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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.


Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

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

  1. study aspects of medieval travel, pilgrimage, and hospitality – including evidence from the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Japanese, and Christian worlds;
  2. contrast these with idioms of tourism today;
  3. identify the main anthropological/ theoretical issues underpinning the field;
  4. understand the global and local political economy of contemporary tourism;
  5. outline the range of applied/consultancy work in the field by anthropologists  - particularly in the field of tourism and development;
  6. explore the relationships between tourism related space/place, capital, and (environmental, social, cultural) resistance movements;
  7. look in detail at the symbolism and semiotics of tourism;
  8. examine the role of museums and other branches of the ‘cultural industries’ (including music and art) in tourist economies;
  9. make a contribution to the anthropology of aesthetics, erotics, and pleasure more generally;
  10. appreciate how the study of tourism relates to studies of other forms of global mobility.

The teaching programme includes contributions from noted scholars in the field from Europe and beyond, including Universities in Crete, Slovenia, and Melbourne, as well as from pre- and post-doctoral colleagues at SOAS. 

It builds on: 

  • the emerging body of first class tourism related ethnographic work, 
  • recent research/ development work in the field (particularly in the Mediterranean region) by anthropologists sponsored by the European Commission, 
  • and co-operative work between the SOAS Anthropology and Music departments. 

The course includes an (optional) field school - to be held in Vietnam in 2012.

Email: nl15@soas.ac.uk


Course Detail

A total of four units must be taken over the duration of the degree.  They will be:

Two compulsory half-unit core courses
One full unit dissertation
Two units of option courses from the following lists
Department of Anthropology
Department of Music

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

The course aims to (a) place the anthropological study of travel, tourism, and pilgrimage within in a general anthropological context (b) explore the historical roots of contemporary pilgrimage and tourism  (c) identify some of the classical issues in social theory that have influenced the development of the subject and assess what contribution tourism studies are making to contemporary theoretical debates (d) establish the primacy in the anthropology of travel, tourism, and pilgrimage of good ethnography and to enable students to compose a field research project with tourism as a dominant theme (e) ground the course in awareness of the global political economy of travel, tourism, and pilgrimage (f) draw out the policy implications of the subject  and critically to evaluate the work of those who have ‘intervened’ (as consultants and advisors to governments and/or international agencies, for example) in tourism strategy or policy (g) call upon the work of others such as cultural geographers, historians, and development studies specialists and/but to draw out the distinctions between the work of such colleagues and that of anthropologists.(h) develop understanding of contemporary consumerism and commodification in with regard to contemporary tourist related spaces and places.


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

The communication skills of anthropologists transfer well to areas such as information and technology, the media and tourism. Other recent SOAS career choices have included commerce and banking, government service, the police and prison service, social services and health service administration. Opportunities for graduates with trained awareness of the socio-cultural norms of minority communities also arise in education, local government, libraries and museums.

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

A Student's Perspective

You will establish and hone key analytical skills, amass a broad and in-depth knowledge of your chosen field and, from day one, befriend students from around the globe.

David Whittaker