Research Specializations

(Header image: Archaeological dig in Huaca, Colorado, with Professor Ed Swenson. Photo by Prof. Swenson.)

Research Sub-Fields

The Department focuses on five fields of research, Archaeology, Linguistic & Semiotic, Medical, Evolutionary (or Biological), and Social Cultural.

Anthropology students at the University of Toronto can study human biology and evolution; human behaviour from its first appearance in the archaeological record to the first appearance of writing; language and society; anthropology of health, and the diversity of human culture in today’s world. Elsewhere on this site you will find information about our courses, programmes, and faculty.


Archaeologists study the surviving evidence, or material culture, of people’s activities. From the distribution of artefacts and other cultural residues, archaeologists draw conclusions about the organization of social groups, their adaptations to environments, and their spatial and temporal relations.

Linguistic & Semiotic Anthropology

Linguistic & Semiotic Anthropology is the study of how language and other systems of human communication contribute to the reproduction, transmission, and transformation of culture. It is concerned with the role of language and other systems in reproducing and transforming such aspects of society as power relations, ideology, sub-cultural expression, class, gender and ethnic identity.

Medical Anthropology

Medical Anthropology is a research area at the crossroads of biological and social sciences.

Medical anthropologists study health both cross-culturally and over evolutionary time scales. Anthropology contributes to our understanding of health in diverse social, political, economic, cultural, and gender contexts across time and space.

Evolutionary/Biological Anthropology

Evolutionary (or Biological) Anthropology is the study of humans and non-human primates in their biological dimension. It examines the biological and social factors that have affected the evolution of humans and other primates, and that generate, maintain or change contemporary genetic and physiological variation. Biological anthropologists may focus their research on human genetics, the behaviour of non-human primates, primate palaeontology, medical Anthropology, forensics or evidence for ancient disease and nutrition.

Social-Cultural Anthropology

Social-Cultural Anthropology deals with institutions and models of social behaviour cross-culturally to establish more general theories about the similarities and differences between human communities and cultures. Today, many social anthropologists not only study non-western societies, but also “western” culture and such aspects of complex societies as gender, sexuality, peasantry, ethnic minorities, and industrial work groups.

Research Regions

North America

At the St. George campus, professors Gary Coupland and Max Friesen conduct archaeological research on the Northwest Coast and the Arctic, respectively. Hilary Cunningham’s studies such social movements such as the Sanctuary Movement on the U.S.-Mexican border. Bonnie McElhinny’s work in sociolinguistics, language and gender has included research on US police and their interactions with the public, and of Filipino domestics in North America. Ivan Kalmar conducts research on popular culture and semiotics. Susan Pfeiffer’s work includes research on the health and nutrition of prehistoric peoples in northeastern North America and Valentina Napolitano studies anthropology of gendered subject formation and the transcultural politics of health movements (especially the anthropology of complementary medicine) in Mexico and with Mexican transnational migrants. Krista Maxwell’s research is broadly concerned with the ethnographic and historical analysis of Canadian settler colonialism and indigenous sovereignty in the domains of healing, healthcare and social welfare.

At UTM, archaeologists David Smith and Gary Crawford conduct research on prehistoric and early historic peoples of Ontario. Tracy Rogers is a forensic anthropologist whose research interests involve the identification of unknown skeletal remains, with a particular focus on methods of assessing sex, age-at-death and ancestry/biogeographical origin of the deceased. Tracey Galloway‘s research focuses on chronic disease risk and the reduction of the impact of chronic disease through applied and health policy research to reduce health inequities and promote health system improvement in northern Canadian Indigenous populations.

At UTSC, Mary Silcox researches Primate evolution, with a particular focus on fossil evidence for primate origins, and the anatomy and evolution of close relatives to primates.


On the St. George campus, Susan Pfeiffer conducts research on paleoanthropology in southern Africa, while Shawn Lehman conducts primate research on Madagascar. Janice Boddy studies gender, symbolism and cultural meaning, religion and women’s culture in East Africa, and especially Arabic-speaking Sudan. Dan Sellen researches infant nutrition and health in East Africa (he also works in Asia.)

At UTSC, Michael Lambek holds a Canada Research Chair in the Anthropology of Ethical Life; his research focuses on interpretative anthropology, personhood and subjectivity, ritual and religion in Africa and the Islamic World, especially Comores and Madagascar. (He also works in Europe). Girish Daswani studies spirit mediums and African traditional religion in Ghana. Bianca Dahl’s work in Botswana explores the social effects of international humanitarian organizations’ efforts to provide aid during Africa’s HIV pandemic. Katie Kilroy-Marac’s recent work has focused on transcultural psychiatry and postcolonial transformations in Senegal. Genevieve Dewar works in southern Africa on issues of human modernity and origins of modern human behaviour, focusing on evidence for Palaeoenvironments, Subsistence and Settlement strategies. Julie Teichroeb is a primate behavioural ecologist who primarily examines the evolution of sociality, focusing on the determinants of social organization and the costs and benefits of group-living in Ghana and Uganda.

At UTM, Todd Sanders‘ research focuses on knowledge and epistemology, witchcraft and globalization in East Africa. Sarah Hillewaert’s research in Kenya focuses on the range of linguistic and semiotic strategies young people use to negotiate social relations and positions in contexts of social change and globalization.


Both Ted Banning and Michael Chazan at the St. George campus conduct archaeological fieldwork on the prehistory of Southwest Asia. Tania Li (St. George) holds a Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of the Asia-Pacific. She works mainly in Indonesia on agrarian transformations, resource conflict, community, indigeneity, and development. Hy V. Luong’s research focuses on the interplay of political economy, social structure, ideology, and discourse in Vietnam. Joshua Barker has studied police forces in Indonesia and discourse networks and telecommunications in Java and Shiho Satsuka studies capitalism in Japan. Naisargi Dave has conducted fieldwork with queer organizations in New Delhi, India and focuses on gender and sexuality, social justice and transnational activism, while Bonnie McElhinny has conducted socio-cultural and linguistic anthropological research in the Philippines. Dan Sellen does medical anthropological research in Bangladesh. Jesook Song’s work focuses on contemporary urban transformation and welfare issues including homelessness, youth unemployment, single women’s housing, and psychological health support systems in East Asia, particularly South Korea.

At UTM, Heather Miller specializes in prehistoric and historic complex societies, ancient technology, social organization, and agriculture in South Asia. Gary Crawford conducts research on the beginnings of agriculture in East Asia and Francis Cody is a social cultural anthropologist who focuses on Tamilnadu, southern India. Liye Xie is an archaeologist whose research focuses on technological adaptations that underwrote the emergence and intensification of agriculture, sedentism, and social complexity in China.

At UTSC, Michael Schillaci is a primate zoologist studying growth variability in Asian macaques. Alejandro Paz is a linguistic anthropologist broadly interested in language and ethnicity in transnational and diasporic contexts, with a focus on Latino labour migrants in Israel. He also studies the role of media in publicity and publics.


David Begun conducts paleoanthropological research on Meiocene primates in Hungary and Turkey. Michael Chazan works on Palaeolithic archaeology in France. Ivan Kalmar conducts research on popular culture, semiotics, and orientalism in Europe. Valentina Napolitano focuses on Latino transnational migration in Italy and Marcel Danesi is an expert in linguistic anthropology, semiotics and youth culture in Italy and France. Bence Viola‘s research cradles Central and Northern Asia and Central Europe. He is a paleoanthropologist focusing on the biological and cultural dynamics of the contacts between different hominin groups in the late Pleistocene.

Larry Sawchuk at UTSC studies health and disease in urban populations, especially Gibraltar, through historical demography, and Michael Lambek has begun ethographic fieldwork on alternate healthcare in Switzerland. At UTM, Andrea Muehlebach studies governance and discourse in Europe.

South America and the Caribbean

Shawn Lehman studies primates in the northern part of South America and Edward Swenson is an archaeologist studying complex societies in the Andes and Latin America. Valentina Napolitano has conducted fieldwork on health in urban Mexico.

At UTM, Jack Sidnell focuses on linguistic anthropology of creoles in the Caribbean while Esteban Parra, a molecular anthropologist, is interested in the application of genetic markers and adaptation to high altitude in the Andean region. He has investigated extensively the admixture process, the process of mixing of human populations, that took place in the Americas since the XVth century.

At UTSC, Chris Krupa’s work in Andean Ecuador focuses on issues of state formation, violence, and labour relations in agro-export enclaves encroaching upon indigenous territories. Lena Mortensen studies issues relating to culture, heritage and tourism in Honduras.

Australia and New Guinea

Holly Wardlow conducts research in medical anthropology, feminist anthropology, international health, reproductive health, gender and violence in Papua New Guinea.

At UTSC, Sandra Bamford studies gender, kinship, ritual embodiment, and environmentalism in New Guinea. Maggie Cummings works on gender, identity and sexuality in Vanuatu, and how these emerge in the realms of labour and livelihood. Gillian Gillison studies myth and ritual, and has worked with the Gimi of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. She is also interested in psychoanalytic anthropology.