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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage

Duration: 1 year full-time or 2-3 years part-time.


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Naomi Leite

Naomi Leite


Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

The Masters degree in the Anthropology Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage aims to:

  1. identify the main anthropological issues and theoretical concerns underpinning the field;
  2. study the interconnections between diverse histories and cultures of travel worldwide, including temporary migration, colonial exploration, pilgrimage, visiting relatives, imagined and remembered journeys, and tourism;
  3. understand the global and local political economy of contemporary tourism, particularly in relation to international development;
  4. explore relationships between the creation of touristic space/place, the international flow of capital, and resistance movements (environmental, social, cultural);
  5. look in detail at role of symbolism, semiotics, and the imagination in tourism;
  6. explore the dynamics of "heritage-making" enterprises, revival and preservation projects, and the commodification of culture and tradition;
  7. examine the role of museums and other branches of the "cultural industries" (including music, art, and food) in tourism economies;
  8. understand the implications of tourism as a major mechanism of cross-cultural interaction;
  9. outline the range of applied/consultancy work in the field by anthropologists, particularly in the field of tourism development and planning; and
  10. appreciate how the study of tourism relates to studies of other contemporary forms of global mobility.

It draws upon: 

  • the emerging body of theoretically sophisticated, ethnographically rich work involving tourism and travel, 
  • close engagement with noted and rising scholars in the field, via the programme's Anthropology of Tourism and Travel Seminar Series and guest lectures in the MA's core course, as well as structured opportunities for informal dialogue with visiting anthropologists and sociologists of tourism;
  • the unparalleled concentration of area expertise among SOAS' academic staff, covering Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, together with their diasporas;
  • the opportunity to engage with numerous other units in Faculty of Arts and Humanities, such as the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies, the Food Studies Centre, and the Centre for Media Studies, among many others; and
  • the vibrant intellectual and cultural life of SOAS, the University of London, and the city of London itself—a global tourist destination inviting study on a daily basis.

Email: nl15@soas.ac.uk


Programme Overview

The SOAS MA in the Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage is designed to offer students a chance to pursue specialist interests via a considered selection of courses to suit their individual needs. It provides:

  1. a broad-based MA programme for students with some background in issues of tourism/travel who wish to enhance their knowledge in light of contemporary anthropological research. 
  2. a special-interest MA which will enable students to study topics involving tourism/travel in-depth, in relation to a specific theoretical approach or region.

Prospective students are encouraged to contact the Director of Studies, Dr Naomi Leite, at an early stage of their application in order to seek advice on the most appropriate options for study. 

The programme consists of four units, comprised of a combination of full-year (1 unit) and half-year (.5 unit) courses.

Core Courses:
Foundation Course:
Option Courses:
  • Students choose their remaining unit (or two units if exempted from Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology) from the Options course list. 
  • A language course from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures may also be included. 
  • As each student's interests are unique, other relevant courses at SOAS may be selected under guidance from the Director of Studies and subject to approval.
  • Courses without a "15PANxxxx" course code are taught outside of the Anthropology Department. No more than 1 unit in total of these courses may be selected.
  • Your 1 or 2 total units may be made up of any combination of 0.5 or 1 unit option courses.
Evening Seminar Series:
  • The programme also includes the Seminar Series in the Anthropology of Tourism and Travel, with visiting speakers -- noted and rising scholars in the anthropology and sociology of tourism, many of them coming from outside the UK -- who present their current research and discuss it at length with the group.

Programme Structure

Compulsory Elements:
Foundation Course:
Option Courses:
Department of Anthropology
Courses in other departments

A wide range of courses can be approved for the degree on a case-by-case basis. All students should meet with the programme convenor before selecting courses.

Language Study

Students may choose to study any language offered at SOAS that is normally available to students taking one of the taught masters programs.

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

The MA curriculum prepares students to 

  1. place the anthropological study of tourism, travel, and pilgrimage within the context of anthropology as a whole; 
  2. explore the historical and cultural roots of contemporary tourism; 
  3. identify some of the classical issues in social theory that have influenced the development of the subject and assess what contribution it is making to contemporary theoretical debates in the discipline; 
  4. establish the centrality of ethnography in the anthropology of tourism and enable students to compose a field research project with tourism as a dominant theme; 
  5. foster awareness of the global political economy of tourism and travel; 
  6. draw out the policy implications of the subject and critically evaluate the work of anthropologists who have “intervened” (as consultants and advisors to governments and/or international agencies, for example) in tourism strategy or policy; 
  7. call upon work from such allied fields as cultural geography, history, and development studies, both to draw out methodological and theoretical distinctions between those fields and anthropology, and to understand how they overlap; and 
  8. develop an understanding of contemporary consumerism and commodification with regard to tourism-marketed peoples, places, and experiences.


Students who complete the MA in the Anthropology of Travel, Tourism and Pilgrimage develop a wide range of transferable skills, including research, analysis, and oral and written communication.

Graduate career choices include continuing on to a research degree and/or pursuing consultancy work in tourism planning, policy, and research; employment in museums, non-governmental organizations, governmental service, or environmental and cultural preservation projects; or entrepreneurship in alternative tourism enterprises.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

What has been the best thing about my time here? Everything. The course, the societies, the people. It’s sometimes hard to believe that it’s such a small university when you see how active all of the societies are. There’s always something to do, and the vibrancy and energy we have at SOAS both matches and is a testament to its prime location in London.

Darryl Chan