Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology and Social Change

Length of Program
Number of Units
online phd icon
Online, Residential Intensives

Program Overview 

CIIS’ online Ph.D. in Anthropology is distinctive for its emphasis on:

  • Activist research of concrete utopias
  • Global social movements and lost revolutionary treasures
  • Issues of colonialism, globalization, development
  • Anarchist, Marxist, and feminist theoretical perspectives
  • Political ecology
  • Integration of activism and scholarship: developing research skills in activist research, intercultural translation, and emancipatory thinking

We believe another world is possible. With so many crises around the globe, systematic research of counter-hegemonic knowledge and practices is more relevant now than ever. Our Ph.D. will equip you with the necessary skills to participate in the "nowtopian" task of constructing social scientific knowledge that looks beyond capitalism, hierarchy, and ecological disaster.

You will gain an excellent command of history, debates, and perspectives of contemporary social justice movements and the intertwined historical processes of colonization, development, and liberal modernity.

Through your coursework and research you will work with some of the most prominent activist scholars and progressive organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the program faculty and the wider University.

"The real radical potential of Anthropology, for me at least, has always been that it compels us to see humans as much more than we have been encouraged to imagine... When one carries out an ethnography, one observes what people do, and then tries to tease out the hidden symbolic, moral, or pragmatic logics that underlie their actions; one tries to get at the way people’s habits and actions makes sense in ways that they are not themselves completely aware of. One obvious role for a radical intellectual is to do precisely that: to look at those who are creating viable alternatives, try to figure out what might be the larger implications of what they are (already) doing, and then offer those ideas back, not as prescriptions, but as contributions, possibilities—as gifts. This is more or less what I was trying to do a few paragraphs ago when I suggested that social theory could refashion itself in the manner of direct democratic process. And as that example makes clear, such a project would actually have to have two aspects, or moments if you like: one ethnographic, one utopian, suspended in a constant dialogue." - David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

Career Paths

As an Anthropology and Social Change graduate, you will develop both theoretical and practical knowledge applicable to careers in academia, publishing, policy, social justice in business, government, and communities, and more. Our graduates are equipped to participate in scholarly ideas and debates, as well as apply their practical skills in non-academic environments such as: 

  • Research
  • Organizing
  • Grant writing
  • Policy analysis
  • Legal and environmental organizations

Questions? Contact us.

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