of anthropology and involves numerous other campus units. This theme promotes creative research that cross-cuts disciplines and contributes to greater understanding of past and present societies in the region.

Our strength in the anthropology of the Southwest leverages the University of Arizona’s geographic location in one of the most socially and ecologically diverse regions of the world to address topics such as migration and borders, food production and security, ecological resilience, culture contact and persistence, technological innovation and adoption, demography and human health, and the history of human networks.

Because of our location, faculty and students can participate in a wide variety of experiential learning opportunities and collaborate with people on and off campus to develop programs that are of value to the Tucson community and the State of Arizona. Our location near the border with Mexico also provides many other opportunities for international collaboration.


Humans lives are deeply connected to those of other animals, as they have been throughout the evolution of our species. The nature of our attitudes toward, and relationships with, animals varies widely within and across cultures, and among species as well.

These relationships have changed in important ways over the course of human evolution, and through co-evolutionary processes in particular. From the human perspective, animals can be pests or predators, companions or family members, food or economic resources, and even spiritual figures.

School of Anthropology students and faculty address the interconnectedness of humans and nonhuman animals from diverse anthropological perspectives and across cultures, modes of living, and evolutionary time. The study of human-animal interactions is a natural intersection for diverse research programs within the School, and for UArizona units, the local community, and the broader public.

As a theme, anthrozoology unites diverse perspectives and methods of inquiry, and benefits from approaches rooted in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  

Community Based Research and Cultural Heritage in Arizona and the Southwest

This theme connects scholars who work collaboratively with descendant and local communities on issues of documentation, preservation, and protection of their natural and cultural heritage. The theme encompasses a broad range of research approaches, including ethnography, archaeology, ethnohistory, applied anthropology, political science, and natural resource conservation.

Research topics that are or could be investigated include cultural heritage, historical ecology, anthropology of history, culture contact and colonialism, climate change, social memory, transnational identities, diaspora and migration, agricultural sustainability, and foodways, among many others.

Ecological and Evolutionary Anthropology

Ecology, environmental change, and rapidly evolving human lifeways are at the forefront of global concerns today. Making a difference in addressing these issues requires that we integrate deeper perspectives on the past with our attempts to unpack the issues of the present.

School of Anthropology faculty together with members of other university units have long been leaders in these areas of research. This theme integrates all subfields of anthropology and other university units such as the Laboratory for Tree Ring Research (LTRR), Geosciences, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Arid Lands, the Southwest Center, and the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA).

Topics of research in Ecological and Evolutionary Anthropology

  • co-evolution of humans and technology
  • cultural legacies in human-environment interactions
  • human and non-human primate-environment co-evolution
  • human-wildlife interactions
  • animal and plant domestication
  • climate change
  • adaptation and other responses to environmental change
  • environment and culture
  • scaling and modeling of linear and nonlinear processes
  • human health and evolutionary medicine
  • political ecology
  • economic anthropology
  • evolution of livelihoods
  • globalization
  • cultural ideologies of change and environmental explanation
  • conservation philosophies
  • human rights
  • conservation

Health, Medicine, and Discursive Practice

Health and discursive practice constitute a synergistic area between medical, linguistic, and other anthropologies. Combining the strengths from multiple subfields, this theme examines issues such as the performance and (re)production of bodies, linguistic practice and ideologies in the production and communication of medical knowledge, and healthcare and inequality.

Historical, biological, linguistic, and cultural research on this theme often cuts across subfield distinctions as students and faculty work to understand the factors that influence illness, wellness, and the practices of healthcare.

International Migration, Borders, and Refugees

The movement of people from place to place has long been of interest to anthropologists. Serious inquiry by sociocultural anthropologists began in Mexico in the early 20th century, of which Robert Redfield’s rural-urban migration/modernization studies of Tepotzlan are emblematic.

In the early 21st century, the processes that link people and places in the world are more extensive and dense as we become increasingly connected in transnational flows of capital, people and ideas. Simultaneously the world is more fragmented and divided along class, gender, ethnic, and religious lines. With people on the move in unprecedented numbers, borders are highly contested spaces of governance and control. Globalization and transnationalism are key interpretive concepts for understanding recent migration.

As anthropologists we examine of the socio-cultural, economic, political, and historical conditions that have shaped contemporary border issues around the world. Theoretically, we interrogate such concepts as power, violence, hegemony, impunity, militarization, the state, gender/class/race/ethnicity, social relations, social institutions, and cultural practices and meanings. At a topical level, we examine the lives of ordinary people—workers, peasants, indigenous peoples—and the many forces and processes that have reworked their everyday lives, often in deleterious ways. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have become the objects of national security policies even as their lives have become more insecure.

Mediterranean Studies

The Mediterranean region is a remarkable laboratory for studying culture and biology because of its long history of human occupation at the crossroads of three continents. The research that School of Anthropology faculty and student conduct in this region spans multiple periods and diverse topics.

This theme facilitates and promotes cross-disciplinary exchanges across units on the UA campus. It provides an inclusive intellectual environment that can link research on the human past and present, human-environment interactions, material culture, and the cultural and natural history in the Mediterranean region.

The great time span covered by university faculty and student expertise encourages reciprocal perspectives on the ancient Mediterranean world and the contemporary consequences and resolutions of millennia-old social, technological and environmental conditions. Because the Mediterranean is a nexus for migration from the “Global South”, it offers critical comparison with other border zones of the world.

Topics of research in Mediterranean Studies

  • climate change
  • cultural ecology
  • statecraft
  • ritual and religion
  • social memory
  • historical research
  • transnational identities
  • art history
  • diaspora and migration
  • prehistoric forager societies
  • human evolution
  • village-based and complex societies
  • technological innovation
  • agriculture and food-ways
  • cultural heritage
  • communities of practice
  • animal and plant domestication

Because the Mediterranean is a nexus for migration from the “Global South,” it offers critical comparison with other border zones of the world. The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Ph.D. concentration and the Center for Mediterranean Archaeology and the Environment (CMATE) are important resources for this theme. 

Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

This theme engages issues of sex, gender, and sexuality, and their intersections with power, identity, biology, language, health, environment, and society. Faculty and students from all divisions within the School of Anthropology interrogate how these concepts are operationalized in culture and science, and they harness these concepts to understand and inform biological practice.

Applications within this theme foster School of Anthropology faculty and student research on reproductive physiology, non-binary considerations of sex and gender, evolutionary theory, feminist biology, gender and language, embodied social roles, formations of subjectivity, and health and medicine. This theme is highly inter-disciplinary and brings together faculty and students across campus. It is theoretically and methodologically pluralistic, and naturally is enriched by the contributions of a variety of disciplines.