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Subdisciplines and Research Areas

The following subfields represent some of the prominent areas of research conducted by our full-time faculty. A list of faculty that conduct research in each field is given, along with a brief description of each subfield. Links to individual faculty pages—where you can view CV's and lists of publications—can be found on our Faculty page.

Anthropology of Religion
All of our faculty deal with issues of religion to varying extents in their research. However, the Anthropology of Religion is an important subdiscipline and the Society for the Anthropology of Religion constitutes a section of the American Anthropological Association ( Some of the areas of religious practice researched by our faculty include:

  • Ancestral Practice (Jacob Hickman)
  • Christianity (Jacob Hickman, Charles Nuckolls, Greg Thompson)
  • Islam (Cyndy Finlayson, David Johnson)
  • Mesoamerican Religion (John Clark, Mike Searcy)
  • Religious Iconography (John Clark, Cyndy Finlayson, David Johnson, Mike Searcy)
  • Shamanism (Jacob Hickman)
  • Spirit Mediumship (Charles Nuckolls)

Asian Studies
The BYU Kennedy Center offers both a major and a minor in Asian Studies. The following faculty conduct research in Asia and teach courses that count toward the Asian Studies programs: Jacob Hickman, Charles Nuckolls

U.S. Southwest/Northwest Mexico Archaeology
In addition to conducting their own research in the Greater Southwest, faculty in our department have offered a number of field schools at archaeological sites in Utah. These include sites that were part of the Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan traditions. Faculty: Jim Allison, Mike Searcy

Near East Archaeology
Faculty in our department also conduct research in Jordan and Syria, and the archaeology field school has been held in Jordan several times. This is the only archaeology field school that has been held outside of the U.S. in the recent past, and it is jointly organized by faculty members Cyndy Finlayson and David Johnson.

Psychological Anthropology
Psychological Anthropology research occurs at the intersection of mind and culture. Our department offers courses in psychological anthropology, and perspectives from this subdiscipline are expressed in the range of courses taught by psychological anthropologists in our department. Faculty: Jacob Hickman, Charles Nuckolls, Greg Thompson.

Medical Anthropology
Medical anthropology is the study of health and healing practices and beliefs as they vary in different cultural contexts. Our department offers courses in medical anthropology and related areas of interest, which range from traditional herbal remedies to shamanic healing rituals to analyzing American Psychiatry. Several of our faculty conduct research on these topics: Jacob Hickman, Charles Nuckolls

Mesoamerican Archaeology
Mesoamerican archaeology and ethnography have historically been a concentrated area of research in our department. The New World Archaeology Foundation (NWAF), an affiliate entity of the Department of Anthropology, maintains an on-site research center in Chiapas, Mexico. Two of our faculty members, John Clark and Mike Searcy, are affiliated with the NWAF.

Linguistic Anthropology
Linguistic anthropologists study the linguistic dimensions of cultural experience. These go beyond the mere expression of culture through language, and include that ways that humans' thinking is shaped by linguistic processes and investigating the linguistic resources that people draw on as they engage in cultural practice. Faculty: Greg Thompson, Janis Nuckolls (Dept. of Linguistics).