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Department of Social Anthropology


Teaching for the MPhil is via introductory briefings, seminars, lectures and individual supervision.

Each student will have a personal Supervisor: a member of staff who can provide general guidance throughout the course, as well as advice on the assessed work (essay and dissertation). In addition, students attend small-group supervisions to discuss essays they write on themes from the core seminars and in preparation for exams.



There are four MPhil specific seminar series, two for each paper: Paper 1 (Economics and Kinship/Gender) and Paper 2 (Politics and Religion), and they are spread across two terms: Michaelmas and Lent. You are expected to attend and take part in all four of the seminars. For Paper 3, students choose one from among a set of thematic options which change from year to year, such as the Anthropology of Post-Socialism and the Anthropology of Development. These are primarily taught through lectures.  For the weekly seminars on Economics, Kinship/Gender, Politics and Religion, students do preparatory reading and make oral presentations; this is followed by group discussion led by the seminar conveners. All students are expected to read the starred items on the seminar reading lists for each seminar even if you are not presenting, so as to be able to take part in the discussion. There is also a series of seminars in the Michaelmas term on aspects of fieldwork and research methodology to help you think about issues relevant to your dissertation topic.

Please note: While seminars provide the core teaching for the MPhil, they do not replace the lectures and the reading you will be doing with your supervisor in preparation for the set essay, dissertation, and written examinations. We make this point so that you will be clear that, in Cambridge, teaching for a course is meant to include more than just what is covered in the seminars. The set essays and written examination papers are not structured so as to be confined only to the topics covered in the seminars; they will reflect lectures, seminar work and recommended reading. 


All students attend the lecture series for papers MP1, MP2, SAN3 plus lecture series in a chosen option paper (The Museums option has no lectures; it is taught through seminars). We have marked with an asterisk those lectures on the list that we think you may find most helpful and relevant for the course. You are not expected to confine yourself exclusively to these lectures, but are encouraged to attend any lectures you find interesting, though be careful not to spend all your time in the lecture room! Lecturers generally provide reading lists relating to the themes and literature explored in their lectures: these are NOT 'assigned' or 'required' readings but rather guidance and suggestions – you should use them as resources for your work, in consultation with your supervisor.


You will be supervised by a member of staff who can provide guidance throughout the course. Please note that supervision styles vary according to the supervisor - indeed, we consider this to be one of the benefits of the individual attention that a Cambridge MPhil provides.

You will meet with your principal supervisor to discuss your progress on a regular basis throughout the Full Terms of the academic year (generally twice a term). In addition, you will have small group supervisions for which you will be expected to write essays. These will be held twice a term in Michaelmas and Lent, with optional additional meetings scheduled as necessary. Group supervisions will cover the 4 broad areas of anthropology covered by your seminars on the anthropology of economics, kinship/gender, politics, and religion. They are a crucial part of the course, complementary to the support provided by seminars and lectures. Your one-to-one supervisions will focus on preparing your set essay and dissertation, and they will also be an opportunity for you to discuss the course as a whole, including the feedback on the essays you have written for the group supervisions. 

To widen your range, you should choose essay topics which differ from those you will prepare for seminar presentations. Unlike your examinations and set essay, your supervision essays are not given an official mark or grade: they are not formally assessed pieces of coursework and therefore do not contribute directly toward your final degree result. They do serve an important purpose, however: they are a key means by which you will develop the skills of anthropological analysis which are central to the course, and also provide a crucial means for you and your supervisor to monitor your progress during the year.

Current MPhil students applying for the PhD or MRes should discuss their writing samples with their principal supervisor. It will be expected that students will submit at least one of their MPhil essays with their application so that the PhD Committee can evaluate their engagement with an anthropological topic and its literature. It is also expected that one of their referees will be a member of our departmental staff, normally their principal supervisor.

Because the MPhil course is a broad introduction to the discipline as a whole and a means of acquainting students with a wide range of perspectives, issues and approaches in our field, we do not seek to match student and supervisor on the basis of the student's potential dissertation topic or other study interests. However, students can receive supplementary advice and guidance from other members of academic staff, arranged in consultation with their principal supervisor, particularly in relation to the planning of their dissertation.


Course Resources


For reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam papers and reports please see the MPhil Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on the MPhil course will automatically be enrolled on the MPhil Moodle course and you will find a link to it in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and you wish to view the reading lists, past exam questions and exam reports then you can access the MPhil Moodle Course as a guest. For more information on how to access Moodle Courses as a guest please see Moodle Help.