Is Anthropology a Good Optional for IAS Exam : Anthropology is a mix of scientific and humanities topics. Where on one side it contains elaborative sociology part, on the other it deals with human evolution and genetics. Every year on an average 500 students appear for mains with this optional and score higher than others
In 2018, Rank 45 even scored 362 marks in this optional. Therefore, it is no doubt that this paper is highly scoring as compared to the others. In 2017, Rank 1 was with optional subject. It is opted by science and engineering background students mainly but even humanities students can easily prepare this subject
Advantages of opting Anthropology Optional for UPSC Mains
- It is a highly scoring subject with students scoring even above 350 marks which confirm their rank easily in top 100.
- The questions are generally straightforward without any major interpretation on the part of examiner.
- Application of good diagrammatic presentation is highly counted.
- It is somewhat overlapping with the GS 1 society and history subject.
- Its syllabus can be easily covered in 3-4 months with study material easily available in the market.
Skills required for the subject
- One should have interest in understanding concepts rather than just cramming up the facts otherwise it will hurt you as hell.
- Good reading hours with great focus on related concepts.
- Should be able to complete a topic in one go otherwise it will be carried on forever. A newcomer shall focus on clearing concepts rather than trying to finish the syllabus once.
- Good presentation skills because diagrams related to species and other concepts are highly required in this optional
- Shall be interested in current events related to society and tribes.
- Excellent diagrammatic skills to be learnt
Also Suggested Public Administration Optional Strategy
Anthropology Optional Syllabus for UPSC Mains
It is divided into two papers, Paper-1 and Paper-2 with first one relating to the principles of Anthropology and second one related to its applications in Indian civilization. Here is the detailed UPSC syllabus of the Anthropology optional
1.1 Meaning, Scope and development of Anthropology
1.2 Relationships with other disciplines: Social Sciences, behavioural Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences and Humanities
1.3 Main branches of Anthropology, their scope and relevance: (a) Social-cultural Anthropology. (b) Biological Anthropology. (c) Archaeological Anthropology. (d) Linguistic Anthropology
1.4 Human Evolution and emergence of Man : (a) Biological and Cultural factors in human evolution. (b) Theories of Organic Evolution (Pre-Darwinian, Darwinian and Post-Darwinian). (c) Synthetic theory of evolution; Brief outline of terms and concepts of evolutionary biology (Doll’s rule, Cope’s rule, Gause’s rule, parallelism, convergence, adaptive radiation, and mosaic evolution)
1.5 Characteristics of Primates; Evolutionary Trend and Primate Taxonomy; Primate Adaptations; (Arboreal and Terrestrial) Primate Taxonomy; Primate Behaviour; Tertiary and Quaternary fossil primates; Living Major Primates; Comparative Anatomy of Man and Apes; Skeletal changes due to erect posture and its implications
1.6 Phylogenetic status, characteristics and geographical distribution of the following: (a) Plio-preleistocene hominids inSouth and East Africa—Australopithecines. (b) Homo erectus : Africa (Paranthropus), Europe (Homo erectus (heidelbergensis), Asia (Homo erectus javanicus, Homo erectus pekinensis. (c) Neanderthal man—La-chapelle-aux-saints (Classical type), Mt. Carmel (Progressive type). (d) Rhodesian man. (e) Homo sapiens—Cromagnon, Grimaldi and Chancelede
1.7 The biological basis of Life: The Cell, DNA structure and replication, Protein Synthesis, Gene, Mutation, Chromosomes, and Cell Division
1.8 (a) Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods. (b) Cultural Evolution—Broad Outlines of Prehistoric cultures : (i) Paleolithic (ii) Mesolithic (iii) Neolithic (iv) Chalcolithic (v) Copper-Bronze Age (vi) Iron Age
2.1 The Nature of Culture: The concept and Characteristics of culture and civilization; Ethnocentrism vis-a-vis cultural Relativism
2.2 The Nature of Society : Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institution; Social groups; and Social stratification
2.3 Marriage : Definition and universality; Laws of marriage (endogamy, exogamy, hypergamy, hypogamy, incest taboo); Type of marriage (monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, group marriage). Functions of marriage; Marriage regulations (preferential, prescriptive and proscriptive); Marriage payments (bride wealth and dowry)
2.4 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.
2.5 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 (descriptive and classificatory); Descent, Filiation and Complimentary Filiation;Decent and Alliance.
3. Economic Organization: Meaning, scope and relevance of economic anthropology; Formalist and Substantivist debate; Principles governing production, distribution and exchange (reciprocity, redistribution and market), in communities, subsisting on hunting and gathering, fishing, swiddening, pastoralism, horticulture, and agriculture; globalization and indigenous economic systems.
4. Political Organization and Social Control: Band, tribe, chiefdom, kingdom and state; concepts of power, authority and legitimacy; social control, law and justice in simple Societies.
5. Religion: Anthropological approaches to the study of religion (evolutionary, psychological and functional); monotheism and polytheism; sacred and profane; myths and rituals; forms of religion in tribal and peasant Societies (animism, animatism, fetishism, naturism and totemism); religion, magic and science distinguished; magico-religious functionaries (priest, shaman, medicine man, sorcerer and witch).
6. Anthropological theories : (a) Classical evolutionism (Tylor, Morgan and Frazer) (b) Historical particularism (Boas) Diffusionism (British, German and American) (c) Functionalism (Malinowski); Structural—Functionlism (Radcliffe-Brown) (d) Structuralism (L’evi-Strauss and E. Leach) (e) Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Linton, Kardiner and Cora-du Bois) (f) Neo—evolutionism (Childe, White, Steward, Sahlins and Service) (g) Cultural materialism (Harris) (h) Symbolic and interpretive theories (Turner, Schneider and Geertz) (i) Cognitive theories (Tyler, Conklin) (j) Post-modernism in anthropology.
7. Culture, Language and Communication: Nature, origin and characteristics of language; verbal and non-verbal communication; social contex of language use.
8. Research methods in Anthropology : (a) Fieldwork tradition in anthropology (b) Distinction between technique, method and methodology (c) Tools of data collection : observation, interview, schedules, questionnaire, case study, genealogy, life-history, oral history, secondary sources of information, participatory methods. (d) Analysis, interpretation and presentation of data.
9.1 Human Genetics: Methods and Application : Methods for study of genetic principles in man-family study (pedigree analysis, twin study, foster child, co-twin method, cytogenetic method, chromosomal and karyo-type analysis), biochemical methods, immunological methods, D.N.A. technology and recombinant technologies.
9.2 Mendelian genetics in man-family study, single factor, multifactor, lethal, sub-lethal and polygenic inheritance in man.
9.3 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. Consanguineous and non-consanguineous mating, genetic load, genetic effect of consanguineous and cousin marriages.
9.4 Chromosomes and chromosomal aberrations in man, methodology. (a) Numerical and structural aberrations (disorders). (b) Sex chromosomal aberration- Klinefelter (XXY), Turner (XO), Super female (XXX), intersex and other syndromic disorders. (c)Autosomal aberrations- Down syndrome, Patau, Edward and Cri-du-chat syndromes. (d) Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counseling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping and genome study.
9.5 Race and racism, biological basis of morphological variation of non-metric and characters. Racial criteria, racial traits in relation to heredity and environment; biological basis of racial classification, racial differentiation and race crossing in man.
9.6 Age, sex and population variation as genetic marker :ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes. Physiological characteristics-Hb level, body fat, pulse rate, respiratory functions and sensory perceptions in different cultural and socio-economic groups.
9.7 Concepts and methods of Ecological Anthropology: Bio-cultural Adaptations—Genetic and Non-genetic factors. Man’s physiological responses to environmental stresses: hot desert, cold, high altitude climate.
9.8 Epidemiological Anthropology: Health and disease. Infectious and non-infectious diseases, Nutritional deficiency related diseases.
10. Concept of human growth and Development: Stages of growth—pre-natal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence—Factors affecting growth and development genetic, environmental, biochemical, nutritional, cultural and socio-economic. —Ageing and senescence. Theories and observations —Biological and chronological longevity. Human physique and somatotypes. Methodologies for growth studies.
11.1 Relevance of menarche, menopause and other bioevents to fertility. Fertility patterns and differentials.
11.2 Demographic theories-biological, social and cultural.
11.3 Biological and socio-ecological factors influencing fecundity, fertility, natality and mortality.
12. Applications of Anthropology : Anthropology of sports, Nutritional anthropology, Anthroplogy in designing of defence and other equipments, Forensic Anthroplogy, Methods and principles of personal identification and reconstruction, Applied human genetics—Paternity diagnosis, genetic counselling and eugenics, DNA technology in diseases and medicine, serogenetics and cytogenetics in reproductive biology.
1.1 Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilization—Prehistoric (Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Neolithic-Chalcolithic), Protohistoric (Indus Civilization). Pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan cultures. Contributions of the tribal cultures to Indian civilization.
1.2 Palaeo—Anthropological evidences from India with special reference to Siwaliks and Narmada basin (Ramapithecus, Sivapithecus and Narmada Man). 1.3. Ethno-archaeology in India: The concept of ethno-archaeology; Survivals and Parallels among the hunting, foraging, fishing, pastoral and peasant communities including arts and crafts producing communities.
2. Demographic profile of India—Ethnic and linguistic elements in the Indian population and their distribution. Indian population—factors influencing its structure and growth.
3.1 The structure and nature of traditional Indian social system—Varnashram, Purushartha, Karma, Rina and Rebirth.
3.2 Caste system in India— Structure and characteristics Varna and caste, Theories of origin of caste system, Dominant caste, Caste mobility, Future of caste system, Jajmani system. Tribe-case continuum.
3.3 Sacred Complex and Nature-Man-Spirit Complex.
3.4. Impact of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity of Indian society.
4. 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.
5.1 Indian Village—Significane 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.
5.2 Linguistic and religious minorities and their social, political and economic status.
5.3 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.
6.1 Tribal situation in India—Bio-genetic variability, linguistic and socio-economic characteristics of the tribal populations and their distribution.
6.2 Problems of the tribal Communities—Land alienation, poverty, indebtedness, low literacy, poor educational facilities, unemployment, under- employment, health and nutrition.
6.3 Developmental projects and their impact on tribal displacement and problems of rehabilitation. Development of forest policy and tribals. Impact of urbanisation and industrialization on tribal populations.
7.1 Problems of exploitation and deprivation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.
7.2 Social change and contemporary tribal societies: Impact of modern democratic institutions, development programmes and welfare measures on tribals and weaker sections.
7.3 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.
8.1 Impact of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and other religions on tribal societies.
8.2 Tribe and nation state—a comparative study of tribal communities in India and other countries.
9.1 History of administration of tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programmes of tribal development and their implementation. The concept of PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), their distribution, special programmes for their development. Role of N.G.O.s in tribal development.
9.2 Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development. 9.3 Contributions of anthropology to the understanding of regionalism, communalism and ethnic and political movements
Success Rate of Anthropology Optional in IAS Examination
Every year around 400-600 students opt for Anthropology as optional, on average around 500 and if the trend is observed for the past few years, success rate has been more than 10% except 2015. It means for every 100 students opting for sociology as their optional, more than 10 students out of them get recommended for the services.
It is not as high as medical science, agriculture, or animal husbandry subjects as they are more field specific but it is very high as compared to other subject like humanities. It has a very good scoring potential and every year many students get top ranks with this optional.
Success Rate – 2013 – 11.8%, 2014 – 11%, 2015 – 6.3%, 2016 – 10.7%
Average marks and toppers
If a student prepares for the optional diligently and gives ample time, then average scoring for the subject ranges around 280-330. Many high rankers score even above 350 with a good command on the subject and clarity of concepts.
The topper in 2019 with this optional is Patki Mander (Rank 22). Some toppers in previous years were Lakshmi N scoring 362 (Rank 45- 2018), Anudeep Durishetty (Rank 1 -2017) and many others.
Study material for the Anthropology optional
The below provided booklist is referred by Mr. Anudeep Durishetty (AIR 1, 2017). For more detailed strategy one can refer his blog on wordpress.
- Braintree material
- Physical Anthropology – P Nath
- Anthropology Simplified – Vivek Bhasme (very good source for diagrams and answer structuring)
- Anthropology – Ember and Ember
- Indian Anthropology -Nadeem Hasnain
- Tribal India – Nadeem Hasnain
- Anthropology Simplified- Vivek Bhasme
- The Tribal Culture of India – LP Vidyarthi
- Xaxa Report
- January 2014 edition of Yojana- Tribal and Marginalized Communities
Note : You can learn how to write good answers from the book Anthropology Simplified by Vivek Bhasme. Most of the diagrams can be covered from this book.
Online Resources for Paper I and II
Khan Academy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gUY5NoX1Lk
Anthropological Theories: http://anthropology.ua.edu/cultures/cultures.php
Anthropological Survey of India: https://ansi.gov.in/
Ministry of Tribal Affairs: https://tribal.nic.in/
Tribal faces of India- https://tribal.nic.in/DivisionsFiles/tribalFaces.pdf
Govt. schemes and tribal related news reported in newspapers