Social Anthropology with Visual Ethnography - MA


The MA in Social Anthropology with Visual Ethnography offers a unique opportunity to explore traditional and experimental means of using visual and audio-visual media to research, represent and produce anthropological knowledge.



It teaches visual anthropology theory and practice in combination with the expansive research methodologies and ethnographic focus of social anthropology. You explore the use of collaborative video production to represent anthropological knowledge, developing critical skills of visual and multi-sensory analysis. You have access to professional video equipment and video-editing software and have the opportunity to submit a mixed A/V dissertation.

This programme is designed as an advanced course in social anthropology and is for students who have already studied anthropology either as a degree course or as part of a degree course at undergraduate level. It provides in-depth generalist training in anthropology and is designed for those who wish to gain a strong grounding in visual anthropology while gaining practical skills and developing their own expertise and interests in new, productive and collaborative areas.

Why study with us?

  • One year Master's programme.
  • Integration between social anthropology and visual anthropology supports the development of expansive, creative, ethnographically grounded and issues based interests.
  • Emphasis on experience-based learning through local outreach and collaboration in local placements.
  • Committed to practice-led theory taught by active researchers.
  • Hands-on methods training to prepare you for independent research.
  • A wide choice of optional modules allows for further specialisation in areas of expertise.
  • Small group and feedback-based teaching using state-of-the-art digital video, sound recording, photographic equipment and web-based platforms.
  • Supportive, international and friendly atmosphere facilitating collaboration and learning within the school across regional and theoretical areas.

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 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.

Course structure


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

Compulsory modules for this programme are: SE882SE883SE885SE886  SE995 and SE881

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

Modules may include Credits

Students will be introduced to basic techniques of collaborative video production and presentation using social media. Techniques of video camera use, planning and research, cinematography, interviewing and sound, and theories and practices of editing will be taught sequentially, at the same time as students work collaboratively to define their project. Students are encouraged to work on a theme or issue in the student community or in the wider community. In depth training in editing with editing software will train the students in the process of developing and finalizing their ten minute film. The visual project is also intended to give practical experience of general techniques of visual communication that should critically inform understanding of more theoretical topics dealt with in the module.

Read more

This module aims to develop the anthropological imagination of master's students, that is, to instil 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.

Read more

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.

Read more

The module will consist of twelve two hour classes consisting of short introductions to weekly topics by the course convenors followed by practical exercises to allow students to experience and learn by doing several key methods and tools used in anthropological fieldwork. Assignments based on the use of several methods, a research proposal abstract for their future dissertation project, and an essay will be used to assess the student's achievement of learning outcomes. Seminar topics may include: Introduction to research in the natural and social sciences, participant observation, choosing informants, interviewing, processing interview data, analysis and presentation of qualitative data, questionnaire design and analysis, developing an integrated research design, running workshops and focus groups, ethics and consent.

Read more

Fieldwork is the hallmark of anthropological research. Its style and delivery, as well as the discourses surrounding it, have changed alongside the discipline. In his book Routes, Travel And Translation In The Late Twentieth Century, Clifford (1997) flags two important aspects of fieldwork: first, the formation of intensive interactions and relationships that produce "deep" cultural understanding in settings that can vary in time and location, and, second, a sense of displacement, movement or travel for the fieldworker thus allowing for an objective detached perspective. The ways in which anthropologists strive to interact with people while maintaining objectivity, make research ethics and methodological choices particularly important since their presence in the field has implications on the people whom they study.

Read more

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.

Read more

The module addresses the causes, effects, treatments and meanings of health, illness and disease for humans and the ecosystems that they live in. The module content will be structured around five broad themes related to holism, health and healing, drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world. We will begin with a consideration of the evolutionary basis of human medicine and dietary behaviour. Next, we will take a closer look at healing systems, their structure and the various theories of illness and therapeutic techniques that they encompass. This will be followed by a critical examination of the biopolitics of health and healing, including the question of how to define and assess the efficacy of various medical treatments. We will then take a closer look at the spiritual aspects of health and healing before concluding with the final theme of holism, health and healing in the globalized world.

Read more

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. 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

Read more

This module introduces some of the main theoretical approaches and some practical applications of the study of environmental anthropology (in particular, the cultural ecology of Steward, the concepts of carrying capacity and limiting factors as used in eco-systematic models, historical and political ecology, and new approaches deriving from post-modern anthropology). It considers some of the main cultural and social aspects of the human-environment interface, such as the relationship between social organisation and ecology; alternative forms of land use and management; the impact of processes of globalization on human interactions with the environment in a number of non-western societies; and the cultural dimension of human adaptation to the environment. The middle section of the module looks at five categories of subsistence strategy and the environments they occur in, foraging and hunting (in arid, arctic and tropical forest ecosystems), fishing (coastal marine environments), pastoralism (in grassland and arid ecosystems), low intensity and high intensity agriculture (in arid, grassland and tropical environments). For each of these production systems we will also examine a complementary contemporary issue in conservation and/or development. These issues may involve great debates in theory, problems of methodology or issues in applying research results to solve practical problems.

Throughout the module we address methods and problems of applying research in environmental anthropology to related development, conservation and human rights issues, and in particular this year we look at adaptation to climate change among Indigenous peoples.

Read more

This module is intended to enable students to discuss critically the relationship between people and other organic species, in terms of the social and knowledge systems of which they are part, using anthropological approaches and data. The module deals with the ways in which different societies and cultures have come to perceive, know, use, classify and symbolically represent plants and animals. It also introduces students to the ways anthropologists have approached the study of local systems of classification and knowledge, and people's management and use of plants and animals.

Read more

This module seeks to critically and dynamically explore the diverse, complex and dynamic nature of human-environmental interactions, including associated knowledge and practices. By engaging with recent debates and case studies from different regions it seeks to critically assess, compare and contrast some of the key contemporary, at times controversial, debates that engage collaborators, colleagues and critics from diverse academic specialties and perspectives. Through the use of lectures, class discussions and student-led seminar discussions on specific papers it seeks to review and compare some of concepts and approaches used to research, analyze and theorise the material, symbolic, historical, political dimensions of human-plant and human-environment relations. It also seeks to assess how such an understanding can better guide our attempts to address the complex socio-environmental problems facing our world and our future.

Read more

This module requires students to examine theories of ethnicity and nationalism as a particular example of anthropology's critical engagement with other disciplines. Students will be expected to read a series of texts in relation to their investigation of how social anthropology has drawn on and contributed to other disciplines (particularly sociology, social history and political philosophy) in its understanding of ethnicity and nationalism as major features of contemporary social, political and cultural life. Most of these texts are theoretical in orientation and aimed at postgraduates or professional readers (see Indicative Reading List below) Students will be required to relate these readings to ethnographic data in both the this module and in their other modules.

Read more

Plant Resource Pools

a) Use of plant keys for identification. b) Plant collecting for voucher specimens.

Processing and mounting plant specimens.

Underutilised food plants - Sourcing appropriate botanical information.

a)Two important plant families. b) Writing a plant profile.

a) Food plants. b) Medicinal plants.

Student Plant reports.


Material culture – basket making.

Read more

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. The final essay of their pre-dissertation work will draw together materials they have learned through the preceding terms and will synthesise these with students' research interests in order to set up a prospectus for the thesis proposal itself. Students will be passed into the dissertation module by the examiners meeting on the basis of a pre-presented written plan for their research project prepared under supervision by their tutor and modified in relation to questions and comments raised by staff and fellow students during the research presentation day. Subsequent to this, the student 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 with his or her supervisor and other concerned members of staff. . 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.

Read more

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 videos.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • 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 Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, North Africa, SE Asia, Latin America and the Pacific
  • 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.


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. Anthropology students 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 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. You might also enjoy reading about Ruth Krause who studied MA Visual Anthropology (now MA in Social Anthropology with Visual Ethnography).

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.  

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, and professional qualifications and experience will 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 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.

Research areas

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.

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.

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.

Digital Anthropology: Cultural Informatics and Computational Methods

Since 1985, we have pioneered new approaches to digital anthropology. Achievements include advances in kinship theory supported by new computational methods. We are exploring cloud media, semantic networks, multi-agent modelling, dual/blended realities, data mining, and smart environments. Current work also addresses quantitative approaches for assessing qualitative materials; mobile computing; sensing and communications platforms, and transformation of virtual into concrete objects.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Miguel Alexiades: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology/Ethnobotany

Amazonian Peru; Ese Eja; Central Mexico; role and responsibility of science; indigenous land and resource rights; indigenous self-determination; higher education programmes for local communities.

View Profile

Dr Judith Bovensiepen: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Anthropology of Southeast Asia; East Timor; place and landscape; kinship and reciprocity; colonial history; conflict; conspiracy talk; postconflict healing and reconstruction.

View Profile

Professor Michael Fischer: Professor of Anthropological Sciences

The representation and structure of indigenous knowledge; cultural informatics; the interrelationships between ideation and the material contexts within which ideation is expressed.

View Profile

Dr David Henig: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Central Asia and eastern Mediterranean; anthropology of Islam; socialist/post-socialist economy and society; exchange and materiality; cosmological thought; landscape and environment; narrativity and ethnographic theory; social networks and sociality.

View Profile

Dr Matthew Hodges: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

France, Euskadi, Europe; time, historical consciousness, modernity, rural social transformation, cultural and heritage tourism; science and technology; continental philosophy; public anthropology, creative writing.

View Profile

Dr Daniela Peluso: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Gender; exchange theory; kinship; development; indigenous urbanisation; medical anthropology; indigenismo; hybridity; personhood and identity; anthropology of business.

View Profile

Professor Joao Pina-Cabral: Professor of Social Anthropology

The relationship between symbolic thought and social power; family and kinship; ethnicity in colonial and postcolonial contexts.

View Profile

Dr Mike Poltorak: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Tonga; Oceania; New Zealand; Brighton and Hove; Rajasthan; India; visual anthropology; mental illness; medical anthropology; transnationalism; ethnopsychiatry; vaccination; applied medical anthropology; cultural politics; indigenous epistemologies and modernities; the medical/visual/development anthropology nexus.

View Profile

Dr Rajindra K Puri: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology

Environmental anthropology; ethnobiology; hunting; tropical forests; conservation social science; biodiversity and climate change; South and Southeast Asia.

View Profile

Professor Dimitrios Theodossopoulos: Professor of Social Anthropology

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

View Profile

Dr Anna Waldstein: Lecturer in Medical Anthropology and Ethnobotany

Medical anthropology; ecological anthropology; Mesoamerica; Rastafari; diaspora and migration; the effects of migration and acculturation on health; the use of traditional medical knowledge as an adaptive strategy among migrants; food and health sovereignty.

View Profile


The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Social Anthropology with Visual Ethnography - MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7300 £15200
Part-time £3650 £7600

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

General additional costs

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


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