UPSC Anthropology Optional Syllabus- Syllabus Paper-1 and Paper-2

UPSC Exam is one of the toughest exams. There are a total of 48 subjects in the options to choose the optional subject. Therefore, it is essential to select the optional subject wisely.  This is because the combined score of the optional subject is 500 marks out of 1750 marks in the UPSC Main Examination. The optional subject should be the one which is of the candidate’s interest. The Anthropology Optional Syllabus tests the understanding of the subject as science by the candidates and its application to human problems.

Anthropology Optional Syllabus

PAPER 1 of UPSC Anthropology Optional Syllabus– 

The following is the syllabus in detail for Paper 1:

1a) Definition of Anthropology, its coverage, and development 

b) Anthropology’s main branches, and the coverage and importance of those branches: 

  1. Biological Anthropology
  2. Archaeological Anthropology
  3. Linguistic Anthropology
  4. Social-cultural Anthropology.

c) Primate Taxonomy, Features of Primates; and Evolutionary Trend; Primate Adaptations; Quaternary and Tertiary fossil primate; Primate Behaviour; Skeletal alterations resulting from erect posture and its consequences; Living Major Primates: Comparative Anatomy of Man and Apes.

d) Other disciplines concerning Anthropology include Earth science, Life science, behavioral science, Social Science,   Medical Science, and Humanities. 

e) Human Evolution and Man’s Emergence: 

  1. Organic Evolution and its theories which include Pre-Darwin, Darwin, and Post-Darwin.
  2. Evolutionary biology concepts and phrases (Cope’s rule, Doll’s rule, Gause’s rule, convergence, adaptive radiation, parallelism, and mosaic evolution); synthetic theory of evolution.
  3. Biological and Cultural factors in human evolution.

f) The Cell, Protein Synthesis, Cell Division, DNA Structure and Replication, Chromosomes, Mutation, and Gene are the fundamental foundations of life.

g) (i) Cultural Evolution—Broad Outlines of Prehistoric cultures: Iron Age, Chalcolithic, Copper-Bronze Age, Neolithic, Paleolithic, Mesolithic.

(ii) Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology covers the basics of prehistoric archaeology. Relative and absolute dating methods.

h) Phylogenetic status, geographical distribution, and characteristics of the following:

  1. Neanderthal man—La-Chapelle-aux-saints (Classical type), Mt. Carmel (Progressive type).
  2. Rhodesian man.
  3. Homo erectus: Europe (heidelbergensis), Africa (Paranthropus), Asia  (Javanicus, Pekinensis)
  4. Homo saoiens—Cromagnon, Grimaldi and Chancelede.
  5. Plio-preleistocene hominids in South and East Africa—Australopithecines.

2. a) The Nature of Society: Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institution; Social groups; and Social stratification.

2. b) Marriage: The definition of marriage and its universality; Endogamy, exogamy, hypergamy, hypogamy, and incest are all outlawed by marriage laws; The type of relationship (monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, group marriage). The functions of marriage; Marriage limitations that are preferential, prescriptive, and proscriptive; Payments for a wedding are made in various ways (bridewealth and dowry).

2. c) 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. d) The Nature of Culture: The concept and characteristics of culture and civilization; Ethnocentrism vis-a-vis cultural Relativism.

2. e) 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. Political Organization and Social Control: concepts of power, legitimacy, and authority; social control, law, and justice in simple Societies; Band, state, tribe, kingdom, and chiefdom.

4. Religion: Anthropological approaches to the study of religion; sacred and profane; polytheism and monotheism; forms of religion in tribal and peasant Societies; rituals and myths; magico-religious functionaries; religion, science distinguished, and magic.

5. Economic Organization: Meaning, scope, and relevance of economic anthropology; subsisting on hunting and gathering, fishing, swiddening; globalization and indigenous economic systems; Formalist and Substantivist debate; pastoralism, horticulture, and agriculture; Principles governing the production, distribution, and exchange, in communities.

6. Culture, Language and Communication: Verbal and non-verbal communication; social context of language use; Nature, origin, and language characteristics.

7. Research methods in Anthropology

  1. Analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data.
  2. Tools of data collection: interview, observation, genealogy, questionnaire, schedules, case study,  life-history, participatory methods, oral history, secondary sources of information.
  3. Distinction between method, technique, and methodology.
  4. Fieldwork tradition in anthropology

8. Anthropological theories: 

  1. Post-modernism in anthropology.
  2. Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Linton, Kardiner and Cora-du Bois)
  3. Historical particularism (Boas) Diffusionism (British, German, and American)
  4. Symbolic and interpretive theories (Turner, Schneider, and Geertz)
  5. Neo—evolutionism (Childe, White, Steward, Sahlins, and Service)
  6. Functionalism (Malinowski); Structural— Functionalism (Radcliffe-Brown)
  7. Cognitive theories (Tyler, Conklin)
  8. Structuralism (L’evi-Strauss and E. Leach)
  9. Classical evolutionism (Tylor, Morgan, and Frazer)
  10. Cultural materialism (Harris)

9. a) 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), immunological methods, biochemical methods, recombinant technologies, and D.N.A. technology.

9. b) Chromosomes and chromosomal aberrations in man, methodology.

  1. Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counselling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping, and genome study.
  2. Sex chromosomal aberration- Klinefelter (XXY), Turner (XO), Super female (XXX), intersex, and other syndromic disorders.
  3. Numerical and structural aberrations (disorders).
  4. Autosomal aberrations- Down syndrome, Patau, Edward, and Cri-du-chat syndromes.

9. c) Concepts and methods of Ecological Anthropology: Bio-cultural Adaptations—Genetic and Non-genetic factors. Man’s physiological responses to environmental stresses: high altitude climate, hot desert, cold. 

9. d) 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. Genetic load, genetic effect of consanguineous and cousin marriages. Consanguineous and non-consanguineous mating. 

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

9. f) Age, sex, and population variation as a genetic marker: ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes. Physiological characteristics: body fat, pulse rate, respiratory functions, and sensory perceptions in different cultural and socio-economic groups.

9. g) Epidemiological Anthropology: Health and disease. Infectious and non-infectious diseases, Nutritional deficiency-related diseases.

9. h) Mendelian genetics in sub-lethal and polygenic inheritance in man, man-family study, single factor, multifactor, lethal.

10. Concept of human growth and Development: Stages of growth—pre-natal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence.

• Ageing and senescence. Theories and observations

• Biological and chronological longevity. Human physique and somatotypes. Methodologies for growth studies.

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

11. a)  Demographic theories-biological, social and cultural.

11. b) Relevance of menarche, menopause, and other bio-events to fertility. Fertility patterns and differentials.

11. c) Biological and socio-ecological factors influencing fecundity, fertility, natality, and mortality.

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


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Paper 2 of the UPSC Anthropology Optional Syllabus 

The following is the syllabus of paper 2 in detail –

1. Demographic profile of India— Ethnic and linguistic elements in the Indian population and their distribution. Indian population—factors influencing its structure and growth.

2. Caste system in India— 

2.1 Structure, and characteristics Varna and caste, Theories of origin of the caste system, Dominant caste, Caste mobility, Future of caste system, Jajmani system. Tribe-case continuum.

2.2 The structure and nature of traditional Indian social system—Varnashram, Purushartha, Karma, Rina, and Rebirth.

2.3 Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Christianity have all had an impact on Indian society.

2.4 Sacred Complex and Nature-Man-Spirit Complex.

3. Indian Culture 

3.1 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.

3.2 Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilisation: Prehistoric, Protohistoric. Pre-Harappan, Harappan and post- Harappan cultures. Contributions of the tribal cultures to Indian civilization.

3.3 Palaeo: Anthropological evidence from India with special reference to Siwaliks and Narmada basin.

4. Indian Village— 

4.1 Significance of village study in India; Indian village as a social system; Traditional and changing settlement and inter-caste relations; Agrarian relations in Indian villages; Impact of globalization on Indian villages.

4.2 Linguistic and religious minorities and their social, political, and economic status.

4.3 Indigenous and exogenous socio-cultural change processes in Indian society: Sanskritization, Westernization, and Modernisation; interaction of small and large traditions Social Change and the Media; Panchayati Raj and Social Transformation.

5. Emergence, growth, and development in India— Contributions of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century scholar-administrators. Contributions of Indian anthropologists to tribal and caste studies.

6.1 Social Change and Contemporary Tribal Societies: The Impact of Modern Democratic Institutions, Development Programs, and Welfare Measures on Tribes and Underprivileged Groups

6.2 The concept of ethnicity; tribal community unrest; regionalism and the demand for autonomy; Conflicts between ethnic groups and political developments; Pseudo-tribalism. During the colonial and post-independence India, there was a social change among the tribes.

6.3 Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.

Problems of exploitation and deprivation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. 

7.1 Problems of the tribal Communities— Land alienation, unemployment, indebtedness, low literacy, poverty, under-employment, poor educational facilities, health, and nutrition.

7.2 Development of forest policy and tribals. Impact of urbanization and industrialization on tribal populations. Developmental projects and their impact on tribal displacement and problems of rehabilitation.  

7.3 Tribal situation in India— Linguistic and socio-economic characteristics of the tribal populations and their distribution, Bio-genetic variability. 

8.1 Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.

8.2 Contributions of anthropology to the understanding of communalism, regionalism, and ethnic and political movements.

8.3 History of tribal administration, tribal policies, plans, and programs for tribal development, and their implementation. The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in tribal development.

9.1 A study of tribal communities in India and other nations in terms of tribe and nation-state.

9.2 Impact of Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and other religions on tribal societies.


We hope this article has given you the required information regarding the Anthropology Optional Syllabus for both the Papers – Paper 1 and Paper 2. The syllabus will help in the understanding of the subject as science by the candidates and its application to human problems. For any queries, Contact us at Oliveboard.


How many marks do the optional subject have in UPSC  Main Exam?

The optional Subject carries 500 out of 1750 marks in the UPSC Main Exam.

How many subjects are there in the list of optional subjects for a candidate to select from?

There are a total of 48 subjects to choose from

What are the topics related to in Anthropology Optional Syllabus for UPSC?

The topic in the Anthropology Optional Syllabus is related to human evolution, cultural evolution, social structures, and development. 

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