Sociology and Anthropology came to Williams at different times and had somewhat different trajectories. Anthropology has been taught at the College since 1966. In its early years, it had only one and later two professors. It had the status of a program and was unable to offer a major. Sociology has been taught since 1971, when it was introduced into the curriculum as a department. In its early years, it had only one professor, later joined by one and, still later, two junior people in regular or part-time appointments. Sociology graduated its first major in 1977.
Anthropology & Sociology became a joint department in spring 1980. In 1984, the faculty voted to allow Anthropology to offer a major and, in 1985, Anthropology gained its first appointment to tenure and graduated its first majors a year later.
In 1989, the department took the first step in unifying the programs of its two wings while maintaining the separate identity of each discipline. The department was fortunate to have faculty members in both disciplines who had done extensive fieldwork in a wide range of settings. This common commitment to qualitative fieldwork, not only among the anthropologists but also among the sociologists, provided a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration.
Over the years the department has included faculty who have gone on to successful careers at other institutions. These include Lila Abu-Lughod, Jennifer Cole, Neil Gross, Mark Jacobs, Philip Kasinitz, J. Lorand Matory, Gillianne Monnier, Suzanne Oakdale, Charles Payne, Francesca Polletta, Helen Siu, Gilbert Tostevin, Federico Varese, and others.