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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Anthropology of Travel and Tourism

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

Programme Overview

The SOAS MA Anthropology of Travel and Tourism enables students to pursue specialist interests in global voluntary mobility while gaining advanced training in social and cultural anthropology in a world-leading department. Combining a rigorous set of core courses with options to suit each student’s unique interests, the programme is designed to accommodate students with or without a prior degree in Social Anthropology. 
Students will develop expertise in anthropological theory and practice; learn to undertake ethnographic research; and gain comprehensive grounding in the anthropological study of travel and tourism, including issues of development, political economy, cultural change, heritage, cross-cultural encounter, representation and meaning, space and place, commodification, and interconnections between diverse histories and cultures of travel worldwide.

We approach tourism not only as a culturally and historically shaped form of travel, but as a complex social field that spans the globe, comprised of diverse actors, institutions, activities, and modes of interaction that overlap with and cross-cross other forms of global interconnection. As a whole, leisure travel comprises the world's largest industry and the single greatest peacetime factor moving people around the world. Both a manifestation and a medium of globalisation, it has profound significance in multiple realms of human life—economic, environmental, material, social, and cultural. This makes it an ideal lens through which to explore core themes in contemporary social anthropology, such as locality, identity and alterity, political economy, development, heritage, representation, imagination, commodification, and the global circulation of people, objects, ideas, images, and capital. 
The only MA programme of its kind in Europe, it draws upon:
  • the emerging body of theoretically sophisticated, ethnographically rich work involving tourism and travel;
  • a thorough grounding in the history and contemporary theoretical trends of social-cultural anthropology;
  • close engagement with noted and rising scholars in the field, via the programme's Seminar Series in the Anthropology of Tourism and Travel and guest lectures in the MA's core course, as well as numerous 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 at SOAS, 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 the School, the University of London, and the city of London itself—a global tourist destination inviting study on a daily basis.

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. 

Email: nl15@soas.ac.uk


Programme Structure

The SOAS MA in the Anthropology of Travel and Tourism 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.

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. Contact the Director of Studies for a list of currently preapproved options.
  • 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 biweekly 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.


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 learning environments making up the MA programme in Anthropology of Travel and Tourism run the gamut from lecture halls to intimate seminar rooms, suiting a wide range of learning styles. Study a language; take a course (or two) in anthropology of human rights, development, globalisation, religion, or gender, among many others; choose a course in another department that catches your interest and contributes to your dissertation plans, from world music to development studies.

The academic staff in the Department of Anthropology are dynamic, experienced teachers who are widely recognised for their expertise and enjoy working directly with students. Renowned scholars from other institutions also come to share their knowledge: nearly every day of the week, the SOAS Anthropology Department has a public lecture series running, including series in the Anthropology of Food, Social Anthropology of Development, Migration and Diaspora Studies, and, of course, Anthropology of Tourism and Travel. 

In addition to these formal settings for learning, our students also learn from one another. Hailing from around the globe and bringing diverse life experiences to bear on their studies, all MA students in the Department of Anthropology can take courses together, making it a rich environment for intellectual exchange. Students also benefit from campus-wide programmes, clubs, study groups, and performances.

Many students in the MA Anthropology of Travel and Tourism opt for hands-on learning via the half-unit Directed Practical Study in Anthropology of Tourism course, with placements in leading UK-based NGOs like Equality in Tourism and Tourism Concern, among others.


In addition to their topical expertise, students who complete the MA Anthropology of Travel and Tourism develop a wide range of transferable skills including research, analysis, and oral and written communication.

Graduate careers include continuing on to a research degree (PhD) and/or pursuing consultancy work in tourism planning, policy, and research; employment in non-governmental organizations, museums, governmental service, and environmental and cultural preservation projects; and entrepreneurship in alternative tourism enterprises, among many other options.

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

A Student's Perspective

I was nervous about the prospect of getting back into higher education. But staff and students alike have made the transition a really easy process for me; SOAS feels like home, after only 4 months of study here.

Mia Barrow-Sullivan