Social Anthropology - Humanitarian and Environmental Crises - MA

Overview

Our world is experiencing humanitarian and environmental challenges of disturbing dimensions. This programme addresses these challenges from a human and ethical angle, exploring the social, political, economic and technological aspects of the crises that mark our contemporary world. 

This unique programme of study focuses on contemporary planetary emergencies and conflicts that have a humanitarian or environmental impact. We explore how to study such crises from an anthropological point of view using a variety of ethnographic research methods, such as interviewing, participant observation, and localised surveys. 

You assess key challenges emerging from humanitarian initiatives that respond to:

  • the global climate emergency 
  • environmental movements in national contexts 
  • migration, diaspora and refugee crises 
  • racism, xenophobia and national politics
  • war and conflict 
  • new forms of economic oppression
  • the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences for vulnerable communities

We analyse such pressing issues from an ethical and non-ethnocentric perspective. The programme is particularly suited to students who want to make a difference in today’s complex world by understanding the roots of global challenges and human suffering.

The programme provides excellent preparation for people who aspire to enter fields in which anthropological training and cultural expertise is integral, such as:

  • non-governmental organisations aimed at humanitarian and/or environmental issues
  • state initiatives designed to provide aid as a response to conflict or planetary emergency
  • organisations involved in dealing with migration, racism and multicultural education
  • research degrees in the social sciences

Why Study With Us?

  • One-year Master's programme with dissertation. 
  • Academic commitment to practice-led and cutting edge theory taught by internationally renowned researchers with long-established experience of the study of environmental and humanitarian challenges.
  • Expert training in a range of research methods to prepare you for independent research.
  • A wide choice of optional modules to enable further specialisation in your chosen areas of expertise.
  • Small-scale group teaching with our experienced staff and exceptional facilities.

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 website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, international fee-paying students 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

You study five compulsory modules, a dissertation research project and also choose three additional modules in social anthropology from those offered by the School of Anthropology and Conservation.

Compulsory modules for this programme are: 

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

Teaching and assessment

Assessment for most modules is an essay of 2,000-3,000 words plus participation and/or oral presentation. Some modules include other assessments such as critical book reviews.

Programme aims

  • enhanced understanding of how humanitarian intervention is shaped by political, social and cultural contexts;
  • in-depth understanding of environmental politics and protest, including the climate emergency;
  • advanced-level knowledge of the central theoretical and methodological issues in social anthropology today;
  • advanced-level knowledge of different approaches to social science research in a multidisciplinary perspective, with special reference in qualitative, intensive research;
  • intensive training for students preparing MPhil/PhD theses, or for employment involving the use of social science research; research design and strategy, including translating questions into practicable research designs and retrieving information in multidisciplinary and cross-national contexts.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • social anthropology as the comparative study of human societies with special reference to humanitarianism, social movements, environmental disputes, climate protest, and the politics of nationalism and ethnicity
  • several ethnographic regions of the world, in particular Europe, the Middle-East, South America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia
  • anthropological theory as applied to contemporary concerns;
  • the application of anthropology to understanding issues of development, social and economic change, and violence and conflict throughout the world
  • the relevance of anthropology to understanding everyday processes of social life

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • criticism and analysis
  • communication
  • groupwork
  • data retrieval, reviewing and summarising information
  • project-writing
  • presentation of research results

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • understanding of people’s relation to environmental and humanitarian crises
  • understanding major national and international events, namely in terms of aid provision, humanitarian intervention, and ethical concerns
  • interpreting narratives and performances 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
  • the ability to devise questions for research and study which are anthropologically informed
  • an openness to make rational sense of perplexing cultural and social phenomena. 
  • ethnographic research and analysis

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to make a structured argument, analyse and reference scholarly data
  • the ability to mine data bases, carry out interviews, and mobilise participant observation
  • the use of information technology including computers and library research for qualitative research
  • handling audio-visual equipment
  • research writing and presentation skills
  • the ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility 
  • independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

Fees

The 2020/21 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home/EU full-time
  • International full-time
  • Home/EU part-time
  • International part-time

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

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 2020, 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 2020 for more information.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Visual Anthropology

Visual Anthropology offers a unique opportunity to explore traditional and experimental means of using visual and audio-visual media to research, represent and produce anthropological knowledge. Our pioneering use of multimedia in anthropology is now complemented by an innovative interest in public and collaborative anthropology, critical engagement with policy and the use of audio-visual and internet based media in advocacy and activism.

Grounded in and committed to practice-led theory in social anthropology the modules critically examines the relation of the visual to the other senses and the power of media to move people to action. It also seeks inspiration from outside of disciplinary boundaries for the purposes of engaging wider audiences.

Visit our blog; to watch student videos, see photos from our recent events and watch talks. Our blog will give you a real feel for the exciting life of visual anthropology at Kent.

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Professor Dimitrios Theodossopoulos : Professor of Social Anthropology

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

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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.

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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.

Our Social Anthropology Master’s programmes is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as having research training status, so successful completion of these courses is sufficient preparation for research in the various fields of social anthropology. Many of our students go on to do PhD research. Others use their Master’s qualification in employment ranging from research in government departments to teaching to consultancy work overseas.

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

Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

Once started, you can save and return to your application at any time.

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United Kingdom/EU enquiries

MA at Canterbury

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