What is Social Anthropology?

Social anthropology is the study of all peoples everywhere – what they make, what they do, what they think and how they organise their social relationships and societies.

By living with people in different cultures and learning to talk and behave like them (‘fieldwork’), social anthropologists produce in-depth descriptions of their customs and ways of life (‘ethnographies’). They also compare different cultures and societies to explore their similarities and differences, to test the generalisations of historians, social scientists and philosophers, and to produce theories of how best to study and understand human nature.

Historians, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers have all drawn inspiration from anthropological writings. The subject has had a major impact on the way we deal with cultural and political issues in the contemporary world.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Social Anthropology, we recommend the following as introductory reading:

Abu-Lughod, Lila (1986) Veiled sentiments: honor and poetry in a Bedouin society. Berkeley and
London: University of California Press

Eriksen, T.H. (1996) Small Places Large Issues: an introduction to social and cultural anthropology (Pluto Press)

Hendry, J. (2008) An introduction to social anthropology: sharing our worlds.  Palgrave Macmillan.

Kuper, A. (1983) Anthropology and Anthropologists.  Routledge

Monaghan J. and P. Just  (2000) Social & Cultural Anthropology: a very short introduction. Oxford University Press