Almost all materials acquired are in the English language, with some in French and German. However, in the area of linguistics, materials are collected in languages that are not covered by the several language departments.
To provide the materials necessary to support the undergraduate and graduate course instruction program, the graduate thesis research program, and the research activities of the faculty. In order to accomplish the aims listed above, the Department is building comprehensive research collections in certain areas of study. To support the work of Ethnological and Archaeological projects and other anthropological field work.
Although most material comes from North America and Western Europe, volumes are collected from other areas, especially Oceania and Australia.

All but the most expensive of rare books are considered for purchase. The course of study covers all time periods.,

  • Both currently produced and out of print books are acquired. Bibliographies and dictionaries are an important part of the book collection.
  • Periodicals are acquired both on subscription and by backfile purchases, some of the latter in reprint or in microform. There is an expanding policy on periodicals, and back issues of all standard anthropological journals are to be acquired as they become available. The completion of journal runs and the replacement of missing volumes, especially of the standard journals, has top priority.
  • Slides are acquired by individual professors and by the Department but not through the Library.
  • Films are acquired by and housed in the Department at present.
  • Tapes and readings are acquired by the Department as well as by the Library.
  • Facsimiles are collected.
  • Bibliographies and catalogues of museums and exhibits are collected.
  • The Department acquires its own maps for instructional purposes. Its map collection remains quite limited.
  • Technical reports of ethnographic and archaeological expeditions are acquired.
  • Photographs, unless in controlled collections, are the responsibility of the individual professor.
  • "Discussion papers" or "working papers" published by the Anthropology Departments of other universities are collected by individual professors at present. The Department may collect them in the future.
  • Government publications are acquired, especially census materials, documents on the modernization of native peoples, and studies of change and development. The publications of quasi-governmental organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution, and National Museums, are also acquired.

This policy should be looked at in conjunction with those of Sociology, Political Science, Biology, Economics, and Religion.


  • General Linguistics (B)
  • Descriptive Linguistics (A)
  • Linguistic Theory (A)
  • Historical Linguistics (B)
  • Linguistics of all countries and language typology not covered by other departments (A)
  • Ethno linguistics (A)
  • Sociolinguistics (B)
This subject overlaps the profiles of Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, German, and Classics.


Social and Cultural Anthropology

      It should be noted that the department is interested in descriptive, theoretical, and methodological writings relating to the each of categories discussed below.


Ethnology and Ethnography (A)

      This broad category is critical to maintaining a first-rate sociocultural collection. Ethnology is taken to mean the cross-cultural (and often comparative) study of patterns and processes in existing and recent societies. Ethnographies are case studies of societies or of cultural groups within societies. The department has a strong interest in descriptive ethnographies and also in methodological and theoretical works concerning past and present trends in the writing of ethnography.

Social Organization (A)

      This category overlaps "Ethnology and Ethnography" and suggests the study of whole societies with a particular emphasis on interrelationships between established social institutions. The latter include kinship, economic and property relations, social stratification, social control and the supernatural. Alternatively, a book concerned with social organization might have as its focus a particular sociocultural sub-system, such as kinship relations.

Interpretive Anthropology (A)

      Interpretive anthropology is an emerging sub-discipline in sociocultural anthropology concerned with the representation of cultural and social life, both by other peoples and by their investigators. "Symbolic anthropology" is a label that many anthropologists use for a major perspective within interpretive anthropology. Interpretive anthropology actively seeks interdisciplinary links with scholars in other disciplines, notably history, sociology, philosophy and English. Anthropology has an interest in books that historians, sociologists, philosophers and literary theorists publish that concern cross-cultural perspectives on hermeneutics and phenomenology and the study of narrative, representation, reflexivity, poetics and performance.

Medical Anthropology (A)

      Medical anthropology is becoming a major area of concentration in our department. It is a sub-discipline of anthropology in which there is considerable co-operation and exchange of ideas between sociocultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology. Forensic anthropology is an important branch of medical anthropology. Other medical anthropologists are concerned with cross-cultural perspectives on health, nutrition, aging, dying, stress-related disorders, and sexuality. The department would like to build a strong collection of books on all aspects of biomedicine and cross-cultural perspectives on healing.

General Studies (A)

      The cultural construction of gender is emerging as a key field of interest within our department.

Urban Anthropology (A)

      Like medical anthropology, urban anthropology is an area in which we would like to increase our present collection. Urban anthropologists study cultural and social dimensions of peoples' lives in urban and peri-urban settings. This sub-discipline has strong links to sociology and to human geography.

Applied Anthropology(A)

      More and more McMaster graduates in anthropology are finding jobs outside academia, mainly in government and business. To train our students properly, we need to build a solid collection of books on applied anthropology. We are interested in acquiring books that concern the application of anthropological perspectives and skills to practical problems in multicultural settings.

Economic Anthropology (B)

      This shall be taken to mean cross-cultural perspectives on economics, and economic perspectives on cross-cultural institutions such as marriage. It includes political economy as an important area.

Ecological Anthropology (B)

      Ecological anthropology focuses broadly on the interrelationships between humans and other dimensions of the environments in which they live. A major branch of ecological anthropology is cultural ecology, which stresses the investigation of how culture functions as a dynamic means of adapting to the conditions of local environments.

The Anthropology of Politics and Law (A)

      Political and legal anthropologists now research a wide range of societies, including our own. Politics and law in colonial and post-colonial societies is a topic of major importance to many writers in the sub-discipline. So too is the study of indigenous rights and indigenous law within nation states, including both Canada and other countries. Legal anthropologists have close links with scholars in other disciplines (notably comparative law) in the study of legal pluralism and unofficial law. The department is also keenly interested in works on ethnicity and identity politics, both in Canadian contexts and internationally. Apart from works on political and legal anthropology, the department seeks to collect at an "A: level works on cross-cultural perspectives on warfare, aggression, and peace. Our aim here is both to satisfy the needs of our own students and also to supplement the collection of books acquired through the Peace Studies program.

Visual Anthropology (B)

      Visual anthropologists use still photographs, videotape, and motion picture film as primary tools in the recording an analysis of cultural and social patterns cross-culturally. As most graduate students and professional anthropologists now make extensive use of photography in their research, the department would like to acquire new books on method and theory relating to visual anthropology.

Religion, Magic and Witchcraft (A)

      The Department of Anthropology shares a strong interest in the cross-cultural study of religion with the Department of Religion. Both departments have members conducting research on myth and the interpretation of oral tradition. The Department of Anthropology's interest, however, is not only in established religions and belief of systems but in broader sets of beliefs relating to the supernatural, the paranormal and the occult. One area of special importance is the study of witchcraft and sorcery cross-culturally, including Early Modern Europe and present-day North America. Another area of concentration is shamanism. We also are interested in acquiring those works on parapsychology that relate to the subject matter of anthropological investigations.

Culture Change (A)

      It is accepted within anthropology that all cultures exist in a constant state of change. Under this designation, however, we specifically seek to acquire all books published on (1) culture theory, and (2) processes of development and underdevelopment. In addition, there is significant interest in the department in the well-established sub-field of evolutionary studies. The department would like to acquire all books published on the long-term evolution of social systems, both from archaeological and cultural perspectives.

History of Anthropology (A/B)

      It is important that we acquire new writings on the history of anthropology. However, the department will rarely ask the library to acquire expensive primary sources relating to the history of the discipline.

Psychological Anthropology (A)

      This category should be broadly interpreted to include theories of mental development as well as both historical and current perspectives on transcultural psychiatry. The literature on the self, psyche and emotions is particularly relevant to the department's current interests.

Structural Anthropology (B)

      Structural anthropology is not a major area of concentration in the department. However, the department would like the library to acquire major new works in the area. French Structuralists (notably, Levi-Strauss and his students) and Dutch Structuralists of the Leiden School are of special importance.

Material Culture (B)

      Not a focus of the department, but we do have one sociocultural anthropologist on the faculty and at least one PhD student in sociocultural anthropology who conduct research in this area. Material culture also is of importance to the archaeologists in the department.

Kinship Studies (C)

      With the retirement of Dr. Damas, we have lost our leading kinship expert. We would like to continue to collect some works published on kinship.

Folklore (A)

      Folklore research concerning narrative, life histories, performance theory, as well as religion and the supernatural is of current interest to the department.

Ethnoscience and Indigenous Forms of Knowledge (B)

      Although Ethnoscience is not central to the current research or teaching interests of the department, faculty are interested in expanding collections dealing with indigenous and traditional forms of knowledge.


New World Archaeology (A) Old World Archaeology (B) Archaeological Method and Theory (A)
  • North
  • Northeast
  • Canadian Plains
  • Northwest Coast
  • Paleo-Indian
  • Southwest U.S.
  • Middle America
  • South America
  • Europe
  • Middle East
  • Africa
  • India
  • Russia
  • China
  • Oceania
  • Covers theoretical aspects, cross-cutting many geographic areas.

Physical Anthropology

Because many of the subjects listed below are collected by certain Science Departments and by the Health Sciences Library, the Anthropology Department would urge the Mills Library to avoid duplication of orders with those two units:
  • Demography (A)
  • Human Biology (A)
  • Primatology (A)
  • Primate Behaviour (A)
  • Primate Biology (A)
  • Human Genetics (B)
  • Human Variation (A)
  • Race (B)
  • Growth and Development (A)
  • Dental Anthropology (A)
  • Paleoanthropology (B)
  • Paleopathology (A)
  • Osteology (A) {Skeletal Biology}
  • Human Evolution (A)
  • Human Palaeontology (A)
  • Medical Anthropology (A)
  • Forensic Anthropology (A)
Particular emphasis on works involving Europe, North America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and India are collected in the last five subjects listed above.

General and Ancillary

This is a somewhat residual category. Occasionally, works appear which are not strictly anthropological but are relevant to interests in this department and not, apparently, to major interests in other departments. Examples might be in literature, e.g. novels by or about members of certain non-Western or non-Oriental societies; or in philosophy, e.g. the symbolism and iconography of settlement pattern or technology in developing societies.


Arts and Social Sciences