skip to content

Department of Social Anthropology


Jukwa market, Ghana

Social anthropology is the study of all peoples everywhere – what they make, what they do, what they think and how they organise their social relationships and societies.

By living with people in different communities, observing, and learning to participate in their ways of life (‘fieldwork’), social anthropologists produce in-depth descriptions of their customs and ways of life (‘ethnographies’). They also compare different cultures and societies to explore their similarities and differences, to test the generalisations of historians, social scientists and philosophers, and to produce theories of how best to study and understand human nature.

Historians, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers have all drawn inspiration from anthropological writings. The subject has had a major impact on the way we deal with cultural and political issues in the contemporary world.


Find out more

If you’re interested in finding out more about Social Anthropology, we recommend the following as introductory reading:

Abu-Lughod, Lila (1986) Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. University of California Press.

Astuti, R., Parry, J.P., & Stafford, C. (eds) (2007) Questions of Anthropology. Oxford University Press.

Cohen, Jeffrey H. (2015) Eating Soup without a Spoon: Anthropological Theory and Method in the Real World. University of Texas Press.

Holmes, Seth (2013) Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. University of California Press.

Engelke, Matthew (2017) Think Like an Anthropologist. Pelican.

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland (2015) Small Places, Large Issues. 4th Edition. Pluto Press.

King, Lily (2015) Euphoria. Picador.

Robbins, Joel (2004) Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Vol. 4. University of California Press.

Shah, Alpa (2018) Nightmarch: Among India's Revolutionary Guerrillas. Hurst.

Tett, Gillian (2021)  Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life

Wacquant, Loic (2004) Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer. Oxford University Press.

Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology see 
BBC series From Savage to Self:

The Cambridge Anthropology Podcast:



Student Feedback

Here's what some of our students have said:


“I have really loved studying anthropology, and would not change my decision for anything. The variation in content and the quality of supervisions have been great, as well as extracurricular opportunities.”


“Studying anthropology in Cambridge is great and I would not change it for the world.”


“I went to a state school and I never knew what anthropology was until I came to Cambridge. It has been an amazing experience and I have enjoyed studying anthropology so much, it has really opened my mind. I'm really going to miss the Department and its little community of anthropologists.”



“I have absolutely loved it. Honestly, I am very sad to leave. I feel we are really nurtured to follow what we enjoy”