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Anthropologists acquire their information

through a distinctive method termed

participant observation. This means that they
spend many months or even years living among
the people with whom they are researching,
sharing their experiences as far as possible, and
hence attempting to gain a well-rounded
understanding of that society and of the
activities and opinions of its members. Within
this broad general framework, individual
anthropologists do of course bring their own
particular interests and emphases to bear: they
may, for example, be interested in local families
and domestic processes; in religious ideas and
activities; in the production, consumption, and
reproduction of cultural knowledge or material
wealth; or in the practical problems of health or
social development.
Why study Social Anthropology
at Edinburgh?
The University of Edinburgh has the oldest and
largest Social Anthropology academic unit in
Scotland. The most distinctive feature of the
degree is that in the second semester of the
third year and the following summer vacation,
honours students have the unique opportunity
to engage in original anthropological research,
which may be library-based, but for most
students involves feldwork either in Britain or
Many students fnd this the most rewarding
aspect of their degree, and the skills acquired
are invaluable assets when they look for
employment after graduation. In addition, in
the most recent Research Assessment Exercise,
25% of our research in Anthropology was rated
4* (world leading), with a further 35% rated 3*
(internationally excellent).
What can I study Social
Anthropology with?
Most students do the Single Honours degree in
Social Anthropology, but there are also
Combined Honours degrees in Social
Anthropology together with Arabic,
Archaeology, Geography, Linguistics, Persian,
Politics, Social History, Social Policy, or
Sociology. In addition, Social Anthropology can
be combined with Law in an LLB Honours
degree. Besides combined degrees there are
also with degrees, which allow students to
study a range of courses from different subject
areas on some common theme, such as
Development, Social History or South Asian
Studies, while studying Social Anthropology as
their principal subject. All these degrees take
four years.
What does the degree involve?
In the frst year students do the equivalent of
three courses, including the two half-courses
Social Anthropology 1A and 1B. They select two
other courses in consultation with their Personal
Tutor from the wide range available in social
sciences (e.g. politics, social policy, sociology,
geography, psychology), the humanities (various
history courses, languages, philosophy etc.),
religious studies, music and law.
Second year students do study Social
Anthropology 2 and Ethnography: Theory and
Practice. They also choose a further outside
course, usually a continuation of another frst
year subject (e.g. Psychology 2), although there
are courses available only at second year level
(e.g. South Asian Studies 2, Technology and
Society 2), which can be substituted. In frst and
second year there are also short fundamentals
courses providing students with various learning
skills for social anthropologists: Studying
Anthropology and Reading & Writing
Anthropology in the frst year and
Anthropological Practice and Ethnographic
Theory in the second year.
In the third and fourth years (Junior and Senior
Honours) students concentrate on Social
Anthropology, or, in the case of those doing
combined and with degrees, on Social
Anthropology and their other main subject. The
single honours curriculum requires students to
study ten courses over two years (six in third
year and four in fourth year), as well as writing a
dissertation in fourth year. The courses include
four compulsory core courses in third year:
Kinship: Structure & Process; Ritual and Religion;
Consumption, Exchange and Technology; and
Anthropological Theory. There are also two
compulsory core courses in fourth year: Belief,
Thought & Language and Culture and Power.
Social Anthropology
The University of Edinburgh
College of Humanities and Social Science
April 2014
What is Social Anthropology?
Social anthropology is the comparative study of human conduct and
thought in their social contexts. It is normal for human beings to be
interested in the diverse opinions and activities of others, around
the world and on their own doorsteps. In this respect,
anthropologists differ only to the extent that they pursue such
interests in disciplined and systematic ways. Societies around the
world vary enormously in their social, cultural and political forms,
and their individual members display an initially overwhelming
diversity of ideas and behaviour. The study of these variations and
the common humanity, which underlies them and renders them
intelligible to sympathetic outsiders, lies at the heart of social
anthropology. Consequently, while the subject matter overlaps to
some extent with that of sociology, human geography, and
development studies, social anthropology is also closely linked to
history and philosophy.
Degrees in Humanities and Social Science Degree in Science and Engineering
MA Honours in:
Social Anthropology
Social Anthropology and Politics
Social Anthropology and Social Policy
Social Anthropology with Development
Social Anthropology with Social History
Social Anthropology with South Asian Studies
Arabic and Social Anthropology
Archaeology and Social Anthropology
Linguistics and Social Anthropology
Persian and Social Anthropology
Sociology and Social Anthropology
LLB Honours in:
Law and Social Anthropology
MA Honours in:
Geography and Social Anthropology
The remaining courses are chosen from a range
of options which vary from year to year. These
options include Regional Analysis courses (e.g.
on Eastern or Southern Africa, South or
Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South
America). Other options cover a wide range of
specifc topics including Anthropology of
Development; Magic, Science and Healing;
Anthropology of Happiness; Anthropology of
Violence; The Invention of History; and Human
Origins and the Genesis of Symbolic Thought.
Combined honours and with degree students
take fewer core and optional courses in Social
Anthropology, flling out their curricula with
courses from the other subject areas concerned.
Students receive research training during their
third year, and are assigned academic
supervisors to advise them on conducting their
research project and on writing the resulting
15,000-word dissertation, which is submitted
during the fourth year. This dissertation forms a
substantial part of the fnal degree assessment.
What sort of teaching and
assessment methods are used?
In the frst two years, teaching is principally by
lectures (two per week), weekly small group
tutorials, and use of video material. Assessment
is by a combination of course work, including
project work, and a formal examination in the
summer. In the third and fourth years teaching
is done through a mixture of lectures, student
presentations, participatory activities of various
kinds, and small group discussions. Core courses
are assessed by examinations at the end of each
year, and optional courses through written
essays and other course work. There are usually
about 40-50 honours students in each year, but
in frst and second year the class sizes may be as
large as 350 and 120 respectively, because
Social Anthropology is a popular outside subject
chosen by many students studying for other
What can I do after my degree?
Graduates in Social Anthropology from
Edinburgh will have acquired wide-ranging
knowledge and understanding about the
contemporary world and above all the ability
to make sympathetic sense of the global
diversity of social and cultural institutions,
processes and ideas. They will have also
developed considerable skill in talking and
writing about such issues in a range of contexts
and formats.
They are therefore directly equipped to follow
a wide range of careers, including work in
international development agencies, journalism
and the media, museums, multi-cultural
education, and applied or academic social
research. Many prospective employers are of
course interested more in the class of degree
obtained, and the intellectual skills acquired,
rather than the specifc subject studied, and on
that basis Social Anthropology graduates have
gone on to do many other kinds of work too.
What sort of postgraduate courses
are available?
MSc/Diploma: This intensive conversion course
is designed for graduates with frst degrees in
other subjects who wish to study social
anthropology, either to supplement their
existing professional skills or to prepare
themselves for research in social anthropology.
Diploma students undertake a programme of
taught courses, seminars, and supervised
reading, and are assessed through essays and
written examinations. The normal period of
study is 9 months (full-time) or 21 months
(part-time). The MSc course runs in conjunction
with the Diploma but is examined to a higher
standard, and students are also required to
produce a dissertation during the following
summer. The normal period of study is 1 year
(full-time) or 2 years (part-time).
MSc/Diploma in Medical Anthropology:
This programme is intended to provide students
with the tools to develop an advanced
understanding of health, illness, and medicine
in different social and cultural settings. The MSc
explores both traditional healing and modern
medical technologies, and how they address
both old ills and the new health problems
associated with rapid social change. It creates a
platform for critical uses of anthropological
ideas and methods in contemporary health
related issues, and explores the social, cultural,
and political dynamics of health, illness and
healing in a global perspective.
MSc/Diploma (by Research): These research
training programmes may be taken as
freestanding programmes in their own right,
or as the frst part of a PhD programme. All
candidates must complete a programme of
research training and candidates for the MSc
must also submit a dissertation on an approved
topic. The normal periods of study are 9 months
(full-time) or 21 months (part-time) for the
Diploma, and 1 year (full-time) or 2 years
(part-time) for the MSc.
MSc International Development: A selection
of MSc programmes, some with a regional focus
(Africa/South Asia). For additional information
please refer to: www.ed.ac.uk/schools-
MPhil: This is a research degree undertaken
by graduates on any topic within social
anthropology, normally over a period of two
years (full-time) or between three and fve years
(part-time). Students produce a thesis which
must demonstrate an advanced level of
knowledge and understanding of their chosen
PhD: This is an advanced research degree.
Students carry out original research under
appropriate supervision, and the resulting
thesis, usually based on feldwork, is expected
to make a signifcant contribution to knowledge
on a clearly defned topic. The normal period of
full-time study for the PhD is three years and the
maximum is fve years; for part-time students
the corresponding periods are four years and six
years, respectively.
How do I fnd out more?
You will fnd our most up to date entry
requirements at: www.ed.ac.uk/studying/
This sheet is part of a series designed to
accompany the Universitys Undergraduate
Prospectus and you should read it in
conjunction with that. If you would like further
information about the subject, contact us at:
Social Anthropology
School of Social and Political Science
Chrystal Macmillan Building
15a George Square
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, EH8 9LD
Email: uto.sps@ed.ac.uk
Web: www.san.ed.ac.uk
A degree in Social Anthropology with Development has offered a diverse and dynamic
insight into the cultural construction of different societies and the needs, values and
beliefs of different peoples and groups. I was attracted to this course by the wide variety
of subjects available and the opportunity for independent ethnographic research. This has
not only allowed me to develop skills in qualitative and culturally-sensitive research, but
has also inspired me to pursue my interests through further academic study
Rebecca Walker,
MA (Hons) Social Anthropology with Development graduate
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and must be read in conjunction with the Terms and Conditions of Admission set out in the Undergraduate Prospectus. Printed on recycled paper for Student Recruitment and Admissions
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