Kartic Godavarthy

Cogito, Ergo Sum

Anthropology as an optional for Civil Services Examination

Civil Services Examination, conducted by the UPSC every year, is considered to be one of the toughest examinations in the world. An aspirant is competing with some of the best brains in the country and he/she should prove to be one of them to succeed. The most crucial and strategically important component in the system of this examination is the selection of the optional subject. It is necessary to choose the optional very carefully given the various factors that may a!ect the outcome of the examination. This blog article seeks to answer some of the frequently asked questions about anthropology.

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is a “science of humanity” – it is a study of the human beings from biological, social and cultural perspectives. It essentially tries to answer the three quintessential questions man has had since his evolution – who is he, where did he come from and why he acts the way he does? It incorporates holistic, historical and comparatives methods to understand the human nature. Human biology, economy, religion, medicine, politics, business, culture, diplomacy and even sports are a part of an anthropologist’s interests. There is virtually nothing anthropologists do not study about man. It is a discipline which is as interested in the human origins as much as it is in future of our species. Its scope cuts across the dimensions of time and space. It is considered the most comprehensive of all the disciplines that study mankind. Anthropology is both a theoretical and an applied discipline where researchers are “nding solutions to many contemporary challenges the humanity is facing in almost all the facets of life. For a brief reading about anthropology, please click here.

What is the syllabus prescribed for Anthropology in Civil Services Examination?

The syllabus for anthropology is organized into two papers – Paper I and II. Paper I covers broadly two areas of study – Sociocultural Anthropology and Physical Anthropology while Paper II covers Indian Anthropology. While Paper I is about concepts and methods of anthropology and study of man, his society and culture, its theory and practice, Paper II focusses speci”cally on Indian society and culture and its various dimensions. While this division of the syllabus is more for the academic convenience of the student, anthropological discussions per se are very holistic in nature and require a comprehensive study.

Who can choose anthropology as an optional?

Prior knowledge of the discipline is not a prerequisite, unlike some other subjects. Students from diverse academic backgrounds, from medicine to mechanical engineering and biotechnology to commerce and engineering, have been opting this subject and emerging successfully. In fact, anthropology is taught in very few universities in India. Most of the students “nd anthropology very interesting because we study ourselves, our societies and our own behavior. Most of the topics we delve into are those which we have been studying right from our high school. Many “nd the study of the discipline personally and intellectually enriching. It is the most popular optional subjects in the competitive exams. It is interesting to note that most of the founding fathers of this discipline have themselves come from di!erent academic backgrounds like philosophy, geography, biology and even physics.

Does anthropology help in General Studies?

Absolutely. The scope of anthropology is very comprehensive, and it touches upon many areas of knowledge – history, political science, development economics, science and technology, biology, public administration, geography and even constitutional law. Anthropologists have their own unique perspectives to understand these areas of study. Anthropology adds new intellectual insights and holistic treatment to these topics. Anthropological analysis adds value to the subjects in general studies and also general essay. There are a number of areas in general studies which we discuss as a part of our curriculum in anthropology and one need not study them separately again. This cuts down a lot of redundancy while preparing for this exam and saves time, a scarce and much needed resource. The following are some of the areas where there is an overlap between anthropology and general studies.

General Studies I: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India, Role of women and women’s organization, Population and associated issues, Poverty and developmental issues, Urbanization, their problems and their remedies, E!ects of globalization on Indian society, Social empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.

General Studies II: Social Justice, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation, Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders, Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections, Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, Issues relating to poverty and hunger,

General Studies III: Development, Technology, Issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment, Inclusive growth and issues arising from it, Linkages between development and spread of extremism, Science and Technology – Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering.

General Studies IV: Ethics and Integrity, Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections, Role of Family, Society and Education in inculcating human values, Attitude – Social influence.Most of these topics empower a student to write general essays without any special e!orts.

What are the advantages of taking Anthropology as an optional?

There are many. Civil Services Examination is about clarity of thought, power of expression and range of application. Anthropology is one discipline that contributes to and enhances an aspirant’s intellectual acumen and broadens the knowledge and connections therein for all the papers, general studies, essay and even the personality test.Anthropology has been a high-scoring subject. One of the many reasons why this subject is popular is because of the scores that helped to provide the all-important sheet-anchor for many aspirants to succeed in this examination.Since anthropology is not the part of regular academic curriculum in many colleges and universities, an aspirant to this exam is not technically competing with those who already have academic degrees in this subject. There is no competition for you from main-stream anthropology students, as their number is miniscule. There is a “level-playing- “eld” for all those who take anthropology as their optional subject. As already mentioned earlier, there is no need to have prior knowledge in the discipline to score high in this subject, provided there is proper preparation, study material and guidance. Anthropology as an optional subject requires very little time to master as compared to many other optional subjects. With three to four months of well-designed academic inputs, regular answer writing and feedback, one can score very well in this subject. This is one of the reasons why anthropology is popular among aspirants and the choice of many students who have succeeded in one or two attempts. As mentioned already, it is not time-consuming, cuts down redundancy while preparing for general studies and adds value to general essays. Even answers can be written in a very simple and systematic way.

Is coaching / mentoring necessary for anthropology?

Guidance is necessary in anthropology because it is a highly specialized discipline with its own methodologies and approaches. There are some who managed the discipline on their own, but it take a lot of e!ort and time to do so. Given the limited time available to prepare for this examination, guidance is required irrespective of the subject. Guidance in anthropology helps in understanding the concepts, clear presentation of ideas in the form of an answer, close monitoring of the progress of a candidate and necessary academic interventions whenever and wherever required. Moreover, anthropology being a very dynamic discipline, latest developments and emerging issues need to be made an integral part of the preparation. A very important aspect of this exam is to know WHAT NOT TO READ rather than what to read! This is especially so when there is an information overload and con#icting perspectives, making guidance from professional very helpful if not indispensable. Since very few text books are available in the market which are tailor-made for the purpose of this examination, study material and lectures by qualified and experienced faculty is very helpful.

Here’s more on the advantages of anthropology as an optional subject.

And here’s another video explaining the syllabus.

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i think, therefore i am.

Cogito, ergo sum is a Latin philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am”, probably the one thing that defines our specie.

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