For a UPSC CSE aspirant, the optional subject is also an important subject. In the UPSC mains exam, optional marks have two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2. Each paper is of 250 marks which makes a total of 500 marks. The UPSC optional subject list contains 48 subjects in total, one of which is Anthropology.

  • The Anthropology syllabus for UPSC CSE Exam focuses on the candidates’ ability to understand the subject as science and apply the knowledge to problems faced by the people.
  • The topics included are mainly related to human evolution, social structures, cultural evolution, and development.
  • The syllabus focusses on issues and topics related to development, and Indian culture.
  • Candidates who work as teachers, social workers, and sociologists, etc. will find this subject easy.






  1. Scope, meaning, and development of Anthropology.
  2. Relationships and other disciplines: Behavioural science, social science, medical science, life science, earth science, and humanities.
  3. Branches of Anthropology, their relevance, and scope:
    1. Social-cultural Anthropology
    2. Biological Anthropology
    3. Archaeological Anthropology
    4. Linguistic Anthropology
  4. Human Evolution and emergence of Man
    1. Biological and cultural factors
    2. theories of Organic evolution (Pre and Post Darwinian)
    3. Synthetic theory of evolution, Brief outlines of terms and concepts of evolutionary biology (Doll’s rule, Cope’s rule, Gause’s rule, adaptive radiation, mosaic evolution, parallelism, and convergence).
  5. Characteristics of Primitives, Primate Taxonomy, and Evolutionary trends, Primate adaptations, Primate taxonomy, Primate Behaviour, Tertiary and Quaternary fossil primates, Living major Primaries, Comparative Anatomy of Man and Apes, Skeletal changes due to erect posture and its implications.
  6. Phylogenetic status, characteristic and geographical distribution of:
    1. Plio-Pleistocene hominids in the south and east Africa.
    2. Homo erectus: Africa(Paranthropus), Europe(Homo erectus heidelbergensis), Asia.
    3. Neanderthal man- La-Chapelle-aux-saints, Mt. Carmel (Progressive type).
    4. Rhodesian man.
    5. Homo saoiens- Cramognon, Grimaldi, and Chancelede.
  7. The biological basis of life: The cell, DNA structure, and replication, Protein Synthesis, Mutation, Gene, Cell division, and Chromosome.
  8. Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology- Relative and absolute dating methods.
    1. Cultural evolution (broad outlines) of Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Copper-bronze age, Iron age.


  1. The Nature of Culture: Concepts and characteristics of culture and civilization, Ethnocentrism, vis-a-vis Relativism.
  2. The Nature of Society: Concept and culture of society, Social Institution. Social groups, and social stratification.
  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, Marriage payments (bridewealth, and dowry).
  4. Family: Definition and universality, Family, household and domestic groups, functions of family, Types of family, Impact of urbanization (industrialization, and feminist movements on the family).
  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, Decent and Alliance, descent, Filiation, and complimentary Filiation.

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

(D) Political and Organizational Social Control: Band, tribe, chiefdom, kingdom and state, concepts of power, authority, and legitimacy, social control, law, and justice in simple societies.

(E) Religion: Anthropological approaches to the study of religion, monotheism, and polytheism, sacred and profane, myths, and rituals, forms of religion in tribal and peasant societies, religion, magic, and science distinguished, magico-religious functionaries (priest, shaman, medicine man, sorcerer, and witch).

(F) Anthropological theories

  1. Classical evolution (Tylor, Morgan, and Frazer).
  2. Historical particularism (Boas) Duffuionism (British, German, and American).
  3. Functionalism (Malinowski), Structural- Functionalism (Radcliffe- Brown).
  4. Structuralism (L’evi- Strauss, and E. Leach).
  5. Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Kardiner, Linton, and Cora- du Bois).
  6. Neo- evolutionism (Childe, Stewart, White, Service, and Sahlins).
  7. Cultural materialism (Harris)
  8. Symbolic, and interpretive theories

(G) Culture, Language, and Communication: Origin, nature, and characteristics of language, non-verbal, and verbal communication, social context of language use)

(H) Research methods in Anthropology

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

(I) Human Genetics

  1. Application, and Methods: Methods for the study of genetic principles in the man-family study (pedigree analysis, twin study, foster child, co-twin method, cytogenic methods, karyotype, and Chromosomal analysis), biochemical methods, immunological methods, recombinant, and DNA technologies.
  2. Mendelian genetics in the man-family study, single factor, multifactor, sub-lethal, lethal, and polygenic inheritance in man.
  3. Concepts of genetic polymorphism, and selection, Mendelian population, Hardy-Weinberg law, causes and changes which bring down- mutation, isolation, migration, selection, inbreeding, and genetic drift. Genetic load, genetic effect of cousin marriage.
  4. Chromosomes and chromosomal aberrations in man, methodology:
    1. Numerical, and structural aberrations (disorders).
    2. Sex chromosomal aberrations- Klinefelter, Turner, Super female, intersex, and other syndromic disorders.
    3. Autosomal aberrations- Down syndrome, Edward, Patau, and Cri-du-chat syndromes.
    4. Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counseling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping, and genome study.
  5. Race, and racism biological basis of morphological variation, of non-metric and characters. Racial criteria, racial traits, biological basis of racial classification, differentiation, and race crossing in man.
  6. Age, sex, and population variation as a genetic marker: ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes, Physiological characteristics of all.
  7. Concepts and methods of Ecological Anthropology: Bio-cultural Adaptations- Genetic, and Non- genetic factors. Man’s physiological responses to environmental stress, hot deserts, cold, high altitude climate.
  8. Epidemiological Anthropology: Health, and diseases, Infectious diseases, Nutritional deficiency-related diseases.

(J) Concepts of human growth and Development: Stages of growth- pre-natal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence.


  1. The relevance of menarche, menopause, and other bio-events to fertility. fertility patterns and differentials.
  2. Demographic theories- biological, social, and cultural.
  3. Biological, and socio-ecological factors influencing fecundity, natality, fertility, and mortality.

(L) Applications of Anthropology:

  • Sports
  • Nutrition’
  • designing of defense and other equipment
  • Forensic
  • Methods and principles of personal identification, and reconstruction.
  • Applied human genetics
  • DNA technology in diseases and medicines
  • Serogenetic, and cytogenetic in reproductive biology.



  1. Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilization: Prehistoric, Protohistoric. Pre-Harappan, Harappan, and Post- Harappan cultures. Contribution of the tribal cultures to Indian Civilization.
  2. Palaeo- Anthropological evidence from India with special reference to Siwaliks, and Narmada, basin (Ramapithecus, Sivapithecus, and Narmada Man.
  3. Ethno- archaeology in India: Concept, Survivals, and Parallels among foraging, hunting, fishing, pastoral, and peasant communities including art and craft producing communities.


  1. Demographic profiles of India: Ethnic, and linguistic elements in Indian population and their distribution. Indian population- factors influencing its growth, and structure.


  1. The structure, and nature of the traditional Indian social system- Vanashram, Purushartha, Karma, Rina, and Rebirth.
  2. Caste System in India- Structure and characteristic Varna and caste, Theories of origin of the caste system, Dominant caste, Caste mobility, Future of cast system, Jajmani system. Tribe- case continuum.
  3. Sacred complex and Nature-Man-Spirit Complex.
  4. Impact of Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam of Indian society.

(D) Emergence, growth, and development in India- Contribution of the 18th, 19th, 20th-century scholar- administrators. Contribution of Indian anthropologists to tribal, and caste studies.


  1. 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.
  2. Linguistic and religious minorities and their social, political, and economic status.
  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.


  1. The tribal situation in India: Bio-genetic variability, linguistic, and socio-economic characteristic of the tribal populations, and their distribution.
  2. Problems of the tribal Communities- Land alienation, poverty, indebtedness, low literacy, poor educational facilities, unemployment, underemployment, health, and nutrition.
  3. Developmental projects and their impact on tribal displacement, and problems of rehabilitation. Development of forest policy and tribals. Impacts of urbanization and nutrition.


  1. Problems of exploitation and deprivation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other backward classes. Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and castes.
  2. Social change and contemporary tribal societies: Impact of modern democratic institutions, development programs, and welfare measures on tribals and weaker sections.
  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.


  1. Impact of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions on tribal societies.
  2. Tribe and nation-state- a comparative study of tribal communities in India and other countries.


  1. History of administration of tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programs of tribal development. The concept of PTGs, their distribution, special programs for their development. Role of NGOs in tribal development.
  2. Role of anthropology in tribal, and rural development.
  3. Contributions of anthropology in understanding regionalism, communalism, and ethnic, and political movements.
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