Programme Code: See May Be Combined With
Start of programme: September
Mode of Attendance: Full-time
The BA Social Anthropology Combined Honours Degree (4 years when combined with a Language) focuses largely on the study of the developing world, from remote communities to more recent urban development. We are curious about the world and innovative in our approach to finding new solutions to recurring problems. Studying the programme at SOAS is unique as it draws from our expertise in a plethora of humanities subjects including sociology, philosophy, linguistics, literature, and history. If you are interested in nurturing a better understanding of what it is to be human in the complex world in which we live, then this discipline is suited to you. Additionally, the nature of the Combined Honours degree enables you to develop a specialist niche for yourself by studying a second subject.
What subjects can you combine it with?
- 3 year combined degrees: African Studies, Bengali, Development Studies, Economics, Geography, Georgian, History, History of Art/Archaeology, Law, Linguistics, Music, Persian, Politics, Sinhalese, South Asian Studies, South East Asian Studies, Study of Religions, Tamil, Turkis.
- 3 or 4 year combined degrees: Burmese, Hindi, Indonesian, Nepali, Thai, Vietnamese
- 4 year combined degree: Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Hausa, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Swahili.
Why study Social Anthropology Combined Honours at SOAS?
- our Anthropology Department is among the most respected in the field of social and cultural anthropology in the UK
- draw on the exceptional regional expertise of our academics in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern languages and politics, many of whom joined us with a practical working knowledge of their disciplines
- our alumni and academics have an impact on the world outside of academia including within law, politics, media and the arts
- we are specialists in the delivery of languages. Your command of a language at SOAS will set you apart from graduates of other universities
- allows you to develop a specialist niche alongside your history degree by utilising the global expertise of one of our other departments
Apply now via UCAS or visit our upcoming Open Day.
Find out more about how to apply.
Find out more on our Anthropology and Sociology department page.
Key Information Set Data
Please see the Unistats data for the various combinations of this programme under the Combinations tab.
Introducing BA Social Anthropology and ...
Social Anthropology is a discipline that searches for a better understanding of what it is to be human in today’s complex world, not only in far-away places but also at home, relating local studies to nation societies, global media, international conflicts, and global social movements of ideas and of people. Dr Marloes Janson, Reader in West African Anthropology, outlines the importance of the joint degree programme in Social Anthropology at SOAS University of London.
What do the programmes involve?
Anthropology is a discipline that bridges the gap between the humanities and the social sciences. It draws on and is in conversation with religion and philosophy, history, cultural and media studies, and literature on the one side, and sociology and politics on the other.
A degree in Anthropology not only teaches you a body of specialist information, but also a wide range of skills, including analysing and problem solving; synthesising information from a variety of sources; and communicating with clarity and fluency both verbally and in writing.
What makes this programme popular?
All teachers on the programme are involved in conducting ethnographic field research in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and their diasporas. Our research interests are reflected in the modules we teach. What makes anthropology at SOAS special is that it offers regional expertise, along with a first-class grounding in contemporary anthropology and social theory.
Students have a great deal of scope to tailor their programmes of study according to their own interests, both by region and by thematic speciality. They may also choose to pursue a language through the SOAS Language Entitlement Programme. Languages normally available include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Korean, Persian, Swahili, Urdu, and others.
What qualities are you looking for in prospective students?
The programme appeals to a wide range of students with different interests and backgrounds, although one quality our students share is a curiosity for others peoples’ ways of life.
If you are interested in developing your intellectual and practical skills in combination with nurturing a better understanding of what it is to be human in the complex world in which we live, then this discipline is suited to you.
What facilities are available?
Our modules often tie into the SOAS regional or thematic centres for research, such as the Gender Studies Centre, the Food Centre, and the Migration and Diaspora Studies Centre.
The department hosts a weekly ethnographic film and seminar series, which is open to the public.
Complementing the SOAS Library, we have a dedicated departmental library, which is run by student volunteers and serves as a social student space for writing and research, as well as for informal meetings and exchange of ideas.
Can you recommend a book to read on anthropology?
For an accessible introduction to social anthropology, I recommend Thomas Eriksen, Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (Pluto Press, 2015).
I wrote an ethnography, entitled Islam, Youth, and Modernity in The Gambia: The Tablighi Jama’at (Cambridge University Press, 2014). The book examines the way Gambian youths have adopted this Islamic movement to carve out a space for themselves in Gambian society in the absence of alternative means of reaching social maturity and a fulfilling life. The book has been used by novelist Zadie Smith to provide some of the cultural underpinnings of her latest novel Swing Time, which is partly situated in The Gambia.
How does the programme prepare students for employment?
The programme develops students’ understanding of the world and how society is organised. It endows students with specialist understanding, as well as providing 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.
What do graduates do?
Students and scholars in Anthropology have an impact on the world outside of academia— on law and government, in the arts, and on public media.
With a degree in Social Anthropology you will have the skills required to work within international development agencies, information and technology, government service, teaching, work in the media and tourism, or any other profession where an understanding of the world, other peoples’ ways of life, and how society is organised is needed.
Students take 120 credits per year composed of core and optional modules.
All students are expected to take the core and compulsory modules.
In years one and two, students will take 60 credits in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and 60 credits in their second subject.
In year three, students are entitled to select up to 30 credits of open option modules. These modules are based in other departments within the School, either in another subject or a language option.
All students are expected to take the following core modules, totalled at 60 credits. The remaining 60 credits must be taken through their other subject.
All students are expected to take the following core module, worth 30 credits.
COMPULSORY ETHNOGRAPHY MODULES
Students must select two ethnography modules worth 15 credits each, totalled at 30 credits. The remaining 60 credits must be taken through their other subject.
All students must take at least 30 credits from the Year 3 Option List. Though not compulsory, the Contemporary Trends in the Study of Society module is recommended for two subject students.
60 credits can be selected from the Year 3 Options List OR from their second subject.
The remaining 30 credits can be selected from Year 3 Options List OR their second subject OR the Open Options Module List www.soas.ac.uk/open-options/ OR from the Language Open Options List, www.soas.ac.uk/language-open-options/
Year 3 Option Units List
Teaching & Learning
All full-time undergraduate programmes consist of 120 credits per year, in modules of 30 or 15 credits. They are taught over 10 or 20 weeks. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.
As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study (see Approaches to teaching and learning at SOAS). It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. In the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, most undergraduate modules have a one- or two-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar every week.
More information is on the page for each module.
The modules are taught by lectures and group discussions, the two often being taken by different teachers to provide a variety of angles on the subject. Students become active in class through their reading and essay-writing as well as their participation in discussion groups. Ethnographic studies of China, Japan, South East Asia, South Asia, the Near and Middle East, West Africa and East Africa are available.
Modules are typically taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials, usually one hour a week of each. Sometimes, one follows the other in a two-hour bloc. Sometimes, the tutorial is at a different time or on a different day than the lecture.
Tutorials are sessions in which students are expected to present reports and take a lead in discussions.
Depending on the size of the class, some intermediate and advanced level modules are less strictly divided between a formal lecture and a tutorial discussion, and instead, the topic is briefly introduced by the lecturer, followed by a seminar discussion. Advanced level modules, which are usually taught in one two-hour bloc, often take this format.
The Independent Study Project (ISP)
These can be taken by final-year students only. Like the Special Subject dissertation, its aim is to provide an opportunity for students to conduct original historical research on their own initiative, to engage in in-depth analysis of particular subjects and to use a range of primary historical sources. It too involves no formal classes and is assessed by a single 10,000-word dissertation (including notes but excluding bibliography).
SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.
Pre Entry Reading
- Balzani, Marzia and Niko Besnier, An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, Routledge, 2016
- Delaney, Carol, An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology, Blackwell, 2004
- Eriksen, Thomas H., Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, Pluto Press, 2015
- Herzfeld, Michael, Anthropology, Theoretical Practice in Culture and Society, Blackwell, 2001
- Kuklick, Henrika, A New History of Anthropology, Blackwell, 2008
- Kuper, Adam, Anthropology and Anthropologists, Routledge, 1996
- Monaghan, John, and Peter Just, Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000
- Moore, Henrietta L. (ed.), Anthropological Theory Today, Polity Press, 1999.J La Fontaine, What is Social Anthropology
- Edward Arnold, 1985 - An introduction explaining the scope, methods and aims of social anthropology and clears up some popular misconceptions, as well as providing a practical guide to available courses and the kinds of jobs open to a qualified anthropologist
- M Carrithers, Why humans have cultures: explaining anthropology and social diversity, OUP, 1992
- A Cheater, Social Anthropology: an alternative introduction, Routledge 1989, 2nd edition
- E R Leach, Social Anthropology, Fontana Masterguides (1976) - A personalised introduction, giving one anthropologist's view of his subject and leading the reader through theory; humanity and animality; kinship; debt; power relationships; marriage and alliances thus formed; cosmology
- I M Lewis, Social Anthropology in Perspective, Penguin 1976, 2nd edition - Clear introduction to modern social anthropology as a comparative study of the beliefs and customs of alien societies as well as those more familiar native communities. The underlying theme is the social setting and cultural expression of identity.
- D Pocock, Understanding Social Anthropology, Teach Yourself Series, Hodder and Stoughton, 1975 - This book introduces anthropology by promoting an awareness of the assumed notions that each one of us has about social values, and encouraging a consciousness and questioning of such values through the use of anthropological approaches and data.
- J Hendry, An Introduction to Social Anthropology: other people's worlds, Macmillan 1999 - A good general introduction with useful explanation of jargon and clarification of many of the subject's main themes.
A degree from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS will develop your understanding of the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised.
Skills gained include:
- methods of social anthropological investigation
- linguistic familiarity
- choosing to study a combined degree programme will increase the breadth of your knowledge, and will develop additional skills
- the ability to think laterally and employ critical reasoning
- analytical skills
- problem-solving skills
- the ability to formulate sound arguments
- ability to interpret and explain complex information clearly
Graduates go on to work in areas such as information and technology, government service, teaching or work in the media and tourism. Others are interested in specialising further through postgraduate studies.
Find out more about Anthropology Graduate Destinations.
Graduates have gone on to work for a range of NGOs, charitable and voluntary sector organisations including:
- The New York Times
- British Council
- Social Mobility Foundation
- IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)
- Action on Hearing Loss
- Hackney Migrant Centre
Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:
- Gender Violence Outreach Worker
- Film Editor
- Dance Therapist
- Web Developer
- Food Bank Organiser
- Project Officer
- School and College Relations Officer
- Junior Analyst
- Radio Production Assistant
A Student's Perspective
SOAS is a brilliant place to study social anthropology. The broad range of ethnic backgrounds means I can constantly be in touch with many of the issues and topics raised in my study.