The social-cultural anthropology program at Rice has a distinguished legacy dating back to the 1980's when the department became a focal point and provocateur for a major reassessment of the methods of anthropological research and writing. Rice anthropology has historically championed interdisciplinary, theoretical, and experimental modes of anthropological inquiry, and has sought to adapt and enhance traditional anthropological methodology to engage the shifting scales, trajectories, and temporalities of contemporary social phenomena (from diasporic communities to translocal circuits of commodities, technologies, and ideas to political institutions and discourses to networks and cultures of expertise). Although we have not been alone in rethinking the anthropology of the contemporary, the openness, reflexivity, and plurality of social-cultural anthropology today owes much to the distinctive legacy of Rice anthropology.
The current social-cultural wing of the department remains committed to the Rice legacy in its pursuit of methodologically- and conceptually-challenging, interdisciplinary, and reflexive modes of anthropological research. At the same time, faculty and students are actively searching for new ways to broaden the horizons of anthropological inquiry. Among the most prominent research foci of the social-cultural program today are: expertise and authority, medicine and health, gender and sexuality, religion and faith, aesthetics and visuality, media and public culture, science and technology, post-, late- and neo-socialism, production and consumption, theory and philosophy, digital information and communication, activism, ethics, sustainability, and energy.