UPSC - Anthropology Optional - Syllabus, Strategy, Books & Case Studies
Anthropology as a subject is about the diversity and evolution of humans. For various reasons, the focus of anthropology has been on the study of tribes. Like all other optional subjects, Anthropology will need an in-depth study from various sources. Choose the optional subject only if you find the syllabus interesting and would like to learn more about the same. We share insights from the toppers of Anthropology optional paper from past examinations.
To begin with, Anthropology has a huge and diverse syllabus, which calls for regular planning and a smart distribution of the syllabus, based on the available time. You will not be able to complete the entire syllabus within a few months. Hence, you should start early and give enough time to every chapter in the syllabus. You can start with a strategic distribution of the syllabus into 10-12 parts. All the parts should cover important chapters that are a must-read for the examination. It should also include notes, which explain the concept in a clear manner. In each subtopic, you should include notes, which help in a quick revision. The notes could be 200-400 words per subtopic.
Anthropology Optional Syllabus
Paper - I
1.2 Relationships with other disciplines: Behavioural Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, Medical Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities.
1.3 Main branches of Anthropology, their scope and relevance
- Social-cultural Anthropology
- Biological Anthropology
- Archaeological Anthropology
- Linguistic Anthropology
- Biological and Cultural factors in human evolution.
- Theories of Organic Evolution (Pre- Darwinian, Darwinian and Post-Darwinian).
- 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; Primate Adaptations; (Arboreal and Terrestrial) Primate Taxonomy; Living Major Primates; Primate Behaviour; Evolutionary Trend and Primate Taxonomy; Tertiary and Quaternary fossil primates; Comparative Anatomy of Man and Apes; Skeletal changes due to erect posture and its implications.
- Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences and Humanities
- Homo erectus: Africa (Paranthropus), Europe (Homo erectus heidelbergensis), Asia (Homo erectus javanicus, Homo erectus pekinensis)
- Neanderthal Man- La-Chapelle-aux-saints (Classical type), Mt. Carmel (Progressive type)
- Rhodesian man
- Homo sapiens Cromagnon, Grimaldi and Chancelede
1.8 (a) Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods.
(b) Cultural Evolution- Broad Outlines of Prehistoric cultures
- Copper-Bronze Age
- Iron Age
2.2 The Nature of Society: Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institutions; Social groups; and Social stratification.
2.3 Marriage: Definition and universality; Laws of marriage (endogamy, exogamy, hypergamy, hypogamy, incest taboo); Types of marriage (monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, group marriage). Functions of marriage; Marriage regulations (preferential, prescriptive and proscriptive); Marriage payments (bridewealth and dowry).
2.4 Family: Definition and universality; Family, household and domestic groups; functions of a family; Types of a family (from the perspectives of structure, blood relation, marriage, residence and succession); Impact of urbanization, industrialization and feminist movements on a 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 Complimentary Filiation; Descent and Alliance.
3 Economic organization: Meaning, scope and relevance of economic anthropology; Formalist and Substantivist 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; concepts 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, sorcerer and witch).
- Classical evolutionism (Tylor, Morgan and Frazer)
- Historical particularism (Boas); Diffusionism (British, German and American)
- Functionalism (Malinowski); Structural- functionalism (Radcliffe-Brown)
- Structuralism ( Levi Strauss and E. Leach)
- Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Linton, Kardiner and Cora du Bois).
- Neo-evolutionism (Childe, White, Steward, Sahlins and Service)
- Cultural materialism (Harris)
- Symbolic and interpretive theories (Turner, Schneider and Geertz)
- Cognitive theories (Tyler, Conklin)
- Post- modernism in anthropology
7 Culture, language and communication: Nature, origin and characteristics of language; verbal and non-verbal communication; social context of language use.
- Fieldwork tradition in anthropology
- Distinction between technique, method and methodology
- Tools of data collection: observation, interview, schedules, questionnaire, Case study, genealogy, life-history, oral history, secondary sources of information, participatory methods.
- Analysis, interpretation and presentation of data.
9.1 Human Genetics Methods and Application: Methods for the study of genetic principles in a man-family study (pedigree analysis, twin study, foster child, co-twin method, cytogenetic method, chromosomal and karyo-type analysis), biochemical methods, immunological methods, D.N.A. technology and recombinant technologies.
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.
- Numerical and structural aberrations (disorders).
- Sex chromosomal aberrations Klinefelter (XXY), Turner (XO), Super female (XXX), intersex and other syndromic disorders.
- Autosomal aberrations Down syndrome, Patau, Edward and Cri-du-chat syndromes.
- Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counselling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping and genome study.
9.6 Age, sex and population variation as a genetic marker- ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes.Physiological characteristics-Hb level, body fat, pulse rate, respiratory functions and sensory perceptions of different cultural and socio-economic groups.
9.7 Concepts and methods of Ecological Anthropology. Bio-cultural Adaptations Genetic and Non- genetic factors. Mans 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 The concept of human growth and development: stages of growth pre-natal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, and senescence.
- Factors affecting growth and development of genetic, environmental, biochemical, nutritional, cultural and socio-economic.
- Ageing and senescence. Theories and observations of biological and chronological longevity. Human physique and somatotypes. Methodologies for growth studies.
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 equipment, 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 - II
- Prehistoric (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Neolithic Chalcolithic).
- Protohistoric (Indus Civilization): Pre- Harappan, Harappan and post- Harappan cultures. Contributions of tribal cultures to Indian civilization.
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 traditional Indian social system Varnashram, Purushartha, Karma, Rina and Rebirth.
3.2 Caste system in India- structure and characteristics, Varna and caste, Theories of origin of the 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 and growth of anthropology 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 tribal populations and their distribution.
6.2 Problems of the tribal Communities land alienation, poverty, indebtedness, low literacy, poor educational facilities, unemployment, underemployment, 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 programmes 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, programmes of tribal development and their implementation.The concept of PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), their distribution, special programmes 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.
Books Recommended for Anthropology Optional
Anthropology Paper 1 Booklist
Social Cultural Anthropology
- An Introduction to Social Anthropology D.N Majumdar and T.N. Madan (for basic understating of Anthropology)
- An Introduction to Social Cultural Anthropology N.K Vaid
- Introducing Sociology N.C.E.R.T Class 11
- Anthropological Theories
Principles of Prehistoric archaeology
- Measuring Time (Chapter 2) of Indian Prehistory by D.K Bhattacharya
- Physical Anthropology P. Nath
- Biology Class 12thE.R.T
- K Vaid Printed Notes
- K Vaid Printed Notes.
Anthropology Paper 2 Booklist
Prehistoric Indian Culture
S Sahay and Pradeep K Singh (This book has a concise summary of complete Prehistoric Indian culture. Other books you can refer for this topic are Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain or Ancient India by R.S Sharma (old NCERT) or D.K Bhattacharya or any other source.)
- Indian Anthropology Nadeem Hasnain
- Indian Society Class 12thE.R.T
- Social Change and Development in India Class 12thE.R.T
- Tribal India Nadeem Hasnain
- Report of the High-Level Committee on Social-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities in India (Xaxa Committee)
- Tribal and Marginalized Communities January 2014 edition of Yojana.
How to Write Anthropology Answers in UPSC Mains Exam
Practice Answer writing, otherwise, it will be difficult to complete the paper in the exam. Answers should be written in proper paragraph format consisting of Introduction, Body and Conclusion/Way Ahead.
The format for answer writing for different questions related to Biological Anthropology, Social-cultural Anthropology, Tribal India and Indian society is almost the same. The same is divided into four parts for a better explanation.
While writing answers, use side headings. It will make your answer more readable, presentable and easy to comprehend. Try and draw diagrams and flowcharts wherever possible. This will make your answers look better and will also help you remember the answer easily.
Answer Writing Tips for Anthropology Paper 1
- Introduction, among other things, can include definitions, preferably given by anthropologists/sociologists, as per the demand of the question. For example, define Social Anthropology and Sociology.
Use of diagrams, flowcharts etc. For example, in a question related to Prehistory, World Map showing various sites across the world can be drawn. Similarly, tool diagrams can also be drawn.
- Case Studies wherever possible.
- Introduction, among other things, can include a definition as per the demand of the question, like that of Forensic Anthropology.
- Please try to draw as many diagrams as possible. Use technical/scientific terms in answers.
Case studies (if possible). P Nath, for instance, contains a few case studies related to the genetic effect of consanguineous marriage and cousin marriage. Similarly, this case study can be quoted as a question in Epidemiological Anthropology.
Answer Writing Tips for Anthropology Paper 2
- Introduction, among other things, can include definitions, like that of Caste, Ethno-archaeology, and Regionalism etc.
Flowcharts and diagrams will help. For example on the question on various traditional patterns of settlement, draw diagrams of linear, scattered and clustered settlement patterns. Similarly, Map of India and tools can be drawn on a question on Mesolithic findings.
Case Studies, Reports, Committee recommendations, Examples, Facts, Data etc., as per the demand of the question should be given and will help a lot, especially on questions related to Caste; Impact of globalisation on Indian villages; Media and Social Change; Social, Political and Economic status of religious and linguistic minorities.
Gather views of sociologist and anthropologists like M.N Srinivas, S.C Dube, Rajani Kothari etc. on various topics like caste, religion etc. Take help from your friends having Sociology as an Optional.
- Introduction, among many things, can include data, facts, definitions etc.
Flowchart, diagrams helps. For example, a diagram can be drawn depicting various factors responsible for the exploitation of Scheduled Caste in India and then these factors can be explained in detail along with case studies.
Case Studies are very important for this section of Syllabus.
- The conclusion can include Way Ahead, Recommendations, and Steps being taken by Government etc.
Importance of Case Studies in Anthropology Optional
For a question on Cultural Relativism you can write about Criminal Tribes Act and how the act equated civilization with sedentary life and thus classified several nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes as criminals by birth. This stigmatized a complete section of the society as well as the generations to come. This is why cultural relativism is important.
On a question on Epidemiological Anthropology as one of the case study, you can write on one of the articles by National Geography, How the Fight against Ebola tested a culture s tradition.
For a question on Impact of industrialization on STs on the population of Jharkhand (Question 5 (c) CSE 2016, Paper 2) write a case study by Tribal Research Institute, Ranchi given in the Xaxa committee report.
The impact of the tribal development program and plans on social transformation among tribes (Question 7 (a) CSE 2016, Paper 2) as a part of the case study, write information related to PESA implementation in Kamayyapeta in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh and social transformation among tribes.
Case studies should be properly quoted. Therefore try to collect a good data bank of case studies, for complete Paper 2 and also Paper 1 (wherever you think it is possible.). The questions in the paper are generic which can also be asked in General Studies paper 1, this means that you need to ensure that your answers are different from the General Studies answers. You can also give a separate heading for case studies under your answer and then elaborate it further.
- Xaxa committee
- The Hindu
- Websites like DownToEarth, TheWire etc. Consider following links Forest War, Caste Issue
- EPW online. Just go through the index and check for articles that you think are related to Anthropology and read only those articles
- Refer to Ministry of Tribal Affairs website for Data, Facts related to Tribes and also case study related to some successful interventions
Topics for Collecting Case Studies
- Linguistic and religious minorities and their social, political and economic status.
- Panchayati Raj and social change; Media and social change.
- Problems of the tribal Communities land alienation, poverty, indebtedness, low literacy, poor educational facilities, unemployment, underemployment, health and nutrition.
- 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.
- Problems of exploitation and deprivation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
- Social change and contemporary tribal societies: Impact of modern democratic institutions, development programmes and welfare measures on tribals and weaker sections.
- 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.
- Impact of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and other religions on tribal societies.
- History of administration of tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programmes of tribal development and their implementation. The concept of PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), their distribution, special programmes for their development. Role of N.G.O.s in tribal development.
- Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.
- Contributions of anthropology to the understanding of regionalism, communalism, and ethnic and political movements.
Anthropology Note Making Tips
Notes are very important while preparing for the UPSC examination. Try to prepare short notes for every topic in the syllabus. Write in a style you are comfortable with, you can write on loose sheets, in notebooks or online. This will help in a quick revision at the final time. While preparing anthropology notes, you should try to note down the definitions, case studies, diagrams, facts, data, reports as well as the views of anthropologists and sociologists.
By quoting different anthropologists and sociologists, you will show that you are well read and your answer is well researched. You can also include various reports, examples, case studies and facts. Always follow a proper structure, which includes an introduction, body, conclusion for the answer.
Key Points for Anthropology Optional Preparation
When you begin preparing for the subject, you need to get familiar with the basics of each topic. Further, develop an interrelationship among them. The key to score marks in every paper is to develop an interrelationship among the topics and develop a creative reorganization of facts. In case of anthropology optional, the issue is that most aspirants who take up this subject are from other disciplines, such as biology, engineering or social science. Because of a non-anthropology background, the students find difficulty in relating one topic to another.
For the first paper, anthropological theories-evolutionism, historical particularism, functionalism etc. constitute the core of the subject, somastery of these theories is essential because theories provide the approach to understand the general topics-marriage, family, kinship, religion, economic organization, political organization etc. Since the questions in the examination oscillate between the contemporary issues and basics, it is important to apply the principle and theories of Anthropology to the current reality. It will help to show the application of Western and Indian theories in an Indian situation. Credit goes for not complicating the issues but simplifying or solving the issues.
Is Anthropology a Good Optional?
Choosing an optional subject for IAS is always a big deal for the candidates. Anthropology is a good choice for an optional for IAS exam but it also depends on how much focus you put in order to understand the concept.
The subject has been cut down considerably in the UPSC syllabus. Due to the removal of various topics like Twins, Ethnicity, Development Anthropology, Reproductive Biology, etc. it is expected that the subject will be a popular optional subject for the IAS exam again. It has less content as well as research methodology.
The subject is science oriented. Hence, while answering the questions for Civil Service Mains, the answers should be crisp and stick to the point. One should add flowcharts and diagrams wherever needed. With regular practice in answer writing, the applicant can self-assess and understand their weaknesses. The current syllabus is of a scoring nature for the aspirants.
Importance of Coaching for Anthropology
It is a well-known fact that coaching plays a crucial role in the preparation of IAS examinations. A large number of coaching institutes have come up across the nation, which caters to the increasing number of candidates. Delhi has become a coaching hub for the preparation of IAS exams, especially for optional subjects like Anthropology. With renowned teachers and a systematic approach to the preparation of the subject, many students relocate to Delhi to fulfil their dreams.
The coaching institutes across Delhi have a well laid out strategy that aims to help you achieve success in the optional paper. The renowned IAS officers teach the subjects and also provide tips for answer writing. The coaching institute covers a large amount of syllabus and offers references in the form of case studies as well as reference study material, which helps the candidate, prepare for the Mains.
Courses for Anthropology optional for IAS could be a scoring subject with the right coaching and tips for preparation. NeoStencil offers a wide array of courses by India's top teachers with many years of teaching expertise and mentoring many IAS toppers. With the help of notes and a well-distributed syllabus, you can manage to score well in this optional IAS paper.