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Modules for 2023-24

Specialist modules are reading and discussion-intensive seminars that take place in four-weekly blocks over Michaelmas and the first half of Lent. MPhil SAR students choose a total of six modules to attend. These seminars do not have assessments; rather, they are opportunities for students to engage with current research on specific topics that they may use to further their own research interests or as the basis of their 5,000 word essays. Specialist modules for 2023-24 provisionally include:


Research Methods I (various lecturers)

Research Methods I & II consist of a combination of lectures (held together with other cohorts) and postgraduate-specific seminars at which each method, and its relation to your research, is discussed in greater detail. These sessions will be especially useful if you’ve had limited experience of doing in-person research/fieldwork or would like to explore unfamiliar methods for your dissertation research.

Sessions for 2023-24 may include: participant observation, interviews, audiovisual methods, digital ethnography, archives, life histories, extended case methods, anthropology ‘at home’


Infrastructure and its Parasites (Michael Degani)

This module surveys anthropological persepctives on infrastructure (roads, pipelines, and payment networks, but also standards, reputation and language) and those parasitic agents (gatekeepers, translators, saboteurs, pests, pirates) that redistribute their flows and the sociopolitical relations those flows nourish. How do different infrastructures constitute our sense of what is close or far, signal or noise, kin or stranger? What are the affordances by which those senses might be altered or challenged? To answer these questions, each week will explore infrastructure in relation to a different topic and its associated anthropological literature: media, linguistics, economics, and politics.


The Anthropology of Care (Perveez Mody)

For anthropologists, “care” and the “care industry” conjoin the economic with kinship intimacies and the affective and political domains in particularly poignant ways.  Care serves as a helpful analytic for exploring new ways of belonging and connecting with each other. These seminars will explore the anthropology of care by moving away from its medical antecedents towards a broader articulation of care as a field of engagement and contestation that can implicate a host of other anthropological subjects (kinship, economy, politics, gender, migration, race, religion, love) and that is often messy, intimate and deeply unsettled.  These seminars will explore key themes within the anthropology of care such as kinship care and paid care, intimacy and ritual care, care and recovery and finally, care as a form of colonial governance, abandonment and social death.


Research Methods II (various lectures)

See description above


Form and Formalism (Matei Candea)

Anthropologists in recent decades have been rather intensely focused on questions of substance (things, embodiment, materiality, objects, affects, life..) and have tended to stress the importance of emergence, messiness and the unexpected in their accounts of social life. Against that background, this module asks about the often neglected yet perennial anthropological problem of form: how are regularities, patterns, rhythms, enduring scales and dimensions of social life to be described or explained? It explores the concrete, worldly effects of formalisms (discursive, political, legal, bureaucratic, aesthetic, scientific…) while also reflecting on the formal properties of anthropological knowledge-making itself, the regularities and creative disruptions of anthropological concepts, methods and heuristics.

The aim of this module is to open up an exploratory space in which we can think together about one of the oldest puzzles in the discipline (the puzzle of order), which has re-emerged in unexpected guises in recent anthropological work.


Anthropology and Art (Iza Kavedžija)

In this module we will consider the processes of making art in the context of various contemporary art worlds, departing from the processes of enskilment and becoming an artist. The focus on art-making as a process further foregrounds it’s the relational nature. If an artwork is collaborative, a response to the ideas of others that entails a responsive relationship with materials, then what is the role of the artist as an author? The making of art unfolds over time and intersects with various temporalities, including the life course of the artist, as well as the proximate horizon of a project or an art event. What is to be gained by attending to the temporality of the creative process? Finally, we will think about the various intersections of art and anthropology. What are the key similarities and differences between the two fields? How does ethnographic work and an anthropological sensibility underpin certain contemporary art projects, and what kinds of art can we hope to make as anthropologists?


The Anthropology of Violence (Andrew Sanchez)

This course is a critical discussion of how different forms of violence are experienced and enacted, and how Social Anthropology contributes to an understanding of them.  The course is comprised of 4 seminars that address the following issues: the distinction between physical, structural, and epistemological violence; how violence maps onto social inequalities and differences; how people manage the experience and aftermath of violence; the challenges and strengths of ethnographic studies of violence.


For, Against, and Without Sovereignty (Natalia Buitron)

From the workings of the international order to the struggles of native peoples, from personal autonomy to legitimate rule, everyone seems to be struggling for sovereignty in today's world. But is the will to sovereignty inevitable? Can we imagine social arrangements that work against sovereignty, or even exist wholly without it? These seminars explore anthropological concepts of sovereignty: how can we understand relations of sovereignty? How do they combine violence and care, submission and utopia? Sifting through thought experiments and the ethnographic record, we chart the coordinates of worlds without sovereignty, and ask: is it possible to create such worlds today?


The Anthropology of History, Time, Memory, and Archives (Yael Navaro)

This specialist module will trace anthropological ways of addressing questions about historicity, temporality, and memory, with an interest as well in archives and archival practices. We will explore distinctively anthropological methods in and for the study of the past and its force upon the present through ethnographies and theoretical works which imaginatively explore this relation.

Students are advised to read at least two of the readings for each seminar in preparation for discussion. There will be two discussion leaders (presenters) in each seminar. Discussion leaders will address a set of the readings in the seminar, bringing them into conversation with the seminar group.


Museum Anthropology (Mark Elliott)

These seminars will be led by Senior Anthropology Curators in the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (MAA). Drawing on MAA's extensive collections and critical museological practice, the module will focus on pressing issues related to de-colonisation, diversity, inclusion and public engagement. The sessions will provide the opportunity to combine theoretical concerns and practical engagement with the ongoing work of the Museum.



Students will choose 6 modules: 2 in the first half of Michaelmas term, 2 in the second half of Michaelmas term and 2 in the first half of Lent term.

Timetabling constraints will mean that not all combinations will be possible, and if student numbers are deemed too small, some modules may not run.