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Department of Social Anthropology


CGT demonstration


The Cambridge MPhil by Advanced Study in Social Anthropology is an intensive 11-month graduate degree programme intended as a conversion course for students with little or no previous training in anthropological methods and perspectives. It provides a wide yet thorough grounding in the theoretical and ethnographic dimensions of the field. The degree can be a free-standing qualification, or a route to the original research involved in a PhD, or a means to acquire knowledge of anthropology for use in other fields and professional contexts.

Full-time students are required by Regulation to be resident in Cambridge for all 3 terms of study. Students who plan to study outside of Cambridge must apply for leave to work away, regardless of whether the period away is in term or between terms (except students who are returning home between terms to study or revise for examinations).

Teaching for the MPhil is via introductory briefings, seminars, lectures, group supervisions and individual supervision. Supervision is our term for the personal one-to-one guidance, monitoring and discussion of work provided by a member of academic staff whom we call a supervisor. Every student has their own individual supervisor, whom they will meet regularly during the year, and who will provide personal one-to-one guidance monitoring and discussion of work. Every student's supervisor is appointed at the beginning of the academic year. Each student's supervisor will have expert knowledge and research experience in one or more of our field's disciplinary specialisms and thematic concerns.

Teaching is centred around four seminars (Economics, Kinship/Gender, Politics, and Religion) that constitute the principal teaching covered under the headings 'Production and Reproduction' (Paper 1) and 'Power and Knowledge'  (Paper 2). In Cambridge parlance, a 'paper' is a formally assessed component of a degree course for which students sit a written examination at the end of the academic year.  All MPhil students are expected to attend and take an active part in all four of the Paper 1 and Paper 2 seminars. 

In addition to these seminars, the Department expects all MPhil students to attend lectures shared with second year undergraduates under the code heading SAN2, covering the four major anthropological subdisciplines: political anthropology, economic anthropology, the anthropology of religion, and the anthropology of kinship/gender. In addition, students must choose one from a range of available option papers (all listed as alternatives under the code Heading MPhil Paper 3). All the option papers are reflective of staff members' current research interests; those on offer vary from year to year.

The Department also requires that students attend the non-assessed paper ‘Theory, methods and enquiry in social anthropology’ (MP4). This paper provides introductory lectures in social anthropology and methodology training to support their other papers and dissertation. As part of this paper, students also attend the lectures on anthropological theory which are provided under the code heading SAN3.

Students are not expected to confine themselves exclusively to these lectures: in consultation with their supervisors, they are encouraged to attend other lectures which may be relevant to their general interests and in prospective dissertation topics.

  1. Production and Reproduction (Paper 1)

  2. Systems of Power and Knowledge (Paper 2)

  3. Option Papers (Paper 3)
  4. Theory, Methods and Enquiry in Social Anthropology  (Paper 4 - non assessed).

Option papers offered in 2021-22 are listed below.

The intention of the course is to provide students with a thorough grounding in the approaches, methods and findings of social anthropology. The field is large and students will find that the coursework is intensive. There are a number of components to it:

    •    introductory sessions;
    •    lectures;
    •    seminars;
    •    supervisions;
    •    fieldwork and research methods workshop; and
    •    assessment (in the form of a set essay, exams and dissertation).

In summary, students will sit two three-hour unseen written examinations (Paper 1 and Paper 2); they will submit an independently written set essay relating to the concerns of the option they choose from those listed under Paper 3; and they will submit an in-depth exercise in anthropological analysis in the form of a dissertation. The MPhil is a pass/ fail degree but for internal purposes the Department distinguishes between Pass and High Pass. Normally a Strong High Pass (73) is required as a qualification for admission to the Cambridge Social Anthropology PhD programme. 

Please note: The University of Cambridge has stated that following the lifting of social distancing and other restrictions by the UK government they plan to provide as much in person teaching as is possible in the academic year 2021-22. The Department of Social Anthropology is supporting in person and hybrid teaching and supervision wherever it is possible. The University and the Department will adopt precautionary behaviours and control measures to minimise COVID-19 transmission, and encourage new courtesies and etiquette around face coverings and social distancing between individuals. A few lectures will need to be given online. Where this is the case, details will be given on the Moodle courses and online timetables for each paper. However, please be aware that the methods of teaching may have to be adjusted, sometimes at short notice, as the public health situation continues to develop.  Further more detailed guidance on the format of teaching and control measures in the Department will be made available to you on the Moodle Course for each degree.


Papers offered for 2021-22

Paper 1 Scope of SA I: Production & Reproduction

Paper 2 Scope of SA II: Systems of Power & Knowledge

Paper 3 Option Papers:

 Paper 4 Theory, Methods and Enquiry in Social Anthropology