Kent-anthropology is renown for its dynamic post-graduate community and its contribution to emerging and established anthropological fields. Our regional expertise and breadth of thematic interests enables us to offer supervision across a wide range of topics within the fields socio-cultural, biological, and visual anthropology.
Socio-cultural or Biological Anthropology research
The PhD is a three-year full-time and five-year part-time programme. You research and write a thesis of a maximum of 100,000 words under the supervision of an academic team. Students participate in the vibrant seminar-culture of the School and have opportunities to meet and interact with researchers who lead major anthropological fields.
The first year includes training in research methodology and, in the case of socio-cultural anthropology, in the art of writing ethnography. The remaining years involve field or library research and writing up. In general, you work closely with two supervisors throughout your research, although you have a committee of three (including your primary supervisor) overseeing your progress.
We also offer a PhD in Ethnobiology
Choosing a topic
Although sometimes we have specific PhD research projects such as ESRC-funded CASE awards in which the PhD project has already been specified, most of our research students choose their own research topics. Once you have decided on the nature of your project, you should then contact the member of staff in the School whose expertise and interests most closely match your area of research and ask them if they will act as your supervisor.
You then work with your proposed supervisor on refining your research proposal which provides the starting point for your subsequent research. Usually each student has one supervisor but occasionally particular projects require two supervisors. Sometimes co-supervision is provided by a lecturer in another discipline, such as Film, Sociology, or International Relations, but usually the co-supervisor is another member of the School of Anthropology and Conservation.
Postgraduate research can take place in any subject area that qualified members of the School are able to supervise. For further information, please refer to staff details on our web pages.
Students meet (or, while in the field, make contact) with their supervisor(s) several times over the course of each term. These meetings involve intensive discussion of the way your project is developing, the readings that have been done and that need to be done, and the way field research and writing-up is progressing. There is, in addition to your supervisor(s), a supervisory committee that, while not intensively involved in the routine development of the research, provides backup, ensures appropriate progress, and handles some of the administration.
The University’s Graduate School co-ordinates the Research Development Programme for research students, providing access to a wide range of lectures and workshops on training, personal development planning and career development skills.
MA by Research
This programme is one-year full time or two-year part-time. You research and write a thesis under the supervision of one or two academic staff. We have a vibrant research group whose interests stretch across the range of socio-cultural anthropology.
We also offer an MSc by Research in Biological Anthropology.
About the School of Anthropology
In anthropology we pride ourselves on having a close-knit group of research students who know and can approach any member of staff for help and assistance. We have a varied programme of seminars and symposia for students and staff, given by members of the School and visitors.
There is a special seminar run for research students in which advanced training is provided and students practise presentations and also present chapters of their draft thesis. Research students are encouraged to audit courses from the taught Master’s (eg, in field methods) and sometimes from the undergraduate programmes.
There are also special training courses for research students run by the Graduate School, Information Services and the Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (UELT). The School has an IT officer who can provide assistance and advice on IT matters and a statistics helpdesk is available.
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.
All of our Anthropology Master’s programmes are recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as having research training status, so successful completion of these courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social and biological anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their postgraduate qualification in employment that includes international organisations, NGOs, government departments and 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, whilst others work for a wide range of organisations.
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 Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing has been associated with many innovatory projects, particularly in the field of cognitive anthropology. It provides an electronic information service to other anthropology departments, for example by hosting both the Anthropological Index Online and Experience-Rich Anthropology project. We encourage all students to use the Centre’s facilities (no previous experience or training is necessary).
Anthropology at Kent has close links with the nearby Powell-Cotton Museum, which has one of the largest ethnographic collections in the British Isles and is particularly strong in sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian material. It also houses an extensive comparative collection of primate and other mammalian material. Human skeletal material is housed at the Kent Osteological Research and Analysis Centre within the School.
Anthropology, together with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) form the School of Anthropology and Conservation.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
A good honours degree (2.1 or above) in anthropology or other associated fields.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and 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.
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 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 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
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Miguel Alexiades: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology/Ethnobotany
Amazonian Peru; Ese Eja; Central Mexico; role and responsibility of science; indigenous land and resource rights; indigenous self-determination; higher education programmes for local communities.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
Dr Chris Deter: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Dietary reconstruction of ancient human populations, funerary practices in ancient populations and the change in pale diets of North American and Near Eastern hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists.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 Geraldine Fahy: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Stable isotope analysis, physical anthropology, forensic analysis, dietary ecology, paleopathology.View Profile
Dr Mark Hampton: Reader in Tourism Management
Tourism planning; tourism management; tourism impacts; developing countries; island tourism; island development; marine tourism; backpackers; south-east Asia; tax havens; offshore finance; political economy.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 Jonathan Mair: Lecturer in Social Anthropology
Buddhism; China; Inner Mongolia; Taiwan; Chinese diaspora; Cognition; Belief; Ethics; Self-cultivation; Virtue ethicsView 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
Dr Matthew Skinner: Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology
Human evolution; dental anthropology; skeletal functional morphology; growth and development of hard tissues.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
Dr Brandon Wheeler: Lecturer in Biological Anthropology
Primates; behavioural ecology; socioecology; communication; predation; feeding competition; cognition.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for Home/EU PG Research programmes have not yet been set by the Research Councils UK. This is ordinarily announced in March.
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