Are you preparing for the IAS exam and chose Anthropology as your UPSC optional subject? Then the first thing you should know is the Anthropology optional syllabus for UPSC. Only after you get accustomed to the anthropology optional syllabus, you can start looking for various study materials and anthropology books for UPSC that will help you prepare even better.

This subject has a massive score value for the candidates. Many toppers have chosen this subject and achieved high positions. Here is this article, you are going to get a clear idea about the Anthropology optional syllabus for UPSC 2022 along with some important webpage links that will help you immensely to prepare well and eventually crack the UPSC IAS exam.

Also Read: Which Optional Subject is Easy for UPSC? Choose the Most Suitable UPSC Optional Subject! 

Anthropology Optional Syllabus for UPSC

If you want to know about the syllabus of Anthropology, here is the complete information. The UPSC optional subjects consist of 2 papers. The candidates are required to study both papers to achieve their score target. Each paper is of 250 marks, making a total of 500 marks. Look below to know the syllabus.

Optional Subject in UPSC: Anthropology Syllabus Paper-I

1.1 Meaning, scope and development of Anthropology.

1.2 Relationships with other disciplines: Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Humanities.

1.3 Main branches of Anthropology, their scope, and relevance:

(a) Social-cultural Anthropology.

(b) Biological Anthropology.

(c) Archaeological Anthropology.

(d) Linguistic Anthropology.

1.4 Human Evolution and emergence of Man

(a) Biological and Cultural factors in human evolution.

(b) Theories of Organic Evolution (PreDarwinian, Darwinian and Post-Darwinian).

(c) 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

(a) Plio-pleistocene hominids in South and East Africa – Australopithecines.

(b) Homo erectus: Africa (Paranthropus), Europe (Homo erectus heidelbergensis), Asia (Homo erectus javanicus, Homo erectus pekinensis).

(c) Neanderthal Man- La-Chapelle-auxsaints (Classical type), Mt. Carmel (Progressive type).

(d) Rhodesian man.

(e) Homo sapiens — Cromagnon, Grimaldi, and Chance led.

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:

(i) Paleolithic

(ii) Mesolithic

(iii) Neolithic

(iv) Chalcolithic

(v) Copper-Bronze Age

(vi) Iron 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; 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 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.

  1. Economic Organization

Meaning, scope, and relevance of economic anthropology; Formalist and Substantive debate; Principles governing the 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. Anthropological Theories

(a) Classical evolutionism (Tylor, Morgan, and Frazer)

(b) Historical particularism (Boas); Diffusionism (British, German and American)

(c) Functionalism (Malinowski); Structural-functionalism (Radcliffe-Brown)

(d) Structuralism (L’evi – Strauss and E.Leach)

(e) Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Linton, Kardiner, and Cora – du Bois).

(f) Neo-evolutionism (Childe, White, Steward, Sahlins, and Service)

(g) Cultural materialism (Harris)

(h) Symbolic and interpretive theories (Turner, Schneider, and Geertz)

(i) Cognitive theories (Tyler, Conklin)

(j) Postmodernism in anthropology

  1. Culture, Language, and Communication

Nature, origin, and characteristics of language; verbal and non-verbal communication; social context of language use.

  1. Research Methods in Anthropology

(a) Fieldwork tradition in anthropology

(b) The distinction between technique, method, and methodology

(c) Tools of data collection: observation, interview, schedules, questionnaire, Case study, genealogy, life-history, oral history, secondary sources of information, participatory methods.

(d) 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, single factor, multifactor, lethal, sublethal 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

(a) Numerical and structural aberrations (disorders).

(b) Sex chromosomal aberrations – Klinefelter (XXY), Turner (XO), Super female (XXX), intersex and other syndromic disorders.

(c) Autosomal aberrations – Down syndrome, Patau, Edward and Cri-du-chat syndromes.

(d) Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counseling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping, and genome study.

9.5 Race and racism, biological basis of morphological variation of non-metric and metric characters. Racial criteria, racial traits in relation to heredity and environment; biological basis of racial classification, racial differentiation and race crossing in man

9.6 Age, sex and population variation as 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 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.

  1. Concept of human growth and development

Stages of growth – prenatal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence.

Factors affecting growth and development genetic, environmental, biochemical, nutritional, cultural and socio-economic.

Aging 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.

  1. Applications of Anthropology

Anthropology of sports, Nutritional anthropology, Anthropology in designing of defense and other equipment, Forensic Anthropology, Methods and principles of personal identification and reconstruction, Applied human genetics – Paternity diagnosis, genetic counseling and eugenics, DNA technology in diseases and medicine, serogenetics and cytogenetics in reproductive biology.

Also Read: Anthropology Optional Syllabus: Checkout UPSC 2021 Optional Subject Syllabus

Optional Subject in UPSC: Anthropology Syllabus Paper-Il

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.

  1. 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 — Varnashrama, 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.

  1. 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 programs 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

Tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programs of tribal development and their implementation. The concept of PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), their distribution, special programs 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.

Also Read: Anthropology Books for UPSC: 2021 Preparation Strategy for Anthropology Optional

Anthropology Optional Books

You should prefer the given books for this subject. These are preferred by the topper of UPSC CSE.

Anthropology Paper I

#. Braintree material

#. Physical Anthropology – P Nath

#. Anthropology Simplified – Vivek Bhasme (very good source for diagrams and answer structuring)

#. Anthropology – Ember and Ember

Anthropology Paper II

#. Indian Anthropology -Nadeem Hasnain

#. Tribal India – Nadeem Hasnain

#. Anthropology Simplified– Vivek Bhasme

#. The Tribal Culture of India – LP Vidyarthi

#. Xaxa Report

#. January 2014 edition of Yojana– Tribal and Marginalized Communities

Also Read: Anthropology Optional Strategy for UPSC: Best Booklist and Preparation Strategy for Aspirants


Hopefully, this article will give you a brief idea about the Anthropology optional syllabus for UPSC. In case you are searching for which optional subject is best for UPSC? You can check this out. For important notes, anthropology books for UPSC IAS exam etc, you can keep an eye here. You can also share your thoughts with us about choosing anthropology as your UPSC optional subject and how you are preparing for it. Visit UPSC Pathshala to broaden your knowledge and chances of selection. To comment, write your thoughts or questions in the box below. Best of luck!

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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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