Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behaviour, human biology, and societies, in both the present and past, including past human species. Anthropology is one of the optional subjects offered by UPSC for IAS Mains. Though the subject wasn’t very popular it has slowly been rising in trend since 2017. Let’s discuss the subject in detail.

Pros and Cons of Choosing Anthropology


  • You generally get direct questions asked.
  • It is comparatively more scoring than other humanities subjects as the answer can be accompanied by diagrams and flowcharts which saves time and still makes it appealing.
  • The syllabus is shorter compared to other subjects.
  • A good option for science and engineering students who want to take up a subject other than their graduation subject.
  • The past performance of this optional is consistent.
  • A small part of the syllabus overlaps with your General Studies Paper such as Society, Social Injustice, Tribal Issues, and Internal Security.

Also Read: Other Most Preferred UPSC Optional Subjects


  • Guidance is limited as not a lot of study material and Anthropology for UPSC Optional coaching is especially available.
  • Anthropology is a subject that needs proper guidance as self-study would take a lot of time.
  • This subject needs clarity of concepts and intellectual understanding than memory power which can serve as a problem for many.

Also Read: How to Efficiently Choose a Suitable Optional?

Anthropology UPSC Optional Syllabus

Candidates are required to sit for two papers under their optional subject of choice, each paper of 250 marks.

The syllabus for anthropology is pretty easy and direct compared to other subjects as not a lot of mugging up is required. The syllabus is more concept-oriented but a lot of research is expected of you to enhance your answers with case studies, examples, and personal opinions and suggested reforms.

Also Read: The Complete Syllabus For Anthropology UPSC Optional Subject 

The Book List Recommended for Anthropology

Paper I

  • Introducing Sociology NCERT Class XI
  • Biology NCERT book For Class Xll (Chapter 5, 6, 7)
  • An Introduction to Social-Cultural Anthropology – N.K Vaid
  • An Introduction to Social Anthropology – D.N. Majumdar and T.N. Madan (for basic understating of Anthropology)
  • Anthropological Theories – Makhan Jha
  • Measuring Time (Chapter 2) of Indian Prehistory – D.K Bhattacharya
  • Biology NCERT Class XII
  • Physical Anthropology – P. Nath
  • IGNOU MA Course for Anthropology


  • Indian Anthropology – Nadeem Hasnain
  • Indian Society – NCERT Class XII
  • Social Change and Development in India –  NCERT Class XII
  • Tribal India – Nadeem Hasnain
  • Xaxa Committee Report
  • Tribal Culture Of India – L P Vidyarathi
  • Tribal Ministry Website
  • IGNOU MA Course For Anthropology

Coaching for Anthropology

Anthropology is an interesting subject but it is a subject that is very difficult to self-study. It needs proper guidance and mentorship from a specialist in this field to understand and be able to connect concepts well. Candidates that have tried to study the subject by themselves have all often complained that they were often unable to correlate theories and concepts. Even if they successfully studied the syllabus on their own, they still faced problems in writing standard answers. Thus, it is often advised to sign up for external help if you have decided to take this optional subject. Though, it is not absolutely impossible to learn it by yourself either. Do whatever is required according to your personal needs.

Preparation Tips:

  • Be absolutely clear about the syllabus. Go through it multiple times and make sure you understand it well enough.
  • Divide the syllabus into sections for convenience. Paper I consists of Social-Cultural Anthropology and Biological Anthropology while Paper-II consists of Indian Society and Tribal India.
  • Make sure you get your basics and concepts down first. Have absolute clarity over it.
  • Inter-relate each chapter with each other.
  • Make notes for every topic.
  • Incorporate statistics, flowcharts, and diagrams whenever possible.
  • Solve UPSC optional anthropology questions papers, past and mock.
  • Practice writing answers. The kind of answers needed for this optional is different from the kind of answers you need to write for other Mains papers.

Case Studies for Anthropology

Case studies are the most important key aspects of the anthropology paper. Include as many case studies as possible in your answers. Make sure you collect as many case studies as possible beforehand for relevant topics and study them. You can find relevant case studies in:

  • The Hindu newspaper
  • Economic and Political Weekly (EPW)
  • Xaxa Committee
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs website

Important Topics to Pay Attention to for Anthropology

  • Problems of the tribal Communities
  • Linguistic and religious minorities.
  • 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.
  • Panchayati Raj
  • Media.
  • Problems of exploitation and deprivation of the backward classes and their solutions.
  • Ethnicity and Ethnic conflicts.
  • Social change and contemporary tribal societies
  • Impact of Religion on tribal societies.
  • Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.
  • History of administration of tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programs of tribal development and their implementation.
  • Role of N.G.O.s in tribal development.
  • Contributions of anthropology to the understanding of regionalism, communalism, and ethnic and political movements.


Having knowledge of relevant current affairs to the syllabus is expected of the candidate in anthropology also just like in any other subject. Keep an eye out for news in the newspapers for important news that could be linked to your answers to make it more complete and wholesome like the discovery of a new fossil, a new finding in genetics, or a new scheme launched by the government for tribes in the country.

Anthropology is an easy subject for those who study it right and are able to understand and grasp concepts well. You have to be able to understand the society and the very human vein that runs across it to score well.

Also Read : History Optional Syllabus for UPSC: Here’s What You Need to Study to Crack UPSC 2021

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Anthropology Optional Coaching: Pros & Cons to Choosing Anthropology as Your UPSC Optional
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Anthropology Optional Coaching: Pros & Cons to Choosing Anthropology as Your UPSC Optional
Although anthropology is not a very famous subject, it has it’s importance successfully making its way into the list of optional subjects in UPSC. Learn why you should choose Anthropology.
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UPSC Pathshala
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