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Department of Social Anthropology

Goats in the Gobi Desert

The taught element of this course consists of these compulsory streams:

  • The Pre-fieldwork seminar
  • The Ethnographic Methods Course, Parts I (Michaelmas) and II (Lent)
  • The Senior Research Seminar, scheduled for Fridays during term time. This is the place where the Department really gets together, and we attract very good speakers from the UK and overseas.
  • Anthropological Lives explores the lives of anthropologists who made striking and distinctive career decisions and/ or unexpected use of their anthropological material. The series reflects both ongoing and new knowledge and interests on the part of Departmental teaching staff, with contributions from former Department members now based elsewhere.

For more details, please see the course welcome pack in the MRes/PhD1 Moodle course, and the MRes/PhD1 teaching schedule in the University online timetable.

You are also strongly encouraged to attend other optional elements:

  • The ‘Experiences from the Field’ seminar, run by writing-up students recently returned from the field.
  • Anthropology Beyond the Academy - a series of presentations from speakers from a range of fields, reflecting on how their study of anthropology has informed their subsequent careers. 
  • Social Sciences’ Research Methods Centre courses. Students are expected to undertake a Skill Check prior to the start of the course to identify the most suitable modules. For further information please see the SSRMP website.
  • The Department also organises ad hoc sessions in transferable skills or anthropological method. In past years we have run workshops on technologies of research and data management, something we hope to repeat.

You are expected to attend the Senior Research Seminar, scheduled for Fridays during term time. This is the place where the Department really gets together, and we attract very good speakers from the UK and overseas.

You are also expected to develop your own training programme by making full use of the range of courses available in Social Anthropology and the University more widely.

You should discuss your training needs with your supervisor, but you should consider the following:

  • Language learning sessions. These can be organised through the University Language Centre or privately, or you can also arrange to attend undergraduate language courses, depending on circumstances.
  • Training in advanced statistical methods or other qualitative social science methods provided by the Joint Schools Course in Research Methods. Of particular interest to you will be the modules on Historical Methods and Sources and Doing Qualitative Interviews, but others may also catch your eye.
  • Participation in Undergraduate or Masters level lectures and seminars which address on themes specific to your research topic (this might for example include attending the seminars in the ethnography of a particular geographical area – see the course information for SAN4 Ethnographic Areas.
  • Research seminars at one of the Area Studies centres in the University: African, Middle Eastern, Latin American, South Asian, Mongolia and Inner Asian, Scott Polar.


Pre-field PhD and MRes students are required by University Regulations to be resident in Cambridge during their pre-field year, and also when they return from their authorised periods of fieldwork to write their dissertations. The Department takes this requirement very seriously because it is so important for all research students to take full advantage of the training and support the Department provides through its seminar series and other components of our postgraduate programmes.

Students will of course normally reside outside Cambridge during their period of approved fieldwork, for which an application for Leave To Work Away must be completed via their camsis self-service account.

Introductory week

During the first week, you are required to attend the University’s safety and risk assessment courses and the Department of Social Anthropology’s induction course.


Course Resources


For reading lists, additional teaching materials and assignment upload please see the MRes/PhD1 Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on the PhD First Year will automatically be enrolled on the MRes/PhD1 Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.