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Postgraduate Courses 2016

Environmental Anthropology - MA, MSc



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.

National ratings

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.

Course structure

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.

SE801 - Theory and Ethnography in Social AnthropologyI (20 credits)

This module aims to develop the anthropological imagination of master's students, that is, to instill the ability to apprehend theoretical issues and apply them with a critical and informed sense of difference in the human experience. The module is not a 'history of theory’ survey; rather, it will proceed by means of a set of longstanding themes in social and cultural anthropology through which different theoretical approaches to the same ethnographic problem or issue have been explored. The module may be organised around a single theme that has long dominated anthropological discussions (such as ‘the gift’, hierarchy and scale, structure and agency etc.) which will be used as a lens through which to view theoretical discussions within social anthropology as well as its appropriations from other disciplines.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE802 - Research Methods in Social Anthropology (20 credits)

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.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE831 - Environmental Anthropology (20 credits)

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.

Week 1 Theory and Explanation in Environmental Anthropology: Wildlife Trade

Week 2 Human-Nature Relationships: Cultural Ecology

Week 3 Ecological Anthropology: Complex Adaptive Systems

Week 4 Historical Ecology: The evolution of Biocultural diversity?

Week 5 Political Ecology and Environmental Degradation

Week 6 Discursive Approaches: Environmentalisms

Week 7 Foraging societies, hunters, and the bushmeat trade

Week 8 Fishers, Sea Tenure, and Common Property Rights

Week 9 Pastoralists, Grasslands and Protected Areas

Week 10 Low Intensity Agricultural Systems: Swidden Systems

Week 11 High Intensity Agricultural Systems, the Green Revolution and GM crops

Week 12 Climate Change: Studying local knowledge and responses

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE832 - Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems (20 credits)

• Ethnobiology, anthropology and indigenous knowledge

• The structure of ethnobiological categories

• Ethnobiological classifications: the relations between categories

• Variation, change and the evolution of ethnobiological categories

• The cultural transmission of knowledge

• Knowledge and use of domesticates

• Classifying secondary biodiversity and ethnoecological knowledge

• Constructions of nature, natural history intelligence, and natural species as symbols,

• Plants in the evolution of human health and healing

• Medicinal plants and theories of sickness and healing

• Measuring the significance of biological resources: the valuation debate

• Project presentations

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE806 - Research Methods in Social Anthropology II (20 credits)

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.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE854 - Lowland South American Anthropology (20 credits)

Throughout the five hundred years of contact between Europe and the Americas, Amazonia has captivated the political, scientific and popular imagination of industrialized nations. To many people in our society, "the Amazon" epitomizes the mysterious, the wild, the uncivilized - an image that anthropologists have variously exploited and criticized. Either way, they usually describe Amazonian societies as being either isolated from or opposed to "civilization" (i.e. the capitalist state). As Amazonians are incorporated into the nation-state and the global economy, however, it has become impossible to view them as either isolated or silent. Today, there is increased interest and concern relating to the place of humans in the environment and the future of indigenous peoples and the areas in which they dwell.

This course will employ several classic ethnographic studies of South America – by anthropologists, such as Claude Levi-Strauss, Pierre Clastres, Philippe Descola, William Fisher, Neil Whitehead and Michael Taussig – to examine how the Amazon has inscribed itself on the imagination of anthropologists, as well as how anthropologists have used their experiences in non-Western societies to contribute to broad debates in Western philosophy. Ethnographic case-studies will provide the basis for discussing issues of theoretical and topical importance, such as environmentalism; political ecology, ethnogenesis, gender relations, kinship and exchange. Ultimately, this engagement challenges some of the most basic categories of our discipline: "the state," "society," and "culture."

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE859 - Visual Anthropology Theory (20 credits)

This module is a general introduction to visual anthropology. It includes treatment of cross-cultural cognition and symbolic analysis, the contextualisation of the visual within the wider sensorium, the social history of still photography and film relating to ethnographic subjects, the process of ethnographic filmmaking in terms of wider debates related to intersubjectivity, the study of national and regional cinematic traditions (outside Europe and America), the politics and efficacy of indigenous media, the contexts of visual advocacy and activist filmmaking, the nexus of the visual and medical and the comparative ethnography of television and broader consideration of issues of social representation and political ideology in visual imagery. The module combines empirical ethnographic analysis of these issues with the alternative (complementary) contributions of scholars of visual imagery from a literary and humanistic tradition of interpretation.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE861 - The Ethnography of Central Asian Societies (20 credits)

The course covers ethnographies of western Asian societies ranging from Pakistan through Central Asia (Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and ex-Soviet Central Asian nations such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan) to the Caucasus. It introduces the history of civilization and Turco-Persian cultures in this region, its history of orientalist (philological) scholarship, and modern fieldwork. Thematic topics include: tribe and state, peasant and urban economies, family and marriage, codes of prestige and etiquette, sexuality and seclusion, religion and experience. A primary focus is on Central Asian Islamic religion and civilization, but minority faiths (Zoroastrian, Bahai, E. Christian, pre-Islamic traditions) are treated together with modern predicaments of secularization and political fundamentalism. Students are also encouraged to study modern cinema films and narrative literature from this region.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE862 - The Anthropology of Eating (20 credits)

Students will learn about the significance of food production, trade and consumption in relation to cultural evolution, globalisation, identity and health. The module will cover different modes of food production, the domestication of animals and the cultivation of staple crops in the course of social development. It will look at different theories about the importance of food production for the rise of urban cultures and organised religion, and the relationship of food production systems to trade, colonial expansion and the process of globalisation. Moving from production and distribution to eating itself, the module will cover notions of food identity at collective and individual levels, by looking at the process of food preparation and consumption and abstinence in different cultural settings. We will also look at various forms of disordered eating, the dynamic relationship between cultures and eating and contemporary debates over fast food, genetic engineering, and personal identity against the background of rising food prices, regional food shortage and the management of famine in different countries.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE864 - Medical Anthropology (20 credits)

The module addresses the causes, effects, treatments and meanings of health and illness. Health and illness are of major concern to most of us, irrespective of our cultural, social and biological contexts. In this module we will begin with an overview of the major theoretical paradigms and methods in medical anthropology. We will then focus on how and why different diseases have affected various human populations throughout history and the ways perceptions of what constitutes health and illness vary greatly, cross-culturally as well as within one particular cultural domain. This will be followed by an overview of ethnomedical systems as a response to illness and disease. Anthropological studies in the sphere of medicine originally tended to concentrate on other people’s perceptions of illness, but have increasingly come to focus on the difficulties encountered when trying to define what constitutes health in general. Anthropology has also turned its attention to a critical examination of biomedicine: originally thought of as providing a ‘value free, objective and true’ assessment of various diseases (epidemiology), biomedicine is now itself the subject of intense anthropological scrutiny and is seen as the expression of a culturally specific system of values. The module will finish with the consideration of practical applications of medical anthropology.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE865 - Ethnography of the Pacific (20 credits)

The societies of the Pacific, encompassing the regions of Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia and Australia, have long attracted anthropologists to the diversity of its peoples and the complexity of their social worlds. From classic studies of kinship, gift exchange and ‘cargo cults’ to more recent work on the colonial encounter, gendered relations, and discourses of economic development, Pacific ethnography has perennially challenged anthropologists’ assumptions about the conception and composition of persons and their relationships. In this module we will combine the close reading of ethnographies from the Pacific with a consideration of the relationship between ethnography and theory for this part of the world. The Pacific has moved from a locus of early 20th-century research on societies presumed by anthropologists to be isolated and ‘savage’, to a fertile ground for considering the complex relationship between colonial and missionary history and the issues faced by Pacific peoples in the current era.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SO819 - FRTP Module 4 (20 credits)

The module will provide an introduction to the use of Statistical Analysis within the Research Process. It will begin by introducing and discussing different types of measurement and the practical problems of data entry in SPSSW. After discussing basic data description and transformation the focus will shift to Exploratory Data Analysis and the need to examine the data carefully. Simple approaches to summarising data and distributions will then be examined. This will then be followed by methods to test research hypotheses through bi-variate and multivariate methods that are used extensively in the Social Sciences. The final part of the module will look at various issues surrounding the practical issues of quantitative data analysis, such as how to find appropriate data and about presenting research outcomes.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE840 - Contemporary Issues in Ethnobotany (20 credits)

This module grows out of the enormous possibilities and challenges presented to ethnobotanists and environmental anthropologists during the twenty-first century: both to the huge potential created by cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural exchange, and to the enormous challenges that emerge as academia becomes increasingly accountable to a wider range of interests, problems and stakeholders amidst today's planetary crisis. It focuses on the multi-dimensional, complex and dynamic aspects of ethnobotanical, ethnoecological and human-environmental relations, with a special emphasis on the complex social roles and responsibilities of the subfields of ethnobotany and environmental anthropology. Drawing on recent articles and case-study materials from a diverse range of disciplines and perspectives, the module seeks to critically assess some of the key contemporary, at times controversial, issues relating to the material, symbolic, ecological, economic, cultural, historical, institutional and political dimensions of human-plant and human-environment relations.

Topics covered include:

-The multidimensionality of human-plant interactions

-Approaches to ethnobiological variability and complexity

-Ethnobotany, socio-environmental change and globalisation

-Ethnoecology and symbolic ecology

-Ethnobotany, ethnoecology and historical ecology

-The chemical ecology of human-plant interactions

-Plants, profit, property and power

-Complexity, resilience and adaptive management

-Agrobiodiversity, food and subsistence

-Ethnobotany and forest product development

-Conservation and environmental governance

-Cultural landscapes

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE803 - Ethnicity Nationalism & Identity I (20 credits)

The module will consist of twelve two hour classes consisting of short introductions (of no more than thirty minutes) to the topic of the week by the course convenor or a guest lecturer followed by intensive discussion of ethnographic and theoretical readings assigned as appropriate to that topic. Student presentations may take place, and audio-visual adjuncts to the topic (particularly videos) will be facilitated.


1) Introduction: the complexities of identity and identification

Part I: Anthropological Theories and Case Studies

2) Geertz and Anthony Smith on Primordialism and Identity

Ethnographic Area: Former Yugoslavia

3) Frederic Barth on Ethnic Groups and Boundaries

Ethnographic Area: Highland Burma

4) Gellner on Modernisation and Nationalism

Ethnographic Area: Western Europe

5) Migration and Retribalisation: The Legacy of Abner Cohen

Ethnography: African Copperbelt

6) Anderson and the Imagined Community

Ethnographic Area: Israel/Palestine

Part II: The Emergence of Ethnicity, Nationalism and Identity in Anthropological Theory and Practice

7) Anthropology’s Encounter with Alterity: the Emergence of Race Theory

8) Colonialism and Post-Colonialism: New Nationalisms in the Wake of Empire

9) Identities on the Peripheries: Ethnic Studies

Part III: Theories of Identity

10) Anthropological conceptions of identity formation:

Mauss and Bourdieu on habitus

11) Psychoanalytical constructions of identity and identification

Freud, Lacan and Weiner on interiorization

12) Discourse theory and the constitution of the social subject

Lakoff, Foucault and Halbwachs

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE805 - Theory and Ethnography in Social Anthropology II (20 credits)

This module aims to aid postgraduate students in making connections between theoretical issues and the ways in which they recur in the practices and debates of social anthropologists. The module teaches theoretical engagement by means of tracking the way that similar problems in ethnographic practice have been approached by different theoretical schools. The module engages a series of themes that illustrate how social anthropologists throughout the history of the discipline, and from different national traditions within the discipline, have each engaged with the pressing political and social concerns of their day.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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DI875 - Principles and Practice of Ecotourism (15 credits)

The module will introduce the importance of the growing tourism industry to biodiversity conservation, and equip students with the analytical skills and methodologies required to effectively manage ecotourism to natural areas, whether in protected areas, or on private or communal land. The module will cover how to limit environmental damage in the face of increasing numbers of visitors to natural areas and heritage sites. Environmental impacts of nature tourism will be discussed, and students will gain a theoretical and critical understanding of different management tools. Tourism also has major implications for conservation and the economy and this module will explore how to understand tourism from an economics perspective using appropriate logical and empirical analysis. The module will also provide grounding in theoretical and practical issues relevant to community-based nature tourism, by exploring relationships between hosts and guests from cultural and socio-economic perspectives. Students will become familiar with practical tools for successful management of community-based tourism, and will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of community-based tourism as a tool for both conservation and rural development. The emphasis throughout will be on implementing the principles and practice of ecotourism.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DI880 - Conservation and Community Development (15 credits)

The curriculum will aim to give an integrated view of theoretical and practical approaches to conservation and community aspects of rural development. The principle themes to be covered are:

An introduction to rural development, with a focus on community aspects

How do they see you? Community perspectives on researchers and project workers

Who sets the agenda? Consultation, collaboration and technical support

Community organisation: Institutions, representation and decision-making

Incorporating rights: indigenous peoples and conservation

Building on local knowledge systems: the role of technical expertise

Working with communities: and technical support

Community-based tourism: benefit-sharing and private partnerships

Wider perspectives: project cycles and multistakeholder processes

Policy and practice: the relationship between conservation and rural development.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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SA806 - Social Science Perspectives on Environmental Issues (20 credits)

This module aims to widen students' knowledge of a variety of topical and/or scientifically important or controversial environmental issues, to encourage students to look at environmental studies from the perspectives of the several social science disciplines (anthropology, law, political science, social policy, and sociology), to make connections between questions stimulated by their own individual disciplinary backgrounds and those raised in the course, and to reflect critically upon the advantages and limitations of the various perspectives. The module covers a variety of topics which are likely to include: the nature of environmental issues; the social construction of risk and the precautionary principle; global warming, climate change and energy policy; the rise of environmental consciousness and environmentalism; food and agriculture; environmental policy and regulation; environmental policy and law; ecotourism; ecology and development; traditional societies and sustainability.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE807 - Contemporary Ethnography in Environmental Anthropology (20 credits)

Students will be expected to read eight ethnographies over the course of 24 weeks (one every three weeks). A three hour seminar will be held to discuss the work. For each seminar, students will be expected to prepare, for evaluation, a book review of no more than 800 words. In discussing each study substantive issues concerning the case studies will be highlighted. Theoretical issues will be raised concerning the representation of anthropological knowledge, book organization and writing styles, and the relationship between theoretical perspective and presentation. In addition attention will be drawn to the way fieldwork and ethical issues are presented and discussed in ethnographies.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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SE838 - Dissertation: Environmental Anthropology (60 credits)

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.

Credits: 60 credits (30 ECTS credits).

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SE863 - Advanced Topics in Medicinal Plants (20 credits)

This module is an introduction to ethnopharmacology, a multidisciplinary field of study that employs ethnobotany, chemistry, ecology, biology, pharmacology and anthropology to evaluate and understand the use of plants (and other substances) as medicines. While students will be introduced to all of the disciplines involved in ethnopharmacological research, this module will have a heavy ethnobotanical and anthropological focus. Lecture and reading materials will address questions related to the actions of natural products in the human body, the ecological and evolutionary basis of medicinal plant use, the epistemology and social organization of various medical systems, the efficacy of medicinal plants, the development of pharmaceuticals based on traditional medicines and the control of botanical drugs.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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DI841 - Managing Protected Areas (15 credits)

Protected areas have a long history. From time immemorial, human communities have conferred special status on sacred sites, set certain areas of land aside as hunting preserves, or reached agreements on the management regime for communal lands. This module aims to review the practice of setting land aside for such activities and managing protected areas. The following topics will form the basis of lectures, seminars and field trip around which the module will be taught: The concept of a protected area; The significance of size in protected area design; International designations of protected areas; Sustainable use of protected areas; Planning and management; Common threats to protected areas; Governance; Sustainable development and protected areas; Economics of protected areas; Management effectiveness evaluation.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DI871 - International Wildlife Trade - Achieving Sustainability (15 credits)

Wildlife trade and use contributes on the one hand to peoples' livelihoods but on the other may threaten species. Management of such trade relies on a number of multilateral agreements including CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Such management requires an appropriate policy, legislative, management and scientific framework for its successful implementation at national and international levels. Details of each these aspects will be examined and students will have the opportunity to examine a number of multilateral organisations as well as legal aspects of eco-labelling and Intellectual property rights. This module will guide students through the steps of implementing a legal framework, from the adoption of national wildlife trade policies, prioritization of species for management intervention, making sustainability findings and providing incentives for conservation through to the multilateral governance structures. The module will be delivered through combined methods, of lecture, discussion, and practical exercises which will contribute to achievement of the module specific learning outcomes as well as developing key skills. Particular topics will include:

• Prioritization & management of species endangered by trade and overuse

• Making sustainability findings (non-detriment) and trade monitoring

• Multilateral environment agreements and trade and environment.

• Ecolabels and intellectual property rights

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DI881 - Advanced Topics in Conservation Ecology and Management (15 credits)

This is an optional module intended to demonstrate how theory drawn from genetics, evolutionary and population biology, and small and large-scale ecology, is applied to conservation assessment and management. The material will therefore build on that taught in the core module “Population and Evolutionary Biology” which is a prerequisite, and will be further developed in this module via a case study approach. Students will be shown how this theory is being applied to real-world conservation problems via the research projects of the course lecturers. Advanced research techniques in genetics, ecology, and population and evolutionary biology, are used to determine conservation priorities and these will be explored in detail. Examples of how modern research techniques are currently used for conservation management of threatened animals, especially mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, will also be covered in depth.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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DI888 - Economics of Biodiversity Conservation (15 credits)

Effective biodiversity conservation relies on an understanding of how markets work and also how they fail. In this module students will be introduced to key economic theories and concepts such as the laws of demand & supply, market competition and economic efficiency, and the market failure paradigm (property rights, public goods, transaction costs and externalities). We will explore the economic causes of biodiversity conflict and loss such as habitat loss and wildlife trade, and using case studies, we will learn how to identify possible solutions using analytical approaches and techniques such as cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis and multi-criteria analysis.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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SA803 - Politics and Sociology of the Environment (20 credits)

This module is particularly concerned with the forms and outcomes of the political contention and mobilisation around environmental issues, ranging from pressure groups, formal environmental movement organisations and Green parties to local environmental activism and radical environmental protest. It also considers the relationship between democracy and the environment: is democracy good for the environment? Would more deliberative forms of democracy improve matters? The approach is cross-nationally comparative and will also consider issues of global environmental politics.

Credits: 20 credits (10 ECTS credits).

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by written reports, oral presentations and the dissertation.

Programme aims

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.

Learning outcomes

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.

Intellectual skills

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.

Subject-specific skills

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.

Transferable skills

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
  • groupwork
  • 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.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

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.  

Entry requirements

A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology or other associated fields, including environmental studies.

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.

Research areas

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: American EthnologistCurrent AnthropologyJournal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteAmerican Journal of Physical AnthropologyProceedings 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.

Social Anthropology

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.

Biological Anthropology

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.

Skeletal Biology

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Dr Patrick Mahoney: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Evolutionary developmental biology of hominoid dentition; bioarchaeology, especially prehistoric human diet; palaeopathology.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Dr Dimitrios Theodossopoulos: Reader in Social Anthropology

Political and environmental anthropology; Panama; Greece; ethnic relations and stereotyping; globalisation and indigeneity; sustainability.


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.


Enquire or order a prospectus



Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827272


Subject enquiries

Katie Watson, Recruitment and Admissions Co-ordinator

T: +44 (0)1227 827013

E: sacadmissions@kent.ac.uk


School website


The 2016/17 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Environmental Anthropology - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £5430 £13340
Part-time £2720 £6690
Environmental Anthropology - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9020 £15920
Part-time £4520 £7960

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 information@kent.ac.uk

The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at: www.kent.ac.uk/termsandconditions.

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.

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