Ethnobiology - MSc, PhD
Anthropology prides itself on its inclusive and interdisciplinary focus. It takes a holistic approach to human society, combining biological and social perspectives.
All of our Anthropology Master’s programmes are recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as having research training status, so successful completion of these courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Master’s qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.
We welcome students with the appropriate background for research. If you wish to study for a single year, you can do the MSc by research, a 12-month independent research project.
If you are interested in registering for a research degree, you should contact the member of staff whose research is the most relevant to your interests. You should include a curriculum vitae, a short (1,000-word) research proposal, and a list of potential funding sources.
About the School of Anthropology and Conservation
Kent has pioneered the social anthropological study of Europe, Latin America, Melanesia, and Central and Southeast Asia, the use of computers in anthropological research, and environmental anthropology in its widest sense (including ethnobiology and ethnobotany). We maintain an active research culture, with staff working in many different parts of the world.
Our regional expertise covers Europe, the Middle East, Central, Southeast and Southern Asia, Central and South America, Amazonia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Polynesia. Specialisation in biological anthropology includes forensics and paleopathology, osteology, evolutionary psychology and the evolutionary ecology and behaviour of great apes.
Most recent Research Assessment Exercise: 50% of our research rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” with excellent ratings for prestige.
Anthropology at Kent was ranked 6th in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2015, and has consistently received high ratings in the National Student Survey.
The first year may include coursework, especially methods modules for students who need this additional training. In general, you work closely with one supervisor throughout your research, although you have a committee of three (including your primary supervisor) overseeing your progress.
Higher degrees in anthropology create opportunities in many employment sectors including academia, the civil service and non-governmental organisations through work in areas such as human rights, journalism, documentary film making, environmental conservation and international finance. An anthropology degree also develops interpersonal and intercultural skills, which make our graduates highly desirable in any profession that involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Master’s qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.
The School has a lively postgraduate community drawn together not only by shared resources such as postgraduate rooms, computer facilities (with a dedicated IT officer) and laboratories, but also by student-led events, societies, staff/postgraduate seminars, weekly research student seminars and a number of special lectures.
The School houses well-equipped research laboratories for genetics, ecology, visual anthropology, biological anthropology, anthropological computing, botany, osteology and ethnobiology. The state-of-the-art visual anthropology laboratory is stocked with digital editing programmes and other facilities for digital video and photographic work, and has a photographic darkroom for analogue developing and printing. The biological anthropology laboratory is equipped for osteoarchaeological and forensic work. It curates the Powell-Cotton collection of human remains, together with Anglo-Saxon skeletons from Bishopstone, East Sussex. The ethnobiology laboratory provides equipment and specimens for teaching ethnobiological research skills, and serves as a transit station for receiving, examining and redirecting field material. It also houses the Powell-Cotton collection of plant-based material culture from Southeast Asia, and a small reference and teaching collection of herbarium and spirit specimens (1,000 items) arising from recent research projects.
Kent has outstanding anthropology IT facilities. Over the last decade, the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing has been associated with many innovatory projects, particularly in the field of cognitive anthropology. It provides an electronic information service to other anthropology departments, for example by hosting both the Anthropological Index Online and Experience-Rich Anthropology project. We encourage all students to use the Centre’s facilities (no previous experience or training is necessary).
Anthropology at Kent has close links with the nearby Powell-Cotton Museum, which has one of the largest ethnographic collections in the British Isles and is particularly strong in sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian material. It also houses an extensive comparative collection of primate and other mammalian material. Human skeletal material is housed at the Kent Osteological Research and Analysis Centre within the School.
Anthropology, together with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) form the School of Anthropology and Conservation.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: American Ethnologist; Current Anthropology; Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; American Journal of Physical Anthropology; Proceedings of the Royal Society B; and Journal of Human Evolution.
A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology or other associated fields.
General entry requirements
Please also see our general entry requirements.
English language entry requirements
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
The related themes of ethnicity, nationalism, identity, conflict, and the economics crisis form a major focus of our current work in the Middle East, the Balkans, South Asia, Amazonia and Central America, Europe (including the United Kingdom), Oceania and South-East Asia.
Our research extends to inter-communal violence, mental health, diasporas, pilgrimage, intercommunal trade, urban ethnogenesis, indigenous representation and the study of contemporary religions and their global connections.
We research issues in fieldwork and methodology more generally, with a strong and expanding interest in the field of visual anthropology. Our work on identity and locality links with growing strengths in customary law, kinship and parenthood. This is complemented by work on the language of relatedness, child health and on the cognitive bases of kinship terminologies.
A final strand of our research focuses on policy and advocacy issues and examines the connections between morality and law, legitimacy and corruption, public health policy and local healing strategies, legal pluralism and property rights, and the regulation of marine resources.
Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology
Work in these areas is focused on the Centre for Biocultural Diversity. We conduct research on ethnobiological knowledge systems and other systems of environmental knowledge as well as local responses to deforestation, climate change, natural resource management, medical ethnobotany, the impacts of mobility and displacement and the interface between conservation and development. Current projects include trade in materia medica in Ladakh and Bolivia, food systems, ethno-ornithology, the development of buffer zones for protected areas and phytopharmacy among migrant diasporas.
Digital Anthropology: Cultural Informatics, Social Invention and Computational Methods
Since 1985, we have been exploring and applying new approaches to research problems in anthropology – often, as in the case of hypermedia, electronic and internet publishing, digital media, expert systems and large-scale textual and historical databases, up to a decade before other anthropologists. Today, we are exploring cloud media, semantic networks, multi-agent modelling, dual/blended realities, data mining, smart environments and how these are mediated by people into new possibilities and capabilities.
Our major developments have included advances in kinship theory and analysis supported by new computational methods within field-based studies and as applied to detailed historical records; qualitative analysis of textual and ethnographic materials; and computer-assisted approaches to visual ethnography. We are extending our range to quantitative approaches for assessing qualitative materials, analysing social and cultural invention, the active representation of meaning, and the applications and implications of mobile computing, sensing and communications platforms and the transformation of virtual into concrete objects, institutions and structures.
Biological Anthropology is the newest of the University of Kent Anthropology research disciplines. We are interested in a diverse range of research topics within biological and evolutionary anthropology. These include bioarchaeology, human reproductive strategies, hominin evolution, primate behaviour and ecology, modern human variation, cultural evolution and Palaeolithic archaeology. This work takes us to many different regions of the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, the United States), and involves collaboration with international colleagues from a number of organisations. We have a dedicated research laboratory and up-to-date computing facilities to allow research in many areas of biological anthropology.
Currently, work is being undertaken in a number of these areas, and research links have been forged with colleagues at Kent in archaeology and biosciences, as well as with those at the Powell- Cotton Museum, the Budongo Forest Project (Uganda) and University College London.
Kent Osteological Research and Analysis (KORA) offers a variety of osteological services for human remains from archaeological contexts.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Miguel Alexiades: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology/Ethnobotany
Amazonian Peru; Ese Eja; Central Mexico; role and responsibility of science; indigenous land and resource rights; indigenous self-determination; higher education programmes for local communities.Profile
Dr Judith Bovensiepen: Lecturer in Social Anthropology
Anthropology of Southeast Asia; East Timor; place and landscape; kinship and reciprocity; colonial history; conflict; conspiracy talk; postconflict healing and reconstruction.Profile
Glenn Bowman: Reader in Social Anthropology
West Bank Palestine and the former Yugoslavia; shrines, monumentalisation, pilgrimage, intercommunal relations, identity politics, nationalism, walling; Orthodox and heterodox Christianity, Sufism; anthropological and psychoanalytic approaches to identity; fieldwork theory.Profile
Oskar Burger: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Origin of the human life history; population dynamics; evolutionary approaches to the demographic transition; population-level effects of energy consumption; biology of ageing; human behavioural ecology in general.Profile
Dr Melissa Demian: Lecturer in Social Anthropology
The Suau Coast of south-eastern Papua New Guinea; the anthropology of law and legal pluralism; property theory; the concepts of cultural patrimony and ‘culture loss’; ‘cultural defence’ in American and British courtrooms.Profile
Professor Michael Fischer: Professor of Anthropological Sciences
The representation and structure of indigenous knowledge; cultural informatics; the interrelationships between ideation and the material contexts within which ideation is expressed.Profile
Dr David Henig: Lecturer in Social Anthropology
Central Asia and eastern Mediterranean; anthropology of Islam; socialist/post-socialist economy and society; exchange and materiality; cosmological thought; landscape and environment; narrativity and ethnographic theory; social networks and sociality.Profile
Dr Matthew Hodges: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology
France, Euskadi, Europe; time, historical consciousness, modernity, rural social transformation, cultural and heritage tourism; science and technology; continental philosophy; public anthropology, creative writing.Profile
Dr Sarah Johns: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology
Evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology; timing of life-history events; human reproduction, especially variation of the age at first birth and the evolved psychology of reproductive decision making.Profile
Dr Tracy Kivell: Reader in Biological Anthropology
Functional morphology of the wrist and hand; extant and fossil apes; origin of human bipedalism and hand use; ontogeny; biomechanics of primate locomotion.Profile
Dr Patrick Mahoney: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Evolutionary developmental biology of hominoid dentition; bioarchaeology, especially prehistoric human diet; palaeopathology.Profile
Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher: Senior Lecturer in Primate Behavioural Ecology
Evolutionary ecology and behaviour of mammals with an emphasis on primates, in particular chimpanzees, including male-female aggression and sexual coercion, hunting behaviour, social behaviour, feeding ecology and ranging patterns.Profile
Dr Daniela Peluso: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology
Gender; exchange theory; kinship; development; indigenous urbanisation; medical anthropology; indigenismo; hybridity; personhood and identity; anthropology of business.Profile
Professor Joao Pina-Cabral: Professor of Social Anthropology
The relationship between symbolic thought and social power; family and kinship; ethnicity in colonial and postcolonial contexts.Profile
Dr Mike Poltorak: Lecturer in Social Anthropology
Tonga; Oceania; New Zealand; Brighton and Hove; Rajasthan; India; visual anthropology; mental illness; medical anthropology; transnationalism; ethnopsychiatry; vaccination; applied medical anthropology; cultural politics; indigenous epistemologies and modernities; the medical/visual/development anthropology nexus.Profile
Dr Rajindra K Puri: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology
Environmental anthropology; ethnobiology; hunting; tropical forests; conservation social science; biodiversity and climate change; South and Southeast Asia.Profile
Dr Dimitrios Theodossopoulos: Reader in Social Anthropology
Political and environmental anthropology; Panama; Greece; ethnic relations and stereotyping; globalisation and indigeneity; sustainability.Profile
Dr Anna Waldstein: Lecturer in Medical Anthropology and Ethnobotany
Medical anthropology; ecological anthropology; Mesoamerica; Rastafari; diaspora and migration; the effects of migration and acculturation on health; the use of traditional medical knowledge as an adaptive strategy among migrants; food and health sovereignty.Profile
Enquire or order a prospectus
T: +44 (0)1227 827272
T: +44 (0)1227 827928
F: +44 (0)1227 827289
As a guide only, the 2015/16 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
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Exceptions may apply. If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org