The primary objective of the Cultural Anthropology Program is to support basic scientific research on the causes, consequences, and complexities of human social and cultural variability.
Anthropological research spans a wide gamut, and contemporary cultural anthropology is an arena in which diverse research traditions and methodologies are valid. Recognizing the breadth of the field's contributions to science, the Cultural Anthropology Program welcomes proposals for empirically grounded, theoretically engaged, and methodologically sophisticated research in all sub-fields of cultural anthropology. Because the National Science Foundation's mandate is to support basic research, the NSF Cultural Anthropology Program does not fund research that takes as its primary goal improved clinical practice, humanistic understanding, or applied policy. A proposal that applies anthropological methods to a social problem but does not propose how that problem provides an opportunity to make a theory-testing and/or theory expanding contribution to anthropology will be returned without review.
Program research priorities include, but are not limited to, research that increases our understanding of:
- Socio-cultural drivers of critical anthropogenic processes such as deforestation, desertification, land cover change, urbanization, and poverty
- Resilience and robustness of socio-cultural systems
- Scientific principles underlying conflict, cooperation, and altruism
- Economy, culture, migration, and globalization
- Variability and change in kinship and family norms and practices
- General cultural and social principles underlining the drivers of specific health outcomes and disease transmission
- Social regulation, governmentality, and violence
- Origins of complexity in socio-cultural systems
- Language and culture: orality and literacy, sociolinguistics, and cognition
- Human variation through empirically grounded ethnographic descriptions
- Mathematical and computational models of sociocultural systems such as social network analysis, agent-based models, multi-level models, and modes that integrate agent-based simulations and geographic information systems (GIS)
As part of its effort to encourage and support projects that explicitly integrate education and basic research, CA provides support to enhance and improve the conduct of doctoral dissertation projects designed and carried out by doctoral students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education who are conducting scientific research that enhances basic scientific knowledge. As part of this effort, CA discourages projects that return students to a previous site of employment or volunteer work unless there is a strong justification for the scientific merits of that particular site.