MA in Social Anthropology

Are you interested in a career in anthropology, but haven’t studied the subject before?

Have you studied anthropology in the past, but need to consolidate this experience before moving into anthropological research?

About the department

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time.
If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants.

See our tuition fees.
Contact the department
Contact Dr Frances Pine
Visit us
Find out about how you can visit Goldsmiths at one of our open days or come on a campus tour.

This MA offers students from all disciplinary backgrounds the opportunity to build a solid base in social anthropology, its theoretical foundations, methodology and ethnographic diversity.

Assessment: Dissertation; Reports; Take-home Papers; Options may require a presentation or production of visual material.

What you study

Compulsory core modules will familiarise you with the most important theoretical positions within anthropology, and will introduce you to key methodological questions.

In addition, you may choose from a variety of option modules that will enable you to establish or develop your own theoretical or regional interests.

Optional modules currently cover topics including:

  • gender
  • sexuality and the body
  • religion and symbolism
  • political economy
  • psychological perspectives in anthropology
  • the anthropology of rights
  • visual anthropology.

Ethnographic modules include Europe; (post)socialist states; the Caribbean and Latin America.


Video: Click to play

Dr Mark Lamont and Professor Stephen Nugent from the Department of Anthropology introduce the MA in Social Anthropology.



Applying and entrance requirements

You can apply directly to Goldsmiths via the website by clicking the ‘apply now’ button on the main programme page.

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments.
  • The email address details of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic soft copy of your academic reference.
  • A personal statement. This can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online.
  • If available, an electronic soft copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory).

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for funding you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for UK/EU students and international students. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Entrance requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

We also accept a wide range of international equivalent qualifications, which can be found on our country-specific pages. If you'd like more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

English language

If your first language isn't English, you need to demonstrate the required level of English language competence to enroll and study on our programmes. 

Please check our English Language requirements for more information.

Find out more about applying 

Contact us 

Get in touch via our online form


+44 (0)20 7919 7766

International (non-EU)

+44 (0)20 7919 7702

Modules and Structure

Anthropological Theory
30 Credits (Taken during the first year
of a part-time degree)
Anthropological Research Methods 30 Credits (Taken during the first year 
of a part-time degree)
Options within Anthropology 60 Credits (Taken during the second
year of a part-time degree)
Dissertation 60 Credits (Taken during the second
year of a part-time degree)

Core modules

Code Module title Credits
AN71081B Anthropological Theory 30 CATS

The aims and objectives of this module are to introduce you to major subfields of modern anthropology and to do so in a broadly historical and comparative framework.

The lectures will enable you to see how different anthropologists approach a number of central contemporary issues. The topics chosen will focus upon some of the theoretical developments and methodological strategies pursued in response to profound and widespread social transformations. Each week the module will focus on a single technique, methodology or strategy in anthropology in the work of a specific anthropologist.

AN71014B' Anthropological Research Methods 30 CATS

This module will introduce students to the theories and methods of modern anthropology. It focuses upon recent theoretical and methodological strategies that have been employed by anthropologists in response to profound and widespread social transformations. It covers the collection of different types of data including surveys, in-depth interviews, participant observation and participatory research, its uses by subjects, and conflicts of interest. 

Option modules

Code Module title Credits
AN71035B Anthropology and Cultural Politics 30 CATS

  • What is the relationship between culture and power?
  • How is power manifested or articulated 'culturally'?
  • In what ways may culture be understood to be 'political'?

This module is centrally preoccupied with social and political theories organised around the question of 'culture' and its relation to 'power', and vice versa, and with comprehending what may be the stakes of the politics of 'culture'.

The module elaborates upon the problem of 'politics' and its always complex configuration with respect to what comes to be deemed to be 'cultural', specifically in relation to creative and productive labour, alienation, capitalism and commodification, the state, ideology, and hegemony. We also consider the concepts of the critique of everyday life, the society of the spectacle, and the production of space.

While principally concerned with a series of theoretical problems, the module will nonetheless also marshal the insights that may be gleaned from ethnography, in the effort to situate the discipline of socio-cultural anthropology in relation to the problems posed by or for 'cultural politics'.

AN71093A Anthropology of Rights I 60 CATS

There is a temptation to think that human rights are a self-evidently good thing and that their promotion and exportation across the globe can only improve the experiences of persons everywhere.  However, the application of human rights in specific, concrete contexts often has counter-intuitive ramifications.  This module wants to take a critical perspective on human rights to better understand the potential of rights discourses as well as the blind-spots and failings of rights claims.  Tracing the genealogy of rights from natural law to natural right to the positive law that backs up rights discourses in the here and now, the module will re-visit the universalism versus cultural relativism debates from a variety of angles – debates that have long haunted anthropological engagement with rights.  The point is not to simply de-construct the discourse of rights for its own sake, but to look for new possibilities in rights discourse and rights law that might better progress the practice of rights in the great diversity of contexts into which they are introduced.

AN71094A Anthropology of Rights II 15 CATS

The discourse of rights, its origins in the concept of ‘natural law’ notwithstanding, is now intimately tied to the Rule of Law.  As such, alternative legal conceptions and legal cultures are often presumed to pose a threat to the advancement of human rights.  In particular, many ‘customary’ and ‘religious’ laws are understood to not only permit, but to positively promote and insist upon practices that are in direct contravention of human rights. This module builds on debates about anthropological ambivalence around the universal nature of human rights to explore, both ethnographically and historically, the interface between the discourse of human rights and the positive law that underwrites it (on the one hand) and various alternative legalities that seem to undermine the promotion of rights (on the other).  Instead of automatically demonizing ‘customary’ and ‘religious’ legal sensibilities, the module hopes to promote a critical investigation of the potential of such laws for the promotion of human dignity, even as it interrogates the problems such laws can pose for human rights activists.

AN71022C Critical Voices in Development 60 CATS

This module will concentrate on planned change in the 20th century with special emphasis on the post World War II era, after the rise of the so-called Development Industry.  The module will cover the history of development and aid through various approaches to development, and will explore the discourses which have informed approaches to policy. Then it will look at implementation and the history of anthropological involvement, including anthropological critiques.  Finally, there will be an in-depth analysis of the development implications (both in terms of international agency or national government policy implications as well as projects on the ground) of selected global trends. Possible selected trends might be HIV/AIDs or Structural Adjustment Policies. 

AN71080A Anthropology and History 30 CATS

Anthropology has for a long time had a troubled relation with history. The scientific racism of the 19th century was replaced in the beginning of the 20th century with ahistorical, site-specific studies. But with time, history became an issue again – the growing interpenetration forced by colonialism, and capitalism and the world wars questioned the assumptions of radical cultural difference on which synchronic studies were based. Inevitably, history and historical change has become the heart of anthropological theory. A number of questions and dichotomies on historical continuities and changes have emerged, both at a theoretical and an empirical level: the relation of structure and agency; the place of consciousness and historicity in relation to historical events; the formation of a global culture versus the persistence of local cultures; the meaning of terms such as ‘modernity’, ‘capitalism’ and the ‘West’.

AN71090A Anthropology and Representation 60 CATS

This module focuses on the anthropological concern with representation in both the artistic and political senses of the term. It will cover such concerns as consumption, fetishism, and material culture, use of art and artistic representations and imagination in social movements, as well as in the art world, theories of narrative and their relation to political action, the nature of hierarchy, magic, labour, and the imagination.  

AN71085A Anthropology and the Visual II 30 CATS

This module will explore the role of visual representation in anthropology in terms of both the history of its use within the discipline, and also the potential it holds for new ways of working. We will look at work in a wide range of media – photography, film/video, performance – and the ways in which they might be used in an anthropological context, and this will involve looking at work from outside anthropology such as photojournalism and contemporary art, as well as the work of visual anthropologists. The intention of the module it to provide a strong theoretical background for those students going to take the Anthropology and the Visual Production module in the spring term, and to give students a challenging and creative view of the potentials of visual material within anthropology. 

AN71002B Anthropology and the Visual: Production Course 30 CATS

Following on from Anthropology and the Visual II, this is a practically based module in which you will explore the techniques of video-making/photography.

AN71031C Anthropology of Art II 60 CATS

This module is designed to offer students the opportunity to conduct a short piece of research in the field broadly defined as the Anthropology of Art. Picking up on theoretical issues introduced in Anthropology of Art I, you will be expected to select your own topic for fieldwork. You may wish to analyse the practice of a particular artist (especially one whose work relates to ethnography in some way), concentrate on aspects of art institutions in London (techniques of display, audiences, exhibitions), or on lives of art objects (their production, consumption, circulation, interpretation). Key issues include: aesthetics and the culture industry: the role of the avant-garde: Frankfurt School critical theory: popular art, resistance and accommodation: the rise of film criticism: museums and collecting.

AN71015B Anthropology of Health and Medicine I 30 CATS

An introduction to key areas of medical anthropology, ranging from ideas about healing to questions of social inequality and ‘biosociality’. The module will explore questions of how culture shapes understandings and experiences of the body, health and illness. It will examine the implications of new technologies on understandings of health, and the politics of modern global healthcare. It will engage with classic and contemporary ethnographic work. 

AN71082A Anthropology of Religion 30 CATS

Questioning the category of religion, this module will introduce you to the sociological thought which has informed the anthropology of religious phenomena and will highlight the specificity of anthropological approaches which combine comparative, historical and ethnographic methodologies and concerns. Focussing on both ‘world religions’ and more localised cosmologies and practices, you will learn about different anthropological approaches (structuralist, Marxist, phenomenological, symbolic and cognitive) which emphasise different dimensions of religious practice and experience. You will also be encouraged to think about the relevance of these approaches for understanding the continued persistence, salience and transformation of religious ideas and practices in the contemporary world.

AN71087A Economic and Political Anthropology I 30 CATS

We begin with an overview of the state, highlighting the contingency of its current form and discussing whether or not analyses of the state continue to be relevant in the light of globalisation and changing modes of production. We then go on to analyse key economic institutions that exist through (sometimes in spite of) the state. In the second half of the Autumn term, through locales such as factories, we will see these institutions in action by exploring the capitalist labour process, the impact of industrialisation on the peasant economy and political forms of peasant resistance. We think about changed practices of labour through globalisation of capital and flexible production, and drawing together certain themes (such as value and freedom) that have been running throughout all the lectures. We end the first term by looking at contemporary forms of radical politics, with a special focus on anarchism and at its agenda of building ‘societies without states’. 

AN71088A Economic and Political Anthropology II 30 CATS

We revisit some of the key questions of the previous term in the context of contemporary politics and drawing connections between economic and political institutions. We look at nationalism, regionalism and new forms of migration; at reproductive and care labour, and how migration challenges and/or upholds gendered labour relations. We will discuss the role of consumption on class relations and expand our focus from the flow of objects to the movement of ideas and images and on new technologies. We ask how the compression of space and time and the notion that new technologies are ‘disembedding mechansisms’ challenge ideas and territoriality, while also opening up new spaces of belonging. We will explore the role of the media, considering the ways in which ‘local’ action groups are using new technologies to promote their political aims on a transnational scale. We thereby reflect upon the extent that technology can be regarding as an alienating force. We then focus on indigenous rights movements. We explore how indigeneity is constructed through political discourse, thinking particularly about notions of ‘authenticity and territoriality. We ask ‘who speaks for the indigenous’, and examine the legal and ‘rights’ frameworks through which political claims are made. Finally we reflect back on Autumn term’s discussion of property and consider debates over intellectual property, ‘indigenous’ knowledge and the new commons.

AN71032B Ethnographic Film and Cinema Studies 30 CATS

This module consists of screenings followed by seminars. The emphasis will be on key feature, documentary and ethnographic films, from Nanook of the North (Flaherty) to Burden of Dreams (Blank) to Blade Runner (Scott). A focal theme of the seminars will be the examination of the 'language of film'.

AN71028A Environmental Anthropology 30 CATS

This module examines three areas of anthropological enquiry into human-environment relations: different societies’ experience of and thoughts about their biophysical surroundings (beliefs, practices, dwelling); human shaping of landscapes (living in balance with nature, enhancing or destroying it); and environmental politics, or political ecology (small and large scale resource conflict, science and policy processes, environmental movements). Each topic is examined through one or two key studies, drawn from different regions of the world (e.g. Amazonia, West Africa, Indonesia) and relating to different resources (e.g. forests, soil, water, oil). Throughout the module, we will also discuss the bearings of the anthropological ideas examined on public discourses of environmentalism and on conservation policy. 

AN71072A Indian and Peasant Politics 30 CATS

This module focuses on two sets of (mainly Brazilian) Amazonian actors - Indians and mesticos - in broad colonial and post-colonial contexts. Material includes pre-historic Amazonia as well as current social movements (e.g. MST, Rubber Tappers), indigenism, agrarian politics, the role of the modernising state, and media representation of eco-politics in the region. 

AN71008A Social Anthropology of the Caribbean 30 CATS

The module explores the social anthropology of the Caribbean region, the oldest colonial/post-colonial sphere, highlighting anthropological theories informing Caribbean ethnography. Central themes are the creation of Caribbean societies, communities, cultures and identities in response to colonialism and to contemporary opportunities and constraints, and the significance of the study of Caribbean culture-building for changing ethnographic approaches and anthropology. Topics include theoretical perspectives framing the Caribbean; the global processes that forged the unity and diversity of the Caribbean oikoumenê or societal area; controversies on the interrelationship of ‘race’, class, culture, gender and ethnicity; the ‘continuity-creativity debate’ on the African heritage and Caribbean creolization; maroon societies; varying views on peasantisation and community; marriage, kinship, land and descent; rural development and tourism; urbanization and urban neighbourhoods and networks; and religion and morality, music and dance.

AN71095A Intercultural Film 15 CATS

You guys [Balanda (white) anthropologists] keep looking, looking, looking but you just don’t see” Aboriginal filmmaker Bangana in Deger ‘Shimmering Screens’ p.221

Why is film so affective? What do we understand about how film works? These questions are absolutely fundamental if we are to consider anthropology’s relationship to the moving image. Thinking through this cinematic magic from both a media, and an anthropological perspective allows us to construct a set of productive new approaches to understanding film. Anthropologists began using film very early on – the earliest footage was shot on the Cambridge Expedition to the Torres Straits in the 1890’s – when the camera was considered a “vital” piece of equipment. However, this module will critically consider the general assumption that visual anthropology equals documentaries with ethnographic (ie. Exotic) content. It will instead, explore a series of creative approaches to the visual as evidence and witness from an anthropological perspective.

The proliferation of so-called ‘indigenous media’, particularly on the web, arguably redefines the role of the visual anthropologist, and we will the problems and productive possibilities of intercultural looking. These questions are central to a renewed interest in various kinds of ethnographic film as a result of the recent convergence of contemporary art and documentary. The module will argue for an experimental approach to intercultural filmmaking and suggest what the future of anthropological film might look like.

The module also provides a strong theoretical background for those students going on to take Experimental Ethnographic Filmmaking in the Spring Term.

AN71096A Photography and Sound 15 CATS

This module takes up Weinberger’s criticism of contemporary visual anthropology for adopting a narrow definition of its field and its available tools, when the conjunction of ‘visual’ with ‘anthropology’ should actually open up a whole range of creative possibilities for conducting and presenting research. It will explore the role of photography and sound in anthropology in terms of both the history of their use within the discipline, and also the potentials they hold for new ways of conducting research.

The module will take an anthropological approach to develop a new understanding of photography and the way in which it participates in society. Photographs have become one of the primary and most tangible forms for recording memory, and we will explore the magical animist nature of photography. The module will also consider the potential of sound as a means of anthropological description and a way of researching space and place, time and memory, identity and belonging. We will consider the relations between words and sounds, and ways of knowing and being in the world.

The distinctions between the word as it is written and as it is spoken is important here, as are issues of translation – sound into recording, sound into text, one sense into another, as well as adequate cross-cultural translation.

The module also provides a strong theoretical background for those students going on to take Ethnography Through Photography and Sound in the Spring Term.

AN71019B Gender Theory in Practice 30 CATS


AN71092A Violence and the Body Political 15 CATS

Over five weeks this module draws upon current anthropological literature on violence and suffering to explore the different scales through which we can understand acts of violence ranging across intimate violence, collective violence and war. Beginning at the smallest scale we draw upon literature on embodiment and biological anthropology to inquire into the experience of violence at the bodily level. How is suffering experienced at a bodily level? What roles do genes and hormones play in our propensity to violence? How is the body used symbolically by torturers?

Throughout the module we move across scales of understanding from interpersonal narratives of violence and social suffering, to motivations for collective and communal violence, before ending the module by looking at how national and international factors shape the manifestation of violence.

At this macro scale we will consider how the body emerges in the way societies memorialise social suffering; how the everyday practices of state bio-power enacts violence on the body of its citizens; and whether theories of structural violence assist our understanding.

AN71091A Anthropological Perspectives on Tourism 15 CATS

This module uses anthropological methods to examine tourism and its effects on contemporary culture. It will explore the phenomenon of tourism from multiple perspectives, including the tourist experience, the tourist industry and the re-shaping of places and spaces as a result of the challenges and opportunities presented by tourism. Theories of tourism as a category of experience (pilgrimage, role-playing, rite of passage….) and as an increasingly globalised socio-cultural practice will be analysed alongside the political economy of modern tourism and travel. Ethnographic case studies will draw on examples from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Please note: due to staff research commitments not all of these modules are available every year.

Programme specification

To find out more about this degree, including details about the ways you'll be assessed and information about our marking criteria, you can download the programme specification.

Student and graduate profiles

MA Social Anthropology student Rasa discusses her experiences studying here.


Video: Click to play

Jane, co-founder of social enterprise Ethnobotanist Nature Workshops

"My time at Goldsmiths gave me massive confidence, as a woman from a working class family, in my intellectual abilities in particular."

I helped to start this social enterprise in 2006 as a response to climate change and issues of social justice. I have largely set up what we do and now manage the company supported by a core team. We help people spend time in and with the natural world for health, learning and fun. We run events and activities, including a series of sessions for people we target – for example people with severe mental health problems and young people failed by society. We're also a training agency and research everything we do in collaboration with various universities. 
I took Social Anthropology MA in 1997 with Steve Nugent and Brian Morris (Environmental Anthroplogy) to complement my existing BSc in Plant Biology from Bangor, making me an ethnobotanist. My specific interests are the way we use plants for health and well being hence this is the focus of much of the work of the company. My time at Goldsmiths gave me massive confidence, as a woman from a working class family, in my intellectual abilities in particular. Specifically in the politics of global social justice and how this related directly to the plant sciences I had learnt in my first degree. I am still in regular contact with my tutor and fellow ethnobotanist Brian Morris.
I have been seeking funds to do a PhD since I left Goldsmiths. This year I hope to pilot a study with migrant women in Cornwall about the information they bring with them to the UK about plants for health and well being and how this can be integrated in to local healthcare practice.
My journey has been as a mature student and single mum on benefits, who was given a chance with a bursary from Goldsmiths and a supportive family. Having acheived my academic ambitions, for over 10 years I concentrated on making sure my daughter had the best possible start with her adult life and ended in middle management at the local authority. This sideways step gave me enough of my own material security to step into my new life in 2010. I now combine all my skills and learning to help others use the natural world to find their path in life and show them that persistence (stubborn!?) pays off. Nature Workshops has doubled in size year on year despite the recession, with volunteers beating a path to our door. As a social enterprise with a flat management system and holisitic approach to people, community and company development we 'walk the talk'.  


"I needed to be again in the place where ideas are constantly challenged and are put in movement."

Studying a postgraduate degree was a necessity for me. After eight years working as a sociologist in different places but always in relation to the cultural realm – in its broader sense – it became evident that I needed to be again in the place where ideas are constantly challenged and are put in movement. Moreover, I felt the curiosity of knowing and understanding more about the latest theories to study the social and cultural phenomena, as well as in which ways the anthropological perspective is helpful in order to understand it. Both of my expectations were totally fulfilled in Goldsmiths and with the perspective that the Masters in Social Anthropology offers.  

So far I am very pleased with my academic results and this is partly due to the fact that I can dedicate more time to study, something that could not even be possible to think without having the scholarship that the University gave me. In other words, having the monetary support for me has been crucial to dedicate more time to really make the most of everything that being back in the university means.


Students interested in pursuing careers in the media, research, teaching, policy and many other fields will find the programme of value.

Recent graduates have been employed by Amnesty InternationalMédecins Sans Frontières, and the Royal Anthropological Institute.

It also provides an excellent grounding for students interested in pursuing research in social anthropology – several have gone on to completeresearch degrees at Goldsmiths.

Ilana, MA Social Anthropology graduate


Video: Click to play

Content last modified: 09 Apr 2015

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