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Students taking the MPhil in Social Anthropological Research are supervised on an individual basis. In addition, students attend a core course seminar, run fortnightly throughout the year, and choose a total of six specialist modules to attend during Michaelmas and the first half of Lent term. All the papers to be offered are new. See below for further details. 


Core seminar

The core course runs fortnightly and covers contemporary themes in social anthropology as well as professional and skills development. The latter includes training in writing research proposals, blogs, news items and comment pieces; producing podcasts or other audiovisual material; preparing research presentations. 


Specialist modules

Each specialist module consists of 4 seminars; students choose 6 modules from a range on offer each year. Specialist modules cover research methods and ethics and topics related to staff research interests, in a dynamic programme, with precise topics varying each year. Seminars are focused around discussions of key readings and enable thorough exploration of contemporary theories and ethnographies. 



Students are examined on 

  • One 13,000 word dissertation;
  • Two 5,000 word essays on subjects chosen by the candidate, which may not be the same subject as the dissertation; 
  • One 2,000 word practical writing exercise. The range of possible formats will be announced before the course begins, and can include a PhD research proposal, a blog post, newspaper article, policy report.


List of specialist modules on offer for 2022 - 23

This is the list of specialist seminar modules that we hope to offer in 2022-23. Please note that the programme varies each year and depends on staff availability, timetabling and student numbers. 

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.


Research Methods I & II (various lecturers) 

This series of seminars (Research Methods I and II) engages critically with key debates regarding the ethical, political and academic dimensions of ethnographic research. We explore different ethnographic methods through discussion of core texts and assignments of independent research, so that you have experience of collecting and analysing data of your own. 

Research Methods I covers: library research strategies, participant observation, interviewing and research ethics. Research Methods II covers: audiovisual, digital and archival methods, writing and referencing, and the nature of ethnographic writing. 


Comparative environments (Joe Ellis, Elizabeth Turk and others) 

This module will aim to explore some of the geographically and historically-situated ways humans relate to the environment, landscape, and nature. It will use the Inner Asian region as a comparative lens on how environmental politics, legal regimes, human-animal interactions and religious and cosmological understandings of landscapes and climate change differ around the world. The module will offer students in-depth examples of current MIASU research drawn in comparison to ethnographic contexts further afield and situated within larger theoretical frameworks. 


From Symbol to Index and Back (Joel Robbins) 

This module explores the theoretical grounding of structural and symbolic anthropology, on the one hand, and that of anthropological approaches to pragmatic meaning on the other. It charts the rise to dominance of pragmatic approaches over the last two decades while also considering the possibility of a renewed place for symbolic analysis today. The module will engage both sociocultural and linguistic anthropological theory and data. 


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. 


Political Economy (Sian Lazar) 

In this seminar we will read classic and recent texts to explore how anthropologists have articulated intimate ethnographic engagement with a critique of globally connected (or repeated) political-economic processes. We will study capitalism(s) and colonialities on the one hand, and their counterforces and present-day alternatives on the other. 


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. 


Museum Anthropology (Anite Herle and 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.


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?


Anthropology and Art (Iza Kavedžija)

In this seminar 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?



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