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Department of Social Anthropology

Two Hard Workers, Mexico

In the first undergraduate year, students study Social Anthropology as part of the Human, Social, and Political Sciences Tripos.

In addition to the paper SAN1 ‘Social Anthropology: The comparative perspective’, students choose three other papers from a range of subjects including Politics, International Relations, Sociology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeology, and Psychology.

In Paper SAN1 ‘Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective’ you will learn how anthropologists study, analyse, and theorise about the immense variety of forms of social life they have found across the world: how such taken-for-granted categories as gender, family, sexuality, economy, and the state are subject to radical cultural variation, and how everyday matters such as food, clothing, work, and trade may be bound up with religious and other symbolic meanings. You will also learn about the main kinds of social theory developed by anthropologists in response to the challenge of understanding this diversity, and about the distinctive forms of ethnographic field research anthropologists use in order to gain close, first-hand knowledge of the societies they study.

We look in particular detail at two contrasting ethnographic works, as an introduction to the kind of participant fieldwork anthropologists engage in, and the nature of ethnographic texts:

Richards, A. (1982 [1956]) Chisungu: A Girl’s Initiation Ceremony among the Bemba of Zambia. Second Edition. Introduction by J. S. La Fontaine. London: Routledge.

Robbins, J. (2004) Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.


At the end of Part I, students can choose to specialise in Social Anthropology or combine Social Anthropology with another subject.

Image: Two Hard Workers, Mexico, Jordan Thomas

Paper Resources


SAN1 Paper Guide

For lecture reading lists and additional teaching materials please see the SAN1 Moodle Course.