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ANTHROPOLOGY STRATEGY: By Anudeep Durishetty, RANK-1 UPSC CSE-2017 – How to Ace Anthropology Optional: Topic Wise Plan for Paper I




By Anudeep Durishetty, RANK-1 UPSC CSE-2017

How to Ace Anthropology Optional: Topic Wise Plan for Paper I

Read First Article of this Series Here

anudeep durishetty

Note: On Anthropology, there are a total of three blog posts, of which this is the second one. The first one primarily talks about my book list and the basic approach. This one deals with topic wise detailed plan for Paper I.


Syllabus and the Strategy

1.1 to 1.3 – Meaning, Scope; Relationship; Branches

1.4 – Human Evolution

  • Core material: P. Nath
  • Value Addition: Ember & Ember
  • For answer structure and diagrams, refer Anthropology Simplified
  • Get a solid grasp of evolution and its concepts such as: Genetic recombination, directional selection, Adaptive radiation, Darwinism, Parallelism, Neo-Darwinism etc (Given well in Ember. Use internet as well)
  • Innovate in your answers. Ex: You can depict genetic recombination through a diagram and adaptive radiation through a flowchart. Quote examples for topics like adaptive radiation.

1.5 – Primates

  • Primary Source: P. Nath
  • For better diagrams/sketches – Use Ember & Ember, Google, Anthropology Simplified and notes of Kirthi (AIR-14, CSE 2015)
  • Go through previous years question papers and prepare notes for most important topics. It’s static and highly scoring
  • Must draw diagrams with proper labelling. For example, when you draw skulls of ape and human, you should comparatively point out changes in parts such as Zygomatic arch, Foramen magnum, Sagittal crest etc.  Practise diagrams to show evolutionary changes not just in the skull but also foot, spinal cord, pelvis, dentition etc
  • Dedicate adequate time to practise neat drawings. Your aim must be to attempt as many questions as you can from topics like these and max out your scores.

1.6 – Fossils et al

  • Primary Source: P. Nath
  • Use Ember & Ember and Anthropology Simplified for value addition and diagrams
  • Practise diagrams for: Australopithecus, Homo Erectus, Rhodesian man, Neanderthal man, Cro Magnon, Grimaldi, Chancelade
  • Prepare thoroughly on each and every fossil mentioned in the syllabus.
  • Focus on:
    • Phylogenetic Status (i.e. its place in the evolution tree, who are its ancestors/successors, etc.)
    • Characteristics (physical, cultural aspects, time-span of the fossil)
    • Geographical distribution
      • Who discovered the first fossil, where & when
      • Distribution of the fossil in other parts of the world
      • Draw map depicting site names

1.7 – The biological basis of life

  • I prepared this unit entirely from the Khan academy YouTube channel
  • Refer to PDF Slides for diagrams and value addition
  • DNA replication, translation, protein synthesis must be illustrated with diagrams
  • Highly scoring

1.8 (1) – Dating methods, etc.

  •      Ember & Ember

1.8 (2)  Cultural Evolution

  • I skipped this subtopic for lack of time.

2.1 & 2.2 – Nature of Culture and Society, etc.

  • Primary Source: BrainTree
  • Value addition: Ember and Ember

2.3, 2.4, 2.5; 3, 4 and 5 – Marriage, Family, Kinship, Economic Organisation, Political Organisation, Religion

  • Most important chapters of Socio-Cultural Anthro.
  • Primary Sources: Braintree
  • Use Ember & Ember for value addition, especially for world tribe examples. Note down all of them in an A4 sheet and memorise.
  • For all the terms (marriage, religion, magic etc), definitions must be a scholarly one. Cram word to word and replicate in your paper.
  • Always include names of relevant Anthropologist’s name, publication year, name and the tribe on which the study was done. Eg: If you talk about Kula Ring, your answer will be incomplete without quoting Malinowski and his work on Trobriand Islanders. Same goes with Totemism and Durkheim.
  • Also, your answer will stand out only when you quote many examples. Just quoting Indian tribe examples won’t be enough. For instance, if you are explaining Balanced Reciprocity, you must quote at least a couple of world tribes (Eg: trade between !Kung and Tswana Buntu) that practice it and the significance of such a system in the tribe. Source these examples from Ember and the internet.
  • Diagrams and schematics for marriage, kinship, descent are absolutely crucial. Ember & Ember has some good diagrams (Eg: Kula ring exchange map) and tables. Practise.
  • For economic anthropology, memorise examples such as that of potlatch: Chinook of Northern Pacific, Kwakiutl of British Columbia. Also mug up examples for tribes for each of fishing/pastoral/horticulture etc. More the examples, better it is. Also practice rough diagrams of tools used by these communities.
  • For political organisation chapter, source examples from Ember and Ember. As I had mentioned, quote anthropologists, their works and tribe’s names.
  • Religion: Same approach as above

6 – Anthropological Theories

  • Primary Source: Ember & Ember
  • Additional Details: University of Alabama’s website, Braintree
  • Prepare short notes on each theory. Expand on:
    • Why it emerged?
    • Main thinkers and their major works
    • Tribes on which the study was done
    • Criticism
    • Balanced conclusion
  • This being a very important chapter, you can go a little deep into each theory and each thinker. You can read on the internet about the most important work of each anthropologist mentioned in the syllabus. For example, if you read a little deeper about Clifford Geertz and his work, you will understand how he described the Balinese cockfight and its relationship to the society at large. These will help you write great answers.
  • The amount of time you invest in this chapter will never go waste. Questions definitely come from this chapter and if you write an in-depth answer, it’s a great chance to outshine your competition.

7 – Culture, Language etc

  • Braintree
  • Ember & Ember
  • Anthropology Simplified

8 – Research Methods in Anthro

  • Primary Source: Braintree
  • Easy and scoring topic
  • Always mention the name of prominent anthropologist associated with a particular method and their works. E.g. Participant-Observation method used by Malinowski for his study on Trobriand Islanders, Genealogical Method by W.H. Rivers, etc.

9.1 to 9.4 – Human Genetics, et al

  • Primary Source: P. Nath.
  • PDF material for value addition
  • Anthropology Simplified for diagrams
  • Use internet extensively to know about technical terms such as Genetic load, genetic drift.Your clarity  of concepts must be impeccable.
  • Go through previous years questions from this chapter and prepare notes for all of them
  • Value addition: You can write about latest advances in Genetics such as Epigenome, methylation and its impact on Gene expression etc to make your answers more contemporary. You can get this content from newspapers and the internet.

9.5 – Race and Racism

  • Primary Source: P. Nath
  • Mug up physical characteristics of major races of the world

9.6 – Genetic Markers, Physiological characteristics etc

  • P. Nath

9.7 – Ecological Anthro

  • Core material: P. Nath
  • You can value add from Ember and Ember: Note down adaptation and acclimatization examples

9.8 – Epidemiological Anthropology

  • I prepared this topic from the PDF material and Anthropology Simplified

10 – Growth and Development

  • Primary Source: P. Nath
  • Prepare short notes for each topic
  • Graphs and examples are indispensible. They will enrich your answers.

11.1 to 11.3

  • P. Nath
  • Practise graphs and diagrams (Eg: Demographic Transition Theory etc)
  • You may use internet to enrich the content. Prepare short notes.

12 – Applications of Anthropology

  • Primary Source: P. Nath
  • Value Addition: Anthropology Simplified, Internet, PDF material
  • Very important topic of Paper I.
  • Practise diagrams wherever appropriate Eg: in DNA technology, Forensic Anthropology, serogenetics and cytogenetics etc
  • Scour the internet to understand about the latest research and developments in various fields wherein Anthropology is being applied for practical purpose. This is way you make your answers stand out from the rest.


My best wishes.


Until next time,


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