Anthropology Syllabus for UPSC

The UPSC optional subject list includes 48 courses, one of which is Anthropology. The Anthropology syllabus for UPSC the IAS Exam focuses on candidates’ ability to understand the topic as a science and apply that understanding to real-world problems. This subject covers human evolution, social systems, cultural evolution, and development.

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See the linked article for information on similar optional subject syllabuses.

Candidates can gain from the experiences of IAS toppers who chose Anthropology as an optional subject by visiting the linked article.

Candidates who pick Anthropology Optional in UPSC will discover that the syllabus focuses on issues and subjects concerning development and Indian culture. Candidates who work as teachers, social workers, and sociologists, for example, may find the subject easy to prepare. Candidates should study UPSC Mains thoroughly to properly strategize their preparation.

They must read the UPSC anthropological syllabus several times since proper optional preparation will boost IAS candidates’ chances of scoring well in the civil services test.

The UPSC Notification page provides detailed information about the exam dates, openings, eligibility, compensation, exam pattern, and so on.

Anthropology Syllabus.

Anthropology is an optional subject with a pair of exams (paper I and paper II) in UPSC Mains. Each paper is worth 250 points, for a total score of 500. Many IAS toppers have chosen this subject for the UPSC test. 

  • Anthropology is the scientific study of simple society and human behavior, making it the most compassionate of all sciences and an intriguing subject to choose as an optional subject for the Civil Services Main Exam.
  • This subject is highly rational, analytical, and easy to learn, and it benefits applicants because it takes less time.
  • Anthropology is seen as a suitable option for people with a science or engineering background because it bridges the gap between the humanities and science. Furthermore, it is a highly high-scoring subject.
  • Because some topics overlap, the foundational chapters of the Anthropology curriculum are useful for General Studies papers.
  • Most importantly, it promotes the formation of an interdisciplinary perspective, which is useful for the Ethics and Essay articles.
  • The UPSC Anthropology syllabus is very short in comparison to other humanities courses, yet it follows a logical flow and is systematic.
  • This optional subject could be prepared with a thorough study over three to four months. Subject-specific reference textbooks and prior years’ papers are highly recommended.

Please find below the IAS Anthropology syllabus:

Anthropology Syllabus for UPSC (Paper-I)

1.1 Meaning, Scope, and Development of Anthropology.

1.2. Relationships with other disciplines: Social Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Humanities.
1.3. Main branches of Anthropology, their scope and relevance:

  1. Social-cultural Anthropology.
  2. biological Anthropology.
  3. Archaeological Anthropology.
  4. Linguistic Anthropology.

1.4. Human Evolution and Emergence of Man:

  1. Biological and Cultural factors in human evolution.
  2. Theories of Organic Evolution (Pre-Darwinian, Darwinian, and Post-Darwinian).
  3. Synthetic theory of evolution; Brief outline of terms and concepts of evolutionary biology (Doll’s rule, Cope’s rule, Gause’s rule, parallelism, convergence, adaptive radiation, and mosaic evolution).

1.5. Characteristics of Primates: Evolutionary Trend and Primate Taxonomy; Primate Adaptations; (Arboreal and Terrestrial) Primate Taxonomy; Primate Behaviour; Tertiary and Quaternary fossil primates; Living Major Primates; Comparative Anatomy of Man and Apes; Skeletal changes due to erect posture and its implications.
1.6. Phylogenetic status, characteristics, and geographical distribution of the following:

  1. Polio-Pleistocene hominids in South and East Africa—Australopithecines.
  2. Homo erectus: Africa (Paranthropus), Europe (Homo erectus (heidelbergensis), Asia (Homo erectus javanicus, Homo erectus pekinensis.
  3. Neanderthal man—La-chapelle-aux-saints (Classical type), Mt. Carmel (Progressive type).
  4. Rhodesian man.
  5. Homo sapiens—Cromagnon, Grimaldi and Chancelade.

1.7. The biological basis of Life: The Cell, DNA structure and replication, Protein Synthesis, Gene, Mutation, Chromosomes, and Cell Division.
1.8. (a) Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods.
(b) Cultural Evolution—Broad Outlines of Prehistoric Cultures:

  1. Paleolithic
  2. Mesolithic
  3. Neolithic
  4. Chalcolithic
  5. Copper-Bronze age
  6. Iron Age

2.1.The Nature of Culture: The Concept and Characteristics of Culture and Civilization; Ethnocentrism vis-a-vis Cultural Relativism.
2.2.The Nature of Society: Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institution; Social groups; and social stratification.
2.3.Marriage: Definition and universality; Laws of marriage (endogamy, exogamy, hypergamy, hypogamy, incest taboo); Type of marriage (monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, group marriage). Functions of marriage; Marriage regulations (preferential, prescriptive, and proscriptive); Marriage payments (bride wealth and dowry).
2.4. Family: Definition and universality; Family, household, and domestic groups; functions of family; Types of family (from the perspectives of structure, blood relation, marriage, residence, and succession); Impact of urbanization, industrialization, and feminist movements on family.
2.5. Kinship: Consanguinity and Affinity; Principles and types of descent (Unilineal, Double, Bilateral Ambilineal); Forms of descent groups (lineage, clan, phratry, moiety and kindred); Kinship terminology (descriptive and classificatory); Descent, Filiation, and Complementary Filiation; Descent and Alliance.
3. Economic Organization: Meaning, scope, and relevance of economic anthropology; Formalist and Substantive debate; Principles governing production, distribution, and exchange (reciprocity, redistribution, and market), in communities, subsisting on hunting and gathering, fishing, swiddening, pastoralism, horticulture, and agriculture; globalization and indigenous economic systems.
4. Political Organization and Social Control: Band, tribe, chiefdom, kingdom, and state; the concept of power, authority, and legitimacy; social control, law, and justice in simple Societies.
5. Religion: Anthropological approaches to the study of religion (evolutionary, psychological, and functional); monotheism and polytheism; sacred and profane; myths and rituals; forms of religion in tribal and peasant Societies (animism, animatism, fetishism, naturism, and totemism); religion, magic, and science distinguished; magico-religious functionaries (priest, shaman, medicine man,
6. Anthropological theories:
(a) Classical evolutionism (Tylor, Morgan, and Frazer)
(b) Historical particularism (Boas) Diffusionism (British, German and American)
(c) Functionalism (Malinowski); Structural—Functionalism (Radcliffe-Brown)
(d) Structuralism (Levi-Strauss and E. Leach)
(e) Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Linton, Kardiner, and Cora-du Bois)
(f) Neo-evolutionism (Childe, White, Steward, Sahlins, and Service)
(g) Cultural materialism (Harris)
(h) Symbolic and interpretive theories (Turner, Schneider, and Geertz)
(i) Cognitive theories (Tyler, Conklin)
(j) Postmodernism in anthropology.
7. Culture, Language, and Communication: Nature, origin, and characteristics of language; verbal and non-verbal communication; social context of language use.
8. Research methods in Anthropology:
(a) Fieldwork tradition in anthropology
(b) Distinction between technique, method, and methodology
(c) Tools of data collection: observation, interview, schedules, questionnaire, case study, genealogy, life history, oral history, secondary sources of information, and participatory methods.
(d) Analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data.
9.1. Human Genetics: Methods and Application: Methods for the study of genetic principles in man family study (pedigree analysis, twin study, foster child, co-twin method, cytogenetic method, chromosome and karyotype analysis), biochemical methods, immunological methods, D.N.A. technology, and recombinant technologies.
Mendelian genetics in man-family study, single factor, multifactor, lethal, sub-lethal, and polygenic inheritance in man.
9.3. Concept of genetic polymorphism and selection, Mendelian population, Hardy-Weinberg law; causes and changes which bring down frequency-mutation, isolation, migration, selection, inbreeding, and genetic drift. Consanguineous and non-consanguineous mating, genetic load, genetic effect of consanguineous and cousin marriages.
9.4. Chromosomes and chromosomal aberrations in man, methodology.
(a) Numerical and structural aberrations (disorders).
(b) Sex chromosomal aberration- Klinefelter (XXY), Turner (XO), Super female (XXX), intersex and other syndromic disorders.
(c) Autosomal aberrations- Down syndrome, Patau, Edward, and Cri-du-chat syndromes.
(d) Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counseling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping, and genome study.
9.5. Race and racism, biological basis of morphological variation of non-metric and characters. Racial criteria, racial traits to heredity and environment; biological basis of racial classification, racial differentiation and race crossing in man.
9.6 Age, sex and population variation as genetic markers: ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes. Physiological characteristics level, body fat, pulse rate, respiratory functions and sensory perceptions in different cultural and socio-economic groups.
9.7. Concepts and methods of Ecological Anthropology: Bio-cultural Adaptations—Genetic and Non-genetic factors. Man’s physiological responses to environmental stresses: hot desert, cold, high-altitude climate.
9.8. Epidemiological Anthropology: Health and disease. Infectious and non-infectious diseases, Nutritional deficiency related diseases.
10. Concept of human growth and Development: Stages of growth—prenatal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence.
— Factors affecting growth and development genetic, environmental, biochemical, nutritional, cultural and socio-economic.
— Ageing and senescence. Theories and observations
— biological and chronological longevity. Human physique and somatotypes. Methodologies for growth studies.
11.1. Relevance of menarche, menopause and other bio events to fertility. Fertility patterns and differentials.
11.2. Demographic theories-biological, social and cultural.
11.3. Biological and socio-ecological factors influencing fecundity, fertility, natality and mortality.
12. Applications of Anthropology: Anthropology of sports, Nutritional anthropology, Anthropology in designing of defence and other equipments, Forensic Anthropology, Methods and principles of personal identification and reconstruction, Applied human genetics—Paternity diagnosis, genetic counselling and eugenics, DNA technology in diseases and medicine, serogenetics and cytogenetics in reproductive biology.

Paper – 2

1.1. Evolution of Indian Culture and Civilization— Prehistoric (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Neolithic-Chalcolithic), Protohistoric (Indus Civilization). Pre-Harappan, Harappan and post Harappan cultures. Contributions of the tribal cultures to Indian civilization.
1.2. Palaeo—Anthropological evidence from India with special reference to Siwalik’s and Narmada basin (Ramapithecus, Sivapithecus and Narmada Man).
1.3. Ethno-archaeology in India: The concept of ethno-archaeology; Survivals and Parallels among the hunting, foraging, fishing, pastoral and peasant communities including arts and crafts producing communities.
2. Demographic profile of India— Ethnic and linguistic elements in the Indian population and their distribution. Indian population—factors influencing its structure and growth.
3.1. The structure and nature of the traditional Indian social system—Varnashrama, Purushartha, Karma, Rina, and Rebirth.
3.2. Caste system in India— Structure and characteristics Varna and caste, Theories of origin of caste system, Dominant caste, Caste mobility, Future of caste system, Jajmani system. Tribe-caste continuum.
3.3. Sacred Complex and Nature-Man-Spirit Complex.
3.4. Impact of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Christianity on Indian society.
4. Emergence, growth, and development in India— Contributions of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century scholar-administrators. Contributions of Indian anthropologists to tribal and caste studies.
5.1. Indian Village— Significance of village study in India; Indian village as a social system; Traditional and changing patterns of settlement and inter-caste relations; Agrarian relations in Indian villages; Impact of globalization on Indian villages.
5.2. Linguistic and religious minorities and their social, political, and economic status.
5.3. Indigenous and exogenous processes of socio-cultural change in Indian society: Sanskritization, Westernization, Modernization; Inter-play of little and great traditions; Panchayati Raj and social change; Media and Social Change.
6.1. Tribal situation in India— Bio-genetic variability, linguistic and socio-economic characteristics of the tribal populations and their distribution.
6.2. Problems of the tribal Communities— Land alienation, poverty, indebtedness, low literacy, poor educational facilities, unemployment, under-employment, health, and nutrition.
6.3 Developmental projects and their impact on tribal displacement and problems of rehabilitation. Development of forest policy and tribals. Impact of urbanization and industrialization on tribal populations.
7.1 Problems of exploitation and deprivation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
7.2 Social change and contemporary tribal societies: Impact of modern democratic institutions, development programs and welfare measures on tribals and weaker sections.
7.3 The concept of ethnicity; Ethnic conflicts and political developments; Unrest among tribal communities; Regionalism and demand for autonomy; Pseudo-tribalism. Social change among the tribes during colonial and post-independent India.
8.1 Impact of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions on tribal societies.
8.2 Tribe and nation-state— a comparative study of tribal communities in India and other countries.
9.1 History of administration of tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programs of tribal development, and their implementation. The concept of PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), their distribution, and special programs for their development. Role of N.G.O.s in tribal development.
9.2 Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.
9.3 Contributions of anthropology to the understanding of regionalism, communalism and ethnic and political movements.

How to Prepare UPSC Anthropology Optional Syllabus?

The questions from the Anthropology optional syllabus demand conceptual clarity in answers, which can be enriched by diagrams and flowcharts. Using the case studies (tribal and cultural groups) is a must in this subject due to its subject matter. Strong focus should be on fundamentals, practice questions, and relating concepts to real-world examples. Here are some tips to effectively prepare the UPSC Anthropology optional syllabus:

  • Understand the Syllabus: Start with an overview of the syllabus and previous years’ question papers to identify important topics and the exam pattern.
  • Focus on the Basics: Start with the foundational topics, such as human evolution, sociocultural anthropology, and anthropological theories. Build a strong base before moving to advanced concepts.
  • Chapters of NCERT Biology and Sociology are foundational in nature, so go through these chapters.
  • Select the Right Study Material: Refer to standard textbooks like Physical Anthropology by P Nath and Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain to build your fundamentals. Make chapter-wise notes. For current developments, read Anthropology newsletters, journals and articles in science magazines regularly.
  • Solve Previous Years’ Papers: Solve the past 10-15 years of UPSC Anthropology papers thoroughly. Observe the topic weightage and nature of the questions asked.
  • Practice Diagrams and Case Studies: Practise drawing neat diagrams, sections and labelling. UPSC often asks candidates to illustrate concepts through sketches. Analyse case studies to understand real-world applications.
  • Case studies can be prepared using various newspapers and magazines such as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs website, The Hindu, Economic and Political Weekly, Yojana, etc.

With a strategic and focused approach, you can master this highly rewarding optional subject.

Also Read: BSF HCM Syllabus 2023

Important Topics in UPSC Anthropology Syllabus

Here is a list of important topics in the UPSC Anthropology syllabus for Paper 1 and Paper 2 from an exam point of view:

Paper 1

  • Meaning, Scope, and Development of Anthropology
  • Relationship with Other Disciplines: History, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Life Science, Medical Science.
  • Main Branches of Anthropology: Social-Cultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeological Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology.
  • Human Evolution and the Emergence of Man: Theories of Organic Evolution, Characteristics of Primates, Phylogenetic Status of Hominids, Biological Basis of Life, Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology, and Cultural Evolution.
  • The Nature of Culture and Society: Concepts of Culture and Civilization, Ethnocentrism vs. Cultural Relativism, Social Institutions, Social Groups, Social Stratification.
  • Marriage and Family: Definitions, Laws of Marriage, Types of Marriage, Functions of Marriage, Marriage Regulations, and Impact of Urbanization and Industrialization.
  • Kinship: Principles and Types of Descent, Kinship Terminology, Descent and Alliance.
  • Economic Organisation: Formalist and Substantivist Debate, Principles Governing Production, Distribution, and Exchange in Different Societies.
  • Political Organization and Social Control: Concepts of Power, Authority, Legitimacy, and Social Control in Simple Societies.
  • Religion: Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, Forms of Religion in Tribal and Peasant Societies, Magico-Religious Functionaries.
  • Anthropological Theories: Various Anthropological Theories, including Classical Evolutionism, Functionalism, Structuralism, and more.
  • Culture, Language, and Communication: Nature, Origin, and Characteristics of Language, Verbal and Non-verbal Communication.
  • Research Methods in Anthropology: Fieldwork Tradition, Tools of Data Collection, and Analysis of Data.
  • Human Genetics: Genetic Principles in Man, Mendelian Genetics, Genetic Polymorphism, Chromosomal Aberrations, Race and Racism, Population Genetics, and more.
  • Ecological Anthropology: Bio-Cultural Adaptations, Man’s Physiological Responses to Environmental Stresses, Epidemiological Anthropology, Health, and Disease.

Paper 2

  • Evolution of Indian Culture and Civilization: Prehistoric, Protohistoric (Indus Civilization), and Contributions of Tribal Cultures to Indian Civilization.
  • Palaeo Anthropological Evidences from India: Special Reference to Siwaliks and Narmada Basin.
  • Ethno-Archaeology in India: Survivals and Parallels among Different Communities.
  • Demographic Profile of India: Ethnic and Linguistic Elements in the Indian Population.
  • The Structure and Nature of the Traditional Indian Social System: Caste System, Sacred Complex, and Impact of Different Religions.
  • Emergence and Growth of Anthropology in India: Contributions of Scholar-Administrators and Indian Anthropologists to Tribal and Caste Studies.
  • Indian Village: Significance, Patterns of Settlement, and Impact of Globalization.
  • Linguistic and Religious Minorities: Their Status in Indian Society.
  • Indigenous and Exogenous Processes of Socio-Cultural Change: Sanskritization, Westernization, and Modernization.
  • Tribal Situation in India: Characteristics, Problems, and Impact of Developmental Projects.
  • Problems of Exploitation and Deprivation: Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.
  • Social Change and Contemporary Tribal Societies: Impact of Democratic Institutions, Development Programs, and Ethnic Conflicts.
  • Impact of Religion on Tribal Societies: Comparative Study of Tribal Communities in India and Other Countries.
  • Administration of Tribal Areas: Policies, Programs, and Role of NGOs.
  • Role of Anthropology in Tribal and Rural Development: Contributions to Understanding Regionalism, Communalism, Ethnic and Political Movements.

Booklist for Anthropology Optional for UPSC

The suggested books below cover the UPSC Anthropology syllabus, but it is not necessary to read each book comprehensively. Focus on reading the specific chapters and topics in each book that are relevant to the UPSC exam. Be strategic in selecting which portions to study rather than trying to get through every page of these reference books.

PaperBooks
BasicsSelected chapters of NCERT Sociology and Biology – XI and XII
Paper-1Physical Anthropology by P Nath- Anthropology Simplified by Vivek Bhasme- Anthropology by Ember and Ember
Paper-2Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain- Tribal India by Nadeem Hasnain- Anthropology Simplified by Vivek Bhasme- The Tribal Culture of India by LP Vidyarthi- Xaxa Report- Yojana articles on Tribal and Marginalised Communities

If you have chosen Anthropology as an optional subject for the UPSC Mains, you should extensively prepare by studying previous years’ examinations and reading relevant books on Anthropology for UPSC. IAS aspirants can combine their training for Anthropology optional with General Studies in prelims and mains because the syllabuses of both disciplines overlap.

After reviewing the syllabus, IAS candidates are advised to obtain the appropriate Anthropology Optional Strategy to prevent making mistakes while studying for the UPSC IAS exam.

Aside from the Anthropology syllabus, applicants should review the detailed UPSC Syllabus for the Prelims and Mains examinations, which can be found in the linked article, and arrange their studies appropriately.

The IAS Notification cited in the article provides more information about optional subjects and their syllabus.

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