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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Medical Anthropology and Intensive Language

Duration: 2 years full time, 4 years part time


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

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?:

• Intercalating medical students, or students intending to pursue a medical degree.  
• Students with a degree in the social sciences or humanities wishing to acquire a broad understanding of medical anthropology with reference to Asia or Africa, but also including other parts of the world
• People with professional experience in medical practice who have an interest in cross-cultural understandings of health and illness.  
• Students with a degree in social anthropology wishing to pursue more specialist topics in the anthropology of medicine.  
• Students without a previous degree in Anthropology looking for an MA conversion degree to serve as a qualification for pursuing a further research degree in anthropology
• The two-year intensive language pathway is directed at students who want to engage with a country in a professional as well as academic way, as the intensive language courses will enable them to reach a near proficient knowledge of the language.

As one might expect of study at SOAS, our programme is unique in that we take a cultural and phenomenological approach to the anthropology of medicine.  That is, we stress a truly cross-cultural method, one which unites all medical systems in a unified comparative perspective.  This allows students to grasp the underlying principles and questions common to all therapeutic systems.  Given the diversity of the School’s courses, students may choose options which strengthen either the humanities or the development studies aspects of their interests.  

It can also be taken with an intensive language pathway over two years, therefore making this programme unique in Europe.

The Japanese pathway is available for students who have an intermediate level of Japanese. Students will be required to take a placement exam in the week before classes begin in order to determine if their level is suitable. Please contact Professor Drew Gerstle (ag4@soas.ac.uk) for further information.

The Korean pathway is designed for beginner learners of Korean. Students with prior knowledge of Korean are advised to contact the programme convenor, Dr Anders Karlsson (ak49@soas.ac.uk). Students will take four course units in the Korean language, one of them at a Korean university during the summer after year 1.

The Arabic pathway is designed for beginner learners of Arabic. Students will take four units of Arabic, one of them at the Qasid Institute in Jordan or another partner institution during the summer after year 1.  Programme convenor: Dr Mustafa Shah (ms99@soas.ac.uk)


• Core course:  Cultural Understandings of Health - 15PANC093 (1.0 unit).•  
• Dissertation in Anthropology and Sociology - 15PANC999 (1.0 unit). This is a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic agreed with the Programme Convenor of the MA Medical Anthropology and the candidate’s supervisor.
• In addition, all MA Anthropology students 'audit' the course Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1 - this will not count towards your 4 units.
• Students without previous experience of anthropology must take the foundation course, Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology - 15PANC008 (1.0 unit).
• Option Courses - Group A and Group B:
• Students then choose TWO 0.5 unit courses from the Group A and B lists.  
• AT LEAST ONE of the two 0.5 unit courses normally must come from Group A
• Students not taking Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology may then select their fourth unit (either a single 1.0 unit course or two 0.5 unit courses) from the Option Courses list.
• Alternatively, one language course may be taken from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures
• In the two-year language pathway, students take 2 intensive language units and Cultural Understandings of Health (1 unit) in their first year.  During the summer, they will participate in a summer school abroad (location dependant on language).  Upon their return, they will take one intensive language unit in their second year and two optional  anthropology units.  In the intensive-language pathway, the same rules apply as for the usual MA.

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

Yes (summer)

Teaching & Learning

Aims and Outcomes

  • All students are introduced to the types of problem and areas of questioning which are fundamental to the anthropology of medicine.
  • Students new to the discipline are given knowledge of the general principles of anthropological enquiry
  • All students develop advanced knowledge and understanding of the theoretical approaches which help form an anthropological perspective.
  • All students gain an understanding of the practical methods by which this perspective is applied in field research.  
  • All students will be provided with a near proficient ability in a language.


• Students will be familiar with the foundational literature on the basis of which medical anthropology is linked to and emerges from broader disciplinary concerns.
• Students will have knowledge of the intersections linking medical anthropology to related fields, such as social studies of science, studies in bioethics, and critical approaches to public health
• Students will be familiar with the numerous ethnographic studies of health and illness.  

Intellectual (thinking) skills
• Students will learn to deploy an ethnographic kind of questioning – one directed toward teasing out of complex situations the sets of particular norms or principles which condition or shape them.
• As anthropologists, they will be trained to look for the specifically social in everything (even & especially in the “natural”)
• Students will learn how to form an anthropological problem – that is to distinguish an anthropological problem from a mere topic or area of interest.

Subject-based practical skills
• Personal drive: Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning
• Students will develop research skills: including location and adjustment to differing types of library collection, as well as locating organizations and people who hold significant information
• Listening & understanding: Students will be able to assimilate complex arguments quickly on the basis of listening – and to discuss or disagree constructively with points made by others.  
• Planning and problem solving: students will be able to set targets and achieve them, and will be able to work well to deadlines.
• Working in a group: students will learn to lead by contributing to the development of consensus.  
• In the two year intensive language pathway, to acquire/develop skills in a  language to Effective Operational Proficiency level, i.e., being able to  communicate in written and spoken medium in a contemporary language.

Transferable skills
• Students will develop an ability to begin from a general question or issue and develop an appropriate research model and method.
• Ability to clearly represent a concise understanding of a project/problem and its solution.
• An ability to recognize and appreciate for what it is an unconventional approach or an unfamiliar idea  
• An ability creatively to resolve conflict while working in a team; being able to see the other person’s point of view
• An ability to work and feel at ease in multicultural or cross cultural environments.

How to apply

How to apply


Felix Non- Indian Scholarship

Application Deadline: 2021-01-29 00:00

Felix Scholarships

Application Deadline: 2021-02-15 00:00

International Postgraduate Scholarship – East Asia

Application Deadline: 2021-05-31 00:00

International Postgraduate Scholarship – Europe

Application Deadline: 2021-05-31 00:00

International Postgraduate Scholarship – India

Application Deadline: 2021-05-31 00:00

International Postgraduate Scholarship – Pakistan

Application Deadline: 2021-05-31 00:00

Sasakawa Postgraduate Studentship

Application Deadline: 2021-03-08 00:00

Tibawi Trust Award

Application Deadline: 2020-06-05 15:00

For further information visit the Scholarships section