[skip to content]

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Social Anthropology of Development

Duration: One calendar year (full-time) Two or three years (part-time, daytime only) We recommend that part-time students have between two and a half and three days free in the week to pursue their course of study. The expectation in the UK is of continuous study across the year, with break periods used to read and to prepare coursework.

Overview

Featured events

Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

This Anthropology MA provides an understanding of the ways in which anthropological approaches and debates inform the study of meanings and concepts in development, its priorities, policies and practice. It attracts students with diverse backgrounds and study/work experiences which makes for a lively and challenging atmosphere.

The degree is designed to provide students with a fairly detailed knowledge of anthropology, development issues, research methods and either an ethnographic region (and/or language) and/or thematic interest in health/gender/food/ media. Advice will be given to match the choice of optional components to the requirements, interests, and qualifications of individual students whose background may be in general social science, regional, language or other studies. While the focus of the degree is on development issues and practice, its disciplinary orientation remains anthropological.

Students explore the contribution of anthropology to contemporary development debates, for example, on donors/aid agencies and NGOs, poverty, migration and development, dominating discourses, human rights, violence and complex emergencies, refugees, gender, social capital and community action, health, climate change, the ‘market’ (as a core metaphor of globalised development), whether there are alternatives to the market, the role of business in development (corporate social responsibility and markets for the poor) and the importance of ethical, professional conduct by anthropologists. Anthropological studies provide the basis for understanding issues of state and governance in development, as well as the meaning of community development, and of popular ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’. Throughout the programme, the role of, and opportunities for anthropologists as professionals in development is discussed, in part through a dedicated series of seminars in term 2.

Note: (1) Students wishing to apply for ESRC funding to undertake a subsequent research degree must take the MA Anthropological Research Methods instead.

The programme consists of four elements: three assessed course units and a dissertation of 10,000 words.

The degree’s core course – ‘Anthropology of Development’ – provides an up-to-date and in-depth understanding of anthropological perspectives on policy and practice in contemporary international development, and gives a theoretical overview of the relationship between development and anthropology. The course examines the politics of aid, shifting aid frameworks, and concrete intervention programmes, bridging the disparate worlds of planners and beneficiaries. This involves close reading of anthropological monographs/studies which examine the nature of policy-making, bureaucracy and programmes in a variety of sectors – health, agriculture, water and others – while always paying close attention to the specific cultural contexts of intervention. Students should note that the course is continuously assessed which each term students are expected to write 1 book review, 1 essay and sit a 50 minute examination. This form of assessment has been found to be much fairer to overseas students whose first language is not English. While continuous assessment requires students to organize their studies efficiently from the very beginning of the year, we have found that a much higher proportion of our students graduate having achieved a distinction.

Students registered for another MA program in Anthropology are welcome to take the Anthropology of Development as a one-unit course as an option. However students registered in other departments, including Development Studies, who wish to take the Anthropology of Development as a one-unit course MUST write to the Director of Study for permission to take it.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme

The Commonwealth Shared Scholarship scheme has been extended to cover the MA Social Anthropology of Development.

Structure

Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

Overview

The programme consists of four units in total: three units of examined taught courses and a one unit dissertation of 10,000 words.

Core Courses:
Foundation Course:
Option Courses:
  • The remaining unit(s) of your programme can be selected from the Option Courses list below.
  • A total of either 1 unit of option courses (if taking Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology) or 2 units (if exempted from Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology), may be selected.
  • Your 1 or 2 total units may be made up of any combination of 0.5 or 1 unit option courses.
  • However, 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.
  • Alternatively, one language course may be taken from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures.

Detail

Core Courses
Foundation Course
Option Courses

Students select the equivalent of one full unit (i.e., two half-unit courses or one full-unit course) from the lists below. Students exempted from Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology take one additional unit of optional courses.

Courses taught outside the Department of Anthropology

These courses may be chosen subject to the approval of the course convenor. A language unit taken in the Faculty of Languages & Cultures may also be taken instead of the options below.

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Destinations

A postgraduate degree in the Social Anthropology of Development at SOAS develops students’ understanding of the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised with a particular focus on how anthropological approaches and debates inform the study of meanings and concepts in development, its priorities, policies and practice. Over the years the SOAS department has trained numerous leading anthropologists who have gone on to occupy lectureships and professorships throughout the world.  Equally, students gain skills during their degree that transfer well to areas such as information and technology, government service, the media and tourism.  

Postgraduate students leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek, including analytical and critical skills; ability to gather, assess and interpret data; high level of cultural awareness; and problem-solving.  A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

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

A Student's Perspective

More than anything, I like the radical spirit nurtured by the SOAS despite attacks on activists and the spirit of protest by all manner of socio-political and economic institutions. The faculty, in what and how they teach, enhanced the analytical tools I have to make myself a better person, trying to make what one of my favourite philosophers, Judith Butler, has called 'a more livable world.' Thank you SOAS. 

Shreya Ila Anasuya Sanghani