Environmental Anthropology is an interdisciplinary study into how societies are influenced by the environment and how they manage natural resources and hazards.
This programme offers you the opportunity to acquire advanced knowledge of how different societies are influenced by the environment and manage natural resources and hazards, in relation to issues in human ecology, biodiversity management, sustainable development, environmental change and the practical applications of such knowledge.
As a graduate of this programme, you will have a range of both practical and evaluative skills, and experience of conducting empirical or other applied research. This allows you to pursue work as a researcher and will inform whatever position you take up in the future. Your expertise will be welcome in a range of organisations including national or international environmental bodies, governmental departments and nongovernmental organisations.
Students have the opportunity to study for an MA or an MSc with students who opt for the MSc being offered the opportunity to take conservation modules taught by researchers from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE).
Why study with us?
- One-year Master's programme
- Innovative teaching methods which provide practical, hands-on learning
- Good range of module choices including conservation modules supported by DICE for those taking the MSc version
- Field trip opportunities including to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Eden Project, the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, the Bird of Prey Centre at Leeds Castle and the Powell-Cotton Museum
- Specialist facilities including an Ethnobiology Laboratory which houses the Powell-Cotton collection of plant-based material culture from Southeast Asia
- Links with the Centre for Biocultural Diversity as well as global partners including the Institute of Ecology in Bandung, the Centre for International Forestry Research in Indonesia and the Global Diversity Foundation
- Research-led teaching by an institution specialising in postgraduate training
We follow an experiential and interactive learning method. We continue to look for innovative ways to present lectures, run seminars and workshops, write exams, design assignments, supervise students and evaluate essays and theses, to ensure that students develop practical expertise as well as an understanding of the methods used by environmental anthropologists.
Generally, you take assessed modules in Environmental Anthropology, Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems, Contemporary Issues in Ethnography, social anthropology, and Research Methods. These modules involve a combination of lectures, seminar discussions and practical laboratories. Additionally, you may opt to attend modules taught in DICE (the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology) on conservation biology, nature and tourism and the international wildlife trade.
There are also informal workshop series in practical methods in conservation social science (jointly held with DICE), cultural domain analysis, research design, and computer applications, as well as field trips.
Throughout your Master's, you spend time thinking about and preparing for your dissertation project, which is the culmination of the programme. If you are looking to study overseas you can apply for funding from outside bodies as well as for support from the School. You prepare proposals, practice methods, arrange for permits and letters of consent, and, if necessary take language classes to prepare for around eight weeks of research between April and 1 July. You then write a 15,000 word dissertation that goes beyond a simple research report to argue a theoretical point and discuss research findings in much wider contexts. Increasingly, our students are going on to publish edited versions of their projects and are making substantive contributions to the research, development or conservation projects they work with.
Think Kent video series
In this talk, Dr Robert Fish of the University of Kent, explains how the field of human ecology seeks to promote understanding of nature and the life-giving, life-saving and life-affirming role it plays in people’s lives.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Anthropology and Conservation was ranked 10th for research power and in the top 20 in the UK for research impact and research intensity.
An impressive 94% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
In the latest Student Barometer survey 100% of our postgraduate students were satisfied with the academic content of their course and 97% said they found their programme intellectually stimulating.
Teaching for coursework takes place in the first and second terms. During the third term and the summer period, you prepare your dissertation on a topic that reflects your own individual interests and experience.
Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.
|Modules may include||Credits|
SE885 - Anthropological Research Methods I
The module will consist of twelve two hour classes consisting of short introductions to weekly topics by the course convenors followed by practical exercises to allow students to experience and learn by doing several key methods and tools used in anthropological fieldwork. Assignments based on the use of several methods, a research proposal abstract for their future dissertation project, and an essay will be used to assess the student's achievement of learning outcomes. Seminar topics may include: Introduction to research in the natural and social sciences, participant observation, choosing informants, interviewing, processing interview data, analysis and presentation of qualitative data, questionnaire design and analysis, developing an integrated research design, running workshops and focus groups, ethics and consent.Read more
SE886 - Anthropological Research Methods II
Fieldwork is the hallmark of anthropological research. Its style and delivery, as well as the discourses surrounding it, have changed alongside the discipline. In his book Routes, Travel And Translation In The Late Twentieth Century, Clifford (1997) flags two important aspects of fieldwork: first, the formation of intensive interactions and relationships that produce "deep" cultural understanding in settings that can vary in time and location, and, second, a sense of displacement, movement or travel for the fieldworker thus allowing for an objective detached perspective. The ways in which anthropologists strive to interact with people while maintaining objectivity, make research ethics and methodological choices particularly important since their presence in the field has implications on the people whom they study.Read more
SE896 - Environmental Anthropology
This module introduces some of the main theoretical approaches and some practical applications of the study of environmental anthropology (in particular, the cultural ecology of Steward, the concepts of carrying capacity and limiting factors as used in eco-systematic models, historical and political ecology, and new approaches deriving from post-modern anthropology). It considers some of the main cultural and social aspects of the human-environment interface, such as the relationship between social organisation and ecology; alternative forms of land use and management; the impact of processes of globalization on human interactions with the environment in a number of non-western societies; and the cultural dimension of human adaptation to the environment. The middle section of the module looks at five categories of subsistence strategy and the environments they occur in, foraging and hunting (in arid, arctic and tropical forest ecosystems), fishing (coastal marine environments), pastoralism (in grassland and arid ecosystems), low intensity and high intensity agriculture (in arid, grassland and tropical environments). For each of these production systems we will also examine a complementary contemporary issue in conservation and/or development. These issues may involve great debates in theory, problems of methodology or issues in applying research results to solve practical problems.
Throughout the module we address methods and problems of applying research in environmental anthropology to related development, conservation and human rights issues, and in particular this year we look at adaptation to climate change among Indigenous peoples.Read more
SE897 - Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems
This module is intended to enable students to discuss critically the relationship between people and other organic species, in terms of the social and knowledge systems of which they are part, using anthropological approaches and data. The module deals with the ways in which different societies and cultures have come to perceive, know, use, classify and symbolically represent plants and animals. It also introduces students to the ways anthropologists have approached the study of local systems of classification and knowledge, and people's management and use of plants and animals.Read more
SE990 - Contemporary Issues in Ethnobotany and Environmental Anthropology
This module seeks to critically and dynamically explore the diverse, complex and dynamic nature of human-environmental interactions, including associated knowledge and practices. By engaging with recent debates and case studies from different regions it seeks to critically assess, compare and contrast some of the key contemporary, at times controversial, debates that engage collaborators, colleagues and critics from diverse academic specialties and perspectives. Through the use of lectures, class discussions and student-led seminar discussions on specific papers it seeks to review and compare some of concepts and approaches used to research, analyze and theorise the material, symbolic, historical, political dimensions of human-plant and human-environment relations. It also seeks to assess how such an understanding can better guide our attempts to address the complex socio-environmental problems facing our world and our future.Read more
SE838 - Dissertation: Environmental Anthropology
Throughout the terms preceding the initiation of the dissertation module students will be encouraged by their supervisor and the instructors of other modules they take to develop ideas for their dissertation research project. They will also be taught appropriate research methods. A preliminary abstract of the project is due by the end of the first term. Students will then develop this into a research proposal, which is submitted as the fourth essay. This will be edited and presented to the school for feedback during the Student Research Day and then submitted for a final grade at the end of the second term. Students who are then passed on to the dissertation module by the examiners meeting will, on this basis, complete a written plan for their research project with advice from their tutor. This will be assessed by the tutor and by one other member of the post-graduate anthropology teaching staff, and when this is approved the student and his or her tutor will intensively discuss methods of data collection, theoretical models for the analysis of this material, and the use and integration of research methods into both its preparation and its final presentation. The student will then independently work on the thesis over the summer until mid-September when it will be submitted. Throughout this time the student will be able to gain supervision through electronic mail, and wil have the opportunity to attend various workshop sessions on data analysis and writing.Read more
Teaching and Assessment
Assessment is by written reports, oral presentations and the dissertation.
This programme aims to:
- to provide you with a broad range of knowledge in environmental anthropology, a major sub-division of anthropology, showing how it is closely linked to other academic disciplines
- to provide you with advanced level knowledge of the theoretical, methodological and policy issues relevant to understanding the subdiscipline
- introduce you to a variety of different approaches to environmental anthropology research, presented in a multidisciplinary context and at an advanced level
- facilitate your educational experience through the provision of appropriate pedagogical opportunities for learning
- provide an appropriate training if you are preparing MPhil/PhD theses, or if you are going on to employment involving the use of research methods and results in environmental anthropology
- make you aware of the range of existing material available and equip you to evaluate its utility for your research
- cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating them into practicable research designs.
- introduce you to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and to debates about the relationship between theory and research, about problems of evidence and inference, and about the limits to objectivity.
- develop your skills in searching for and retrieving information, using library and internet resources in a multidisciplinary and cross-national context.
- introduce you to the idea of working with other academic and non-academic agencies, when appropriate, and give you the skills to carry out collaborative research.
- develop your skills in writing, in the preparation of a research proposal, in the analysis and presentation of research results and in verbal communication
- help you to prepare your research results for wider dissemination, in the form of seminar papers, conference presentations, reports and publications, in a form suitable for a range of different audiences, including academics, policymakers, professionals, service users and the general public.
- give you an appreciation of the potentialities and problems of environmental anthropological research in local, regional, national and international settings
- ensure that the research of the Department’s staff informs the design of modules, and their content and delivery in ways that can achieve the national benchmarks of the subject in a manner which is efficient and reliable, and enjoyable to students.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- environmental anthropology as the comparative and interdisciplinary study of the relationship between people and their environment
- specific themes in environmental anthropology eg co-evolution of humans and environment, environmental perception, cultural ecology, nature symbolism, environmentalism, political ecology, natural resource use, environmental change
- cultural and biological diversity and an appreciation of its scope
- several ethnographic regions of the world, including north and west Africa, South America, Pacific Islands, South Asia and Southeast Asia (in particular Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines)
- the history of the development of environmental anthropology as a subject
- the variety of theoretical approaches contained within the subject
- the process of biological and socio-cultural change
- the application of environmental anthropology to understanding issues of sustainable social and economic development and environmental conservation throughout the world
- the relevance of environmental anthropology to understanding everyday processes of human-environment interaction anywhere in the world.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- general learning and study skills
- critical and analytical skills
- expression of ideas both orally and in written form
- communication skills
- groupwork skills
- computing skills
- reviewing and summarising information
- data retrieval ability.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- the ability to understand how people are shaped by their social, cultural and physical environments while nonetheless possessing a capacity for individual agency which can allow them to transcend some environmental constraints
- the ability to recognise the pertinence of an environmental anthropological perspective to understanding major national and international events.
- the ability to interpret texts and performance by locating them within appropriate cultural and historical contexts
- high-level competence in using environmental anthropological theories and perspectives in the presentation of information and argument
- high-level ability to identify and analyse the significance of the social and cultural contexts of natural resource use
- the ability to devise questions for research and study which are anthropologically informed
- the ability to perceive the way in which cultural assumptions may affect the perception and use of natural resources
- an openness to try and make rational sense of human-environment interactions that may appear at first sight incomprehensible.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- the ability to make a structured argument
- the ability to make appropriate reference to scholarly data
- time-management skills
- the use of information technology including computers and library research
- handling audio-visual equipment
- independent research
- presentation skills
- have the ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
- have the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.
As a School recognised for its excellence in research we are one of the partners in the South East Doctoral Training Centre, which is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This relationship ensures that successful completion of our 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.
The School has a very good record for postgraduate employment and academic continuation. Studying anthropology, you develop an understanding of the complexity of all actions, beliefs and discourse by acquiring strong methodological and analytical skills. Anthropologists are increasingly being hired by companies and organisations that recognise the value of employing people who understand the complexities of societies and organisations.
Many of our alumni teach in academic positions in universities across the world, while others work for a wide range of organisations. Examples of positions held by our alumni include:
- Project director for the Global Diversity Foundation
- Curator at Beirut Botanic Gardens.
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, virtual paleoanthropology, animal postcranial evolution, 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 School 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.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology or other associated fields, including environmental studies.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
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.
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.
Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology
Work in these areas is focused on the Centre for Biocultural Diversity. We conduct research on ethnobiological knowledge systems, ethnoecology, 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. The Centre has an Ethnobiology Lab and Ethnobotanical Garden, and extensive collaborative links, including with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Eden Project.
The regional expertise of our staff has a global reach, with field sites in Europe (including UK), the Middle East, the Balkans, South Asia, Amazonia and Central America, Oceania and Southeast Asia. Themes of conflict, violence, the economic crisis and precarity form a major focus of our current work in these areas, alongside new research on austerity and its social impact, and charity. We have emerging interests in social inequality, work, and organised crime and corruption; and are internationally recognised for our work on ethnicity, nationalism, and identity.
Our research extends to intercommunal violence, diasporas, pilgrimage, intercommunal trade, urban ethnogenesis, indigenous representation and the study of contemporary religions and their global connections (especially Islam). History and heritage is another key theme, with related interests in time and temporality, and the School hosts the leading journal History and Anthropology. Other research addresses the anthropology of natural resources; anthropology of tourism; and post-socialist economy and society in Europe and Central Asia.
We research issues in fieldwork and methodology more generally, with a strong interest in the field of visual anthropology. Our work on identity and locality links with growing strengths in kinship and parenthood. This is complemented by work on the language of relatedness, and the cognitive bases of kinship terminologies
A final focus concerns science, medical anthropology and contemporary society. We work on the anthropology of business, biotechnology, and mental health. Related research focuses on policy and advocacy issues and examines the connections between public health policy and local healing strategies. Staff collaborations and networks extend widely across these regions and thematic interests, and Kent is well-known for its pioneering engagement with the anthropology of Europe.
Our research encompasses a broad range of topics within biological and evolutionary anthropology, including bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, archaeological science, human reproductive strategies, hominin evolution, primate behaviour and ecology, modern human variation, and cultural. We have three dedicated research laboratories, as well as a commercial osteology unit.
Our research takes us to many regions of the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and the United States). We collaborate with international research organisations, including the Instituto de Biología Subtropical (Argentina), German Primate Center, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and Budongo Conservation Field Station (Uganda). Members of staff provide a wide research network offering research opportunities in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
Our Skeletal Biology Research Centre is the only UK Centre focusing on analysis of biological hard tissues (bones and teeth). It brings together innovative research, novel methodologies and international collaborations, with expertise and resources from the Schools of Physical Sciences and Biosciences at Kent, and the Powell-Cotton Museum. Research ranges from analyses of the most important human fossils, histological studies of teeth and bone, isotopic analyses and dietary reconstruction, virtual 3D analyses of the skeleton, and forensic identification that together ultimately aim to better understand humans and our evolutionary history.
The Living Primates Research Group fosters research into the behaviour and ecology of primates. It addresses questions concerning adaptation using living primates as model species, to provide a comparative framework for the understanding of human biology and behaviour, and investigate the biological and social dimensions of anthropogenic impacts on non-human primates (NHPs). Research ranges from functional morphology to behavioural ecology and physiology, cultural primatology, and the interplay of primate biology, ecology and conservation, including primate rehabilitation and reintroduction and human-NHP coexistence.
Digital Anthropology: Cultural Informatics and Computational Methods
Since 1985, we have pioneered new approaches to digital anthropology. Achievements include advances in kinship theory supported by new computational methods. We are exploring cloud media, semantic networks, multi-agent modelling, dual/blended realities, data mining, and smart environments. Current work also addresses quantitative approaches for assessing qualitative materials; mobile computing; sensing and communications platforms, and transformation of virtual into concrete objects.
Staff research interests
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.View Profile
Dr Judith Bovensiepen: Senior 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.View 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.View 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.View Profile
Dr David Henig: Senior 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.View 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.View 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.View Profile
Professor Tracy Kivell: Professor of 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.View Profile
Dr Patrick Mahoney: Senior Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Evolutionary developmental biology of hominoid dentition; bioarchaeology, especially prehistoric human diet; palaeopathology.View Profile
Dr Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher: Reader 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.View 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.View 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.View Profile
Dr Mike Poltorak: Senior 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.View 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.View Profile
Professor Dimitrios Theodossopoulos: Professor of Social Anthropology
Political and environmental anthropology; Panama; Greece; ethnic relations and stereotyping; globalisation and indigeneity; sustainability.View 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.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
|Environmental Anthropology - MA at Canterbury:|
|Environmental Anthropology - MSc at Canterbury:|
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
General additional costs
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