Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures. The Cambridge department has excellent teaching ratings, and is known for its outstanding research. Staff and students work all over the world, and the department hosts lectures and seminars by international researchers from anthropology departments world-wide. This global approach informs both our research and teaching.

The department is small and has a friendly atmosphere: students enjoy easy and regular contact with staff, whose cutting-edge research feeds directly into teaching. Teaching and discussion are conducted through seminars and tutorial groups. There is a dissertation option with scope for independent research abroad in the third year.

The first year is a general introduction to the major aspects of Social Anthropology, including economics and kinship, religion and politics, and theory and methods; these themes are explored in greater detail during the second year for students who choose to specialise in the subject. The third year combines more advanced theoretical and thematic courses with intensive study of a chosen area of the world, such as Europe, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Oceania, and optional courses on development, cities, colonialism and empire, post-socialist transformations, anthropology of art, and nationality, race and ethnicity.

The department is well supplied with IT and multi-media equipment, and has a unique collection of ethnographic videos. These facilities are extensively used in teaching, training and research. Close links with the Museum extend this audio-visual dimension into studies of ethnographic objects and photographs from the collections. If people are all the same, why do cultures seem different? Is what we observe a product of our theoretical pre-conceptions? What does comparative data tell us about the theories of western social science?

Ethnography - Field-research provides in-depth description and analysis of the culture and way of life of particular peoples comparisons cross-cultural comparison tests are generalisations about human behaviour and social institutions to reveal principles of similarity and difference.

Theory - Theories of human behaviour, of how societies work, and of cultural differences both emerge from description and comparison, and also guide them.

Careers which build directly on Social Anthropology include research and teaching; NGOs, development and overseas agencies; human rights issues; multi-cultural/multi-ethnic education; health, community services and museums; advertising and PR; diplomacy.

Suggested Reading

Eriksen, T.H. 1996 Small Places Large Issues: an introduction to social and cultural anthropology (Pluto Press) Monaghan J. and P. Just 2000 Social & Cultural Anthropology: a very short introduction. Oxford University Press Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1940. The Nuer: a description of the modes of livelihood and political instututions of a Nilotic people. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. Abu-Lughod, Lila 1986. Veiled sentiments: honor and poetry in a Bedouin society. Berkeley and London: University of California Press.