Social Anthropology - MA

In our fast-changing world, humanity and society are facing momentous challenges. Anthropology, as the study of the human condition, focuses on the diversity of the relations between humans and the world. It is in a unique position to help us respond to these changes and challenges. Social Anthropology provides critically useful skills to navigate through the complexities and uncertainties of an increasingly interconnected yet fragmented world.

Overview

This advanced programme in social and cultural anthropology provides training in contemporary anthropological theory and methodology focusing on the understanding of the human condition and the challenges it faces today. It is designed to receive students with previous undergraduate training in the humanities or social sciences (such as history, sociology, geography), as well as students from biology, who wish to deepen their knowledge of human sociality. It provides in-depth generalist training in contemporary social anthropology in preparation either for a research degree or for entering professional fields where anthropological knowledge and methods constitute valuable assets.

Anthropology at Kent is shaping the discipline and making a contribution to our contemporary world.

Why Study With Us?

  • One-year intensive Master's programme with research training committed to practice-led theory taught by researchers who shape the discipline with their research and publications,
  • Hands-on training in qualitative methods of social research (including visual and digital methods) preparing you for future independent research,
  • A personal approach to study in small groups with plenty of time for discussion and engagement with a diversified group of teachers,
  • A wide choice of optional modules allowing for further specialisation in a broad range of areas of regional and thematic expertise, and a diversity of methodological approaches,
  • Active regional specialisations among staff include: Europe and the Middle East; Latin America and Amazonia; South and Southeast Asia and the Chinese speaking world,
  • Opportunity to develop skills in visual anthropology through intensive training in the anthropological use of photography, film, video, and digitally assisted drawing,
  • Opportunity to join engaging and interactive field trips,
  • Participation in the activities of our Centre for Ethnographic Research: its seminars, courses, practical training workshops, and annual events.

Entry requirements

A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology or associated fields. In certain circumstances, we will consider students who have not followed a conventional education path. These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies and the programme convenor.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

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.

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Course structure

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

Modules

This programmes offers a high level of flexibility with four compulsory modules, a research project dissertation and four optional modules from those listed below, or from the range of School modules.

Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.

Teaching and assessment

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

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide you with a broad range of knowledge in the major sub-divisions of the discipline, showing how it is closely linked to other academic disciplines.
  • provide you with an advanced level knowledge of the theoretical and methodological issues relevant to understanding the discipline
  • introduce you to a variety of different approaches to social science 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 for students preparing MPhil/PhD theses, or for those going on to employment involving the use of social science research
  • 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 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 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 which can achieve the national benchmarks of the discipline in a manner which is efficient and reliable, and enjoyable to students.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • social anthropology as the comparative study of human societies
  • specific themes  in social anthropology eg religion, politics, nationalism and ethnicity
  • human diversity and an appreciation of its scope
  • several ethnographic regions of the world including central, West and east Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia (in particular Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines)
  • the history of the development of anthropology as a discipline
  • the variety of theoretical approaches contained within the discipline
  • the process of historical and social change
  • the application of anthropology to understanding issues of social and economic development throughout the world
  • the relevance of anthropology to understanding everyday processes of social life 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 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 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 language 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 opinions of others and oneself
  • an openness to try and make rational sense of cultural and social phenomena 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.

Fees

The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

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.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

The Complete University Guide

In The Complete University Guide 2021, the University of Kent was ranked in the top 10 for research intensity. This is a measure of the proportion of staff involved in high-quality research in the university.

Please see the University League Tables 2021 for more information.

Complete University Guide Research Intensity

Independent rankings

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 power.

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.

Research areas

Dynamic publishing culture

We publish research on timely contemporary topics using a vast range of formats: podcasts, documentaries, comic books and short fiction and monographs, as well as prestigious academic journals: e.g. American Ethnologist; Anthropological Theory, Anthropology Today, Current Anthropology; Cultural Anthropology, Critique of Anthropology, Ethnos, Focaal, Hau-Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Oceania, Social Anthropology,  and many more. 


Our School continues to be a centre for ethnographic innovation and for the development of new methods of qualitative research. Our students and staff are active in the production of ethnographic film, visual analysis, and ethnographic drawing. They also participate with regularity in a great number of collaborative projects, responding to the latest debates about politics, society and environment.

Areas of expertise

The regional expertise of our staff and graduate students has a global reach, with presently open field sites across Europe (including the UK), the Middle East, China, Central and South America, South and Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and the United States. Among others, research is presently being carried out in southern Portugal, Greece and Cyprus, southern Spain, southern France, southern England, southeastern Turkey, Amazonia, Panama, northeast Brazil, and New York.  

Thematically, we focus on the contemporary challenges to our changing world—a concern that unites us with the other disciplines that are present within our School.  Our specific thematic interests range from the politics of the Anthropocene to protest against neoliberal ‘austerity’.  

This is a list of some of our areas of research:
Persons and the World: we work on the relation between persons and the world they live in, focusing on the study of personhood and ontogeny, environmental issues, territoriality, indigenous tourism and conflict resolution, the study of food, the human-animal or human-plant relationship, ethnobotany, and the social implications of conservation. 
Diversity and Conflict: within each of our diverse field sites, we are concerned with the impacts of human conflict—such as violence, inequality, precarity, crime, and corruption.  We pay special attention to the intersections of personhood, gender, ethnicity, race, and temporality. We work on conflict resolution, on the human implications of development, on the study of austerity, and on the impact of neoliberal reforms.
Diversity and Knowledge: we have staff specialising in science and technology studies, in medical anthropology, in religious studies, in the anthropology of business, in biotechnology, and in mental health. We study closely a wide variety of religious movements, alternative beliefs and medical practices. We have a tradition of work using audio-visual media to research, represent and produce ethnographic knowledge.  Our work on creative writing adds to our expertise on ethnographic innovation, and encourages the pursuit of creativity through alternative ethnographic media that include drawing, filming and art. Since 1985, our School has pioneered new approaches to digital anthropology, namely in cultural informatics and computational methods.  

Visit our blog if you want to watch student videos, see photos from our recent events and watch talks. 

Research Projects

Students are allocated a supervisor to support them in the production of their 15,000 word dissertation.  Students are led from the beginning to develop an idea, research a specialised bibliography and employ their methodological training to produce a research thesis.  Students are assisted financially and academically in order to facilitate their research projects.

Examples of recent MA projects include:
• Rap, Identity, and Sense of Self in Eastern Kent.
• The future of the harbour of Ramsgate and the Brexit conundrum.
• A Study of Difference Externalisation and Political Violence in the Spanish Civil War.
• Transformation and Narrative of Trans/Disabled Persons Within Medical Encounters.
• “Humanitarianism” and Identities of Women after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
• An exploration of attitudes and motivations towards tattooing within the Medway Towns.
• Fishing Identities in the Context of Current Policies and Management.
• Transgressing 'Transgender': Institutional and Structural Exclusion of Non-Binary Students.
• Biopolitics, and Nation-building in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste's Population Boom.
• Policy and ‘Crisis’ in Mongolian Pastoralist Education.
• Everyday nationalism: lived experience in a Scottish market town. 
• Exploration of M?ori knowledge within bilingual and mainstream schools in Auckland, New Zealand.
• Voices of the Maya: An anthropological discovery of the past.

Careers

The School has a very good record for postgraduate employment and academic continuation, 100% of our postgraduate students, who graduated in 2014, found a professional job within six months or continued on to a PhD, ranking Anthropology at Kent 1st in the sector. 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.

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.

Many of our alumni teach in academic positions in universities across the world, whilst others work for a wide range of organisations. Examples of positions held by our alumni include:

  • Corporate anthropologist
  • Campaign developer for War Child
  • Project director for the Global Diversity Foundation
  • Curator at Beirut Botanic Gardens
  • Film producer for First German Television
  • Project manager for Porchlight Homelessness Charity

Hear more from MA Social Anthropology alumni Victor Fiorini who found employment as Detainee-Visitor Manager for Dover Detainee Visitor Group.

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. 

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.  

Apply now

We are longer accepting applications for 2021 entry. Please see the School of Anthropology and Conservation website for other postgraduate courses.

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Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

E: information@kent.ac.uk

Subject enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827013

E: sacadmissions@kent.ac.uk

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk