Anthropology Department

The Anthropology Junior Qualifying Exam

See department-approved secondary sources for overviews of anthropology as a discipline (below)!

The Anthropology Junior Qualifying Exam is a chance for the department to assess your preparedness to undertake the independent senior thesis. To the extent that they are able to do so, students are expected to have completed, or have made plans to complete, all general requirements, including Divisional requirements, before taking the Junior Qual. In the recent past, the format of the exams has varied, but most have consisted of questions that address issues raised in the courses taken in fulfillment of the departmental requirements. The actual exam changes every year, but it is always appropriate to ask to see earlier exams. However, the Department changed the format of the Qual in 2022-2023. Thus the 2022-23 qual would be the only relevant recent exam for 2024. Please contact Darcy Tanner, the Faculty Administrative Coordinator for Anthropology, for access to the file.

The Four Main Goals of the Qual

What is Anthropology? What is Anthropological Research?

  • Demonstrate a clear sense of what distinguishes anthropological research and analysis from other disciplines.
  • Demonstrate ability to distinguish between different theoretical paradigms and how they can or cannot be applied to analyses of sociocultural phenomena (What are their main conceptual premises? Who are they arguing with implicitly or explicitly? What do they illuminate? What do they leave out? How might they be useful in framing your own project?).
  • Pivoting toward senior thesis: begin to think about how to draw on theory and methods debates in anthropology to imagine a range of approaches to 1) researching a sociocultural phenomenon and 2) identifying key sources and data to explore them.
  • Demonstrate capacity for proposing a potential senior thesis proposal that lays out specific, feasible and ethical methods of data collection (what is your main research problem and/or question? why is this problem or question significant? how will you collect and analyze your data? how will this data answer your research question? what anthropological theories will frame your analyses?).

Prepping for the Qual

Reed students are required to take the junior qual during the semester before they start senior thesis. The Anthropology Qual is offered at predetermined times, which during the spring semester (for those starting thesis the following fall) usually occurs in March or early April. In rare cases, such as if you are not enrolled at Reed during the semester prior to starting thesis, or if you have to be off campus, arrangements can be made to take the exam online.

Anthropology majors typically take the Junior qual during their second semester junior year. Most take the Qual in the spring and it is given over a weekend's time (Friday morning to Monday morning). We strongly encourage you to plan ahead for taking the Qual, especially if you are studying abroad during your sophomore or junior years. The semester prior to taking the Qual, please consult your adviser for advice on how to prepare for the exam. Then at the beginning of the semester during which you plan to take the Qual, please notify Darcy Tanner of your intention to take the exam. You will need to sign up for the Qual (with a pseudonym of your choice; the exam is graded blind) via the Qual Moodle page. A request to take the Qual at other times should be made to the Department Chair.

The Junior Qual is usually an open-book, open-note exam. While the actual Junior Qual is always your own work, we strongly encourage you to work with other students and with your advisers to prepare for the exam during your junior year. Students in the past have organized small study groups. The Qual has not required extra research outside the materials provided you for the exam and from your own coursework notes. It is always a good idea to return to your notes for Anth 211 and other upper division anthropology courses you have taken to review key theoretical frameworks that shaped the intellectual debates of anthropology as a discipline (eg., the Boasians, Durkheimian structural-functionalism, structuralism, interpretive or symbolic anthropology, the postcolonial turn, the ontological turn, linguistic anthropological approaches, economic and legal anthropological approaches, critical archaeology, decolonizing approaches, etc.). While not required, you may want to consult secondary sources on the history of anthropology and its theoretical and methodological debates. See below for a list of recommended secondary sources. The ones tagged as "general overviews" could be particularly helpful. As always, however, read these with a critical eye to authors' own perspectives and agendas. Other items represent important critiques or debates. Please consult these secondary sources rather than rely on google searches, AI chat apps, or Wikipedia, etc.

Evaluation of Quals

Assessment of the exam is done blind; professors do not know whose quals they are reading until the exams are graded. As in all of your anthropology courses, we are looking at the quality of your writing, but most importantly at your grasp of key theoretical frameworks and methodologies in anthropology and your capacity to critique and apply them in researching and analyzing specific ethnographic or historical phenomena. In thinking about your preparedness for the senior thesis in anthropology, we also consider your exam in the context of your overall work in anthropology across your courses.

Outcomes can vary. You can receive a pass, a condition, or a fail. Most years, at least half of qual-takers receive a condition; it is very normal. If you receive a condition, that means one or more of your answers needed more attention, or professors would like you to strengthen your understanding of a particular point. You may be asked to simply rewrite one or more of the questions, or you may be asked to do some further reading before you write another essay, or you may be asked to submit an annotated bibliography. Most conditions are due within a few weeks of the qual, while some are done over the summer. If you receive a fail, you should consult with both your adviser and the department chair. Together, you can strategize about preparing to retake the qual. According to college policy, you have two chances to take the Junior Qual. If you fail a second time, you cannot advance to senior thesis.

Recommended Secondary Sources on Theoretical and Methodological Debates in Anthropology

**= general overviews of the field

Online resources

Oxford Bibliographies: Anthropology
See articles and annotated bibliographies on topics, theories and anthropologists (Boas, Hurston, Benedict, etc.)

Reference articles

**Allen, Jafari Sinclaire and Ryan Cecil Jobson. 2016. The Decolonizing Generation: (Race and) Theory in Anthropology since the Eighties. Current Anthropology. Volume 57, Number 2, April.

Comaroff, John. "The End of Anthropology: The Future of an (In)Discipline," American Anthropologist 112(4): 524-538, 2011.

**Duranti, Alessandro. "Theories of Culture," in Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Hymes, Dell. "The Use of Anthropology: Critical, Political, Personal," in Hymes, Ed., Reinventing Anthropology, New York: Random House, 1999 [1969].

**Keane, Webb. “Self-Interpretation, Agency, and the Objects of Anthropology: Reflections on a Genealogy”, CSSH, 2003.

Mascia-Lees, et al. "The Postmodern Turn in Anthropology: Cautions from a Feminist Perspective," Signs 15(1), 1989.

Lassiter, Luke Eric. Collaborative Ethnography and Public Anthropology. Current Anthropology Volume 46, Number 1, February 2005

**Ortner, Sherry. Theory in Anthropology Since the Sixties. CSSH, 1984.

**Sahlins, Marshall. 1999. "Two or Three Things that I Know about Culture," The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute Vol. 5, No. 3 (Sep., 1999), pp. 399-421.

**American Ethnologist Journal, Vol 51, #1, 2024

Reference books

Asad, Talal, ed. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. Humanities Pres, 1973.

**Darnell, Regna. Invisible Genealogies : A History of Americanist Anthropology

Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other

**Herzfeld, Michael. Anthropology: Theoretical Practice in Culture and Society, 2000.
PDF of the first four chapters here.

Marcus, George and Michael Fischer, eds., Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Marcus, George, ed. Critical Anthropology Now: Unexpected Contexts, Shifting Constituencies, Changing Agendas. Santa Fe: School for American Research, 1999.

**Stocking series on History of Anthropology (Univ of Wisconsin Press)

Race, culture, and evolution; essays in the history of anthropology, New York, Free Press.

Delimiting anthropology : occasional essays and reflections

The ethnographer's magic and other essays in the history of anthropology

After Tylor : British social anthropology, 1888-1951

History of Anthropology, Volume 1 : Observers Observed : Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork

History of Anthropology, Volume 3 : Objects and Others : Essays on Museums and Material Culture

History of Anthropology, Volume 6 : Romantic Motives : Essays on Anthropological Sensibility

History of Anthropology : Functionalism Historicized : Essays on British Social Anthropology

Malinowski, Rivers, Benedict, and Others : Essays on Culture and Personality

History of Anthropology, Volume 7 : Colonial Situations : Essays on the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge

History of Anthropology, Volume 8 : Volksgeist As Method and Ethic : Essays on Boasian Ethnography and the German Anthropological Tradition

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2003 Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World. New York: Palgrave/St. Martin's/ Macmillan.

Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. (Revised Edition). New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.