The joint Ph.D. Program in French Studies and Anthropology allows students to blend rigorous training in anthropology with a broad, multi-disciplinary exploration of the French and Francophone worlds. Housed at both the Institute of French Studies and the Anthropology department, students chart their own course between both units, exploring ideas and devising their specific research projects with a wide array of faculty and graduate students. These opportunities — as well as a program of courses and events conducted in both English and French — make our program truly unique in the field.
From year 1, students attend advanced seminars in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology and history, conduct original research, and take courses in other disciplines of their choice, including sociology, museum studies, performance studies, and gender studies. Many take advantage of the Anthropology department’s Program in Culture and Media, which explores the theory, production, and ethnography of media. Working closely with advisors at the IFS and the Anthropology department, students explore new ideas while working toward a dissertation plan of study (to which they turn in earnest at the end of year 2). In the Anthropology department, students take courses with faculty who are committed to rigorous training in social and cultural theory, ethnographical method, comparative frameworks, and critical knowledge of representations of anthropological knowledge. Their domains of expertise include social memory, the anthropology of history, language ideology, visual ethnography, racial capitalism, carceral states, urban ecology, and critical approaches to religion. At the IFS, they delve deep into French and Francophone history and social sciences while working with faculty whose research — theorized and grounded in deep, critical archival or ethnographic research — revolves around the Caribbean and post-colonial circulations, migration, the politics of place and memory, ethnography, race and identity in France, the Maghreb, West Africa, family history, and new modes of historical writing.
Because of the program’s small size (2-3 incoming Ph.D. candidates per year), faculty provide close mentorship as students devise their research questions, prepare for their qualifying exams, apply for grants, begin publishing and presenting at conferences, conduct research abroad, and then write up their dissertation. Beyond a few core requirements, students also have tremendous flexibility in devising their own program. They typically take one-on-one individual studies with faculty, sign up for courses at Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers, and other universities in our Consortium, and, if they so wish, learn languages (Arabic, Wolof, Haitian Kreyol, etc.) that will open new research domains. Students also participate in weekly workshops with their IFS cohort and faculty, and a monthly doctoral seminar, during which students obtain feedback on their own writing.
Most joint students spend one summer at the IFS’s program in Paris, taking courses with French scholars and conducting archival research. Many take advantage of our exchange program with the Ecole Normale Supérieure, spending at least a semester within its walls. In New York, they may teach in the Anthropology and French departments and also at the Lycée français de New York. Through our in-house journal French Politics, Culture & Society and the leadership of its editor Liz Fink (a specialist of Western Africa and a graduate of the joint program), they benefit from Public Humanities initiatives that prepare them for careers within and beyond academia (writing, cultural diplomacy, secondary teaching, etc.)
The faculty are committed to building a diverse, supportive community of students from multiple backgrounds and disciplines The application process requires a single dossier, which is read by faculty from the IFS as well as the Anthropology Department. Strong French language skills are required (though no GRE). Some students enter our program with a B.A. while others already have an M.A.
For more information, please see our PhD handbook located here.