Anthropology for UPSC – Syllabus & Study Plan

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anthropology for upsc

Anthropology is one of the considered options for the UPSC Exams. Its themes and subjects are similar to arts as well as humanities which credit better marks and make it a convenient option for students to choose. Anthropology is the scientific study of the entirety of human beings. It helps us form connections with human beings who have lived to date. It is an important piece in the puzzle of solving human complexities and linking them with Science, Psychology, Archeology and Culture. Let us have a look at the syllabus of Anthropology for UPSC in this blog. 

“Anthropology is the science which tells us that people are the same the whole world over-except when they are different.” – Nancy Banks-Smith. 

Importance of Anthropology

The study of our ancestral beings is important to understand the reasons for our behaviours, cultures, social groups, movements, politics, linguistic developments, lifestyle, etc. India has a rich history of its ancestral past and its development into an independent nation. With the diverse salad bowl India is today, this nation has been impacted by various tribes, religions, races, castes and ethnicities. The government of India has promoted various research programs in anthropology. Anthropology for UPSC is quite a chosen topic among students owing to its interesting and lucid syllabus. Folks from an engineering and humanities background can opt for this optional subject, study it for at least  4 months and score well.

Relevant Read: UPSC Essay Topics

Important Topics in Anthropology

Anthropology for UPSC has the following topics in detail for their syllabus. Anthropology focuses on the four core themes of evolution and the study of humans. Let’s explore the branches of anthropology in brief.

  • Archaeology: Archeology analyses human beings on the types of objects, buildings and civilizations humans have made. They also focus on bone formations and other intricate concepts in our everyday life which gives them a deeper insight into human thoughts.
  • Biological Anthropology: This branch looks at the human body and its adaptations to various environments, and the various diseases that previous beings went through. They dig deeper into the fossils of human ancestors and primates.
  • Cultural Anthropology: Cultural anthropology deals with humans and their social structures, religions, traditions and practices. What did our ancestors do in their leisure time and what were their entertainment methods are covered in this part. 
  • Linguistic Anthropology: Communication is the base of any civilization and humans have spoken many languages, among which some of them are even extinct. Today there exist over 7000 languages. To understand where these languages have had their starting points, it is essential to study linguistic Anthropology.

How to Prepare for UPSC?

How to Prepare Anthropology for UPSC without Coaching?

The following tips will provide a basic guideline for Anthropology for the UPSC study plan:

  • Anthropology is a very interesting subject that needs some patience from the student side. Begin by reading the syllabus and also arranging the previous year’s papers. Paper-1 consists of Social-Cultural Anthropology and Biological Anthropology and Paper-2 covers the topics of Indian Society and Tribal India.
  • Adding self-created examples in your own words will make you stand out. Read case studies relevant to each topic and highlight the basic idea conveyed through them. Look out for recent incidents where you can draw connections.
  • Since it has various layers and is conceptually interlinked, you should make flow-chart and diagrams to comprehend the topics. Make sure you don’t completely mug-up concepts which might result in negligence. 
  • Take every topic with a fresh mind and be creative in constructing your answers. 

Relevant Read: History Questions for UPSC and SSC Exams 

Anthropology Books for UPSC

An Introduction to Social Anthropology Buy Here
Anthropology – Ember and Ember  Buy Here
Physical Anthropology – P. Nath Buy Here
Indian Anthropology- Nadeem Hasnain Buy Here
The Tribal Culture of India  Buy Here

Anthropology Syllabus UPSC

Anthropology is one of the important topics of UPSC and it’s important to know the syllabus for better preparation and building exam strategy. Here are some of the topics covered in the Anthropology syllabus for UPSC:

For Paper I

1.1 Meaning, scope, and development of Anthropology.
1.2 Relationship with other disciplines: History, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Life Science, Medical Science.
1.3 Main branches of Anthropology, their scope, and relevance: Social-cultural Anthropology.Biological Anthropology.Archaeological Anthropology.Linguistic Anthropology.
1.4 Human Evolution and the emergence of Man: 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; 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:
Polio-Pleistocene hominids in South and East Africa – Australopith 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.
1.7 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: PaleolithicMesolithicNeolithicChalcolithicCopper-Bronze AgeIron Age
2.1 The Nature of Culture:  The concept and characteristics of culture and civilization; 
Ethnocentrism vis-à-vis cultural Relativism
2.2 The Nature of Society:  Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institutions; Social groups; 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 (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 Complimentary 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; 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).
6. Anthropological theories: 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)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: Fieldwork tradition in anthropologyDistinction between technique, method and methodologyTools 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 the man-family study (pedigree analysis, twin study, foster child, co-twin method, cytogenetic method, chromosomal and karyotype analysis), biochemical methods, immunological methods, D.N.A. technology and recombinant technologies.
9.2 Mendelian genetics in the man-family study 
a 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.
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.
9.5 Race and racism: The biological basis of morphological variation of non-metric and metric characters. Racial criteria, raciaaboutlation to heredity and environment; biological basis of racial classification, racial differentiation and race crossing in man.
9.6 a) Age, sex and population variation as genetic marker– ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes.
b) Physiological characteristics-Hb 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 – pre-natal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence. Factors affecting growth and development are 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 bioevents 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 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.

For Paper II

1.1 Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilization: Prehistoric (Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Neolithic Chalcolithic).Protohistoric (Indus Civilization): Pre- Harappan, Harappan and post- Harappan cultures.Contributions of tribal cultures to Indian civilization.
1.2 Palaeo: Anthropological evidence from India with special reference to Siwaliks and Narmada basin (Ramapithecus, Sivapithecus and Narmada Man).
1.3 Ethno-archaeology in India: The concept of ethnoarchaeology; 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 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: ManSpirit 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 The 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: 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, and 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.

Relevant Read: What is Golden Revolution?

Case Studies in Anthropology

Case Studies in Anthropology are the most important component that can help you get a higher GS score in the optional paper. Case studies are an example of a component that necessitates a larger viewpoint and more in-depth study. In Anthropology, including case studies in your answers will help you get good grades. Case studies in Anthropology can be obtained from a variety of sources, including The Hindu Newspaper, EPW, Xaxa Committee, and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs website.

Here are some relevant case studies to help you get the out most of your Anthropology optional:

  • Case studies can include trivial issues concerning tribal populations such as low literacy, land alienation, unemployment, health, poverty, and indebtedness.
  • Case studies of minorities based on their linguistic, religious, social, political, and economic circumstances.
  • Case studies on development projects’ effects on tribal habitations and displacement, forest policy, and tribal interactions.
  • Case studies on Panchayati Raj and social transformation, as well as media and social transformations. Apart from that, there are issues with the exploitation and deprivation of SC, ST, and OBCs.
  • Changes in society and their impact on vulnerable groups and indigenous societies.
  • Religion transformation and its effects on tribal groups

Relevant Read: Social Anthropology Courses and Careers

Pros and Cons of Anthropology as Optional

On average, 500 candidates choose anthropology as an optional study, including those with no prior knowledge of the field. There are advantages and disadvantages to taking anthropology as an elective. In any instance, before deciding on an optional, you must go through a checklist.


  • In anthropology, inquiries are typically direct.
  • When contrasted to basic humanities disciplines, it is considered scoring.
  • Because it is scientific in nature, diagrams and flowcharts can be used to make the solutions more appealing.
  • They save time when writing responses and also earn points.
  • Its curriculum is relatively brief. If the proper strategy and study materials are used, it can be completed in four months.
  • It is an excellent choice for students who have a science or engineering background and do not want to take their graduation subjects as options.
  • It’s a fascinating topic that’s also simple to grasp.
  • Unlike some other popular subjects, the performance of this optional has been steady.
  • The overlap with General Studies is less than that with courses like political science, public administration, and economics, although there is some overlap.


  • In comparison to political science, geography, history, and so on, guidance is restricted.
  • Adequate coaching is essential; otherwise, self-study takes a long time to complete the syllabus.
  • Intellectual clarity is essential, as memorising will not help you get points in this optional.

Relevant Read: What is Taught in an Anthropology Course?


Q1. Is anthropology good for UPSC?

Ans. Selecting the appropriate optional subject is a significant decision for IAS aspirants. Anthropology is a viable option for the IAS Test. Yet, how much emphasis the candidate places on grasping topics is crucial.

Q2. Is anthropology easy for UPSC?

Ans. Applicants must take two papers of 250 points each under their optional subject of choice. In comparison to other topics, the anthropology syllabus is rather straightforward and requires little memorization.

Q3. Who should choose anthropology for UPSC?

Ans. Anthropology is a popular optional topic taken by over 500 applicants in the IAS (UPSC CSE) exam. It is appropriate for both people with and without a science or technical background.

Hope this blog helped you explore the themes and important points to do well in Anthropology for UPSC. Keep visiting Leverage Edu to know more about the syllabus, exam pattern, important dates and preparation tips for competitive exams. 

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