SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Social Anthropology of Development (2019 entry)

Select year of entry: 2019

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


Our MA Social Anthropology of Development programme will provide you with an understanding in the ways which anthropological approaches and debates inform the study of meanings and concepts in development, its priorities, policies and practice.

It attracts students with diverse educational, employment and cultural backgrounds, and is ideal for those wishing to reflect on their experience in development and for those intending to work in international development.

Why study MA Social Anthropology of Development at SOAS

You will gain knowledge of anthropology, development issues, and research methods and can choose from a wide range of optional modules to deepen your understanding of an ethnographic region, language, and/or a thematic area such as gender, health, food, migration and the media. You may choose to focus on anthropology modules, or avail of the wide variety of optional modules offered across SOAS.  

While the focus of the degree is on development issues and practice, its disciplinary orientation remains firmly anthropological. Applying an anthropological perspective, students will examine how development policy and programmes produce economic and social changes that implicate the local practices, meanings and identities of communities and individuals.

Students explore the contribution of anthropology to contemporary development debates, for example, on donors/aid agencies and NGOs, poverty, migration and development, human rights, violence and complex emergencies, refugees, gender, participatory development, social capital and community action, health, climate change, the role of business in development (corporate social responsibility and markets for the poor) and the moral economy of development.

The degree emphasises anthropological critiques of development, and in particular how paradigms such as empowerment, participation and sustainable development shape the options of beneficiaries.

This programme has a first-rate graduate employability record, with graduates moving on to find employment in government, international aid institutions, non-governmental organisations, or social enterprises.

For more information email: 

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

Featured events

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.



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.

Programme Overview

The programme consists of 180 credits in total: 120 credits of modules and a dissertation of 10,000 words at 60 credits.

All students are expected to take the core and compulsory modules listed below, except for students with a previous Anthropology degree, who are not required to take the Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology module but may wish to select this as part of their 120 credits from the options lists.

All students must audit the compulsory module, Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1.  This will not count towards the 180 credits.  Students will be expected to attend only lectures and do not attend seminars or submit any assessments.  Students may choose to take this module (worth 15 credits) as part of their 120 credits from the option lists.

Students with a previous Anthropology degree are required to take 30 credits from the Anthropology and Sociology options.

All students can select the remaining credits from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology or relevant options from other departments or a language module.  See below for a detailed programme structure.

Programme Detail


Students must complete a Dissertation (10,000 words)

Module Code Credits Term
799A Dissertation (MA) in Anthropology 15PANC999 60 Full Year
For students WITHOUT previous Anthropology degree
Core Module
Compulsory Module
Module Code Credits Term
Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology 15PANC008 30 Full Year

All students must audit the compulsory module, Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1. This will not count towards the 180 credits.


Guided Option

Choose modules from the List of Anthropology & Sociology modules below to the value of 30 credits

Choose modules from the Postgraduate Open Options list to the value of 30 credits.
For students WITH previous Anthropology degree
Core Module
Compulsory Module

All students must audit the compulsory module, Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1. This will not count towards the 180 credits.

Guided Option

Choose modules from the List of Anthropology & Sociology modules below to the value of 60 credits


Choose modules from the Postgraduate Open Options list to the value of 30 credits.

List of Modules (subject to availability)
Anthropology and Sociology
Module Code Credits Term
Anthropology of Globalisation (PG) 15PANH061 15 Term 2
750B Ethnographic Locations: East Asia 15PANH062 15
Culture and Society of Japan 15PANH065 15 Term 1
750A Ethnographic Locations: Sub-Saharan Africa 15PANH063 15 Term 2
Culture and Society of South Asia 15PANH064 15 Term 2
Culture and Society of South East Asia 15PANH066 15 Term 1
750C Ethnographic Locations: Near and Middle East 15PANH067 15
Culture and Society of West Africa 15PANH068 15 Term 2
702 Ethnographic Research Methods 15PANH002 15
753 Mind, Culture and Psychiatry 15PANH032 15 Term 1
Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology 15PANC008 30 Full Year


Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

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 general Social Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, Migration and Diaspora Studies, and 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.


During the academic year, teaching is centred mainly around lectures and seminars. For the core module in the first term, there is a one hour thematic lecture, followed by a 1 hour tutorial. Lectures and seminars are often taken by different teachers to provide a variety of angles on the subject.  The majority of the student’s time will be through their own independent study. Students become more active in class through their reading and essay-writing and should greatly enhance their participation in discussion groups.

The Dissertation

All students will write a dissertation of 10,000 words on a topic of their choice, related to the anthropology of development and subject to the agreement of the Programme Convenor. The dissertation should show an appropriate command of anthropological theory and the relevant literature, as well as the capacity to apply this to the topic in question. Field-based research is not required, however, some students may choose to write dissertations based on fieldwork.

The Language Entitlement Programme 

While you may take a language module for credit, all SOAS MA students, regardless of department or degree, are also entitled to register for non-credit free courses in a single language through the Language Entitlement Programme (LEP). Languages normally available include Arabic, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu. Others may also be offered. 

Pre Entry Reading

  • Crewe E and Richard Axelby. 2013. Anthropology and Development: Culture, Morality and Politics in a Globalised World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Edelman M, Haugerud A, eds. 2005. The Anthropology of Development and Globalisation: From Classical Political Economy to Contemporary Neoliberalism. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Gardner, Katy and Lewis, David. 2015. Anthropology and Development: Challenges For The Twenty-First Century. London: Pluto Press
  • Mosse, D. ed. 2011. Adventures in Aidland: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development. London: Pluto Press
  • Olivier de Sardan, J.P. 2005 Anthropology and Development: Understanding Contemporary Social Change. London: Zed Books
Ethnographies of Aid and Development:
  • Green, M. 2014. The Development State. Aid, Culture and Civil Society in Tanzania. Oxford: James Currey
  • Gardner, Katy. 2012. The Gas Field: Discordant Development and the Politics of Survival in Bangladesh. London: Pluto Press
  • Gupta, Akhil. 2012. Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence and Poverty in India. Durham N.C. / London: Duke University Press
  • Hopgood Stephen. 2006. Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International. Ithaca: Cornell University Press
  • Li, Tanya. 2007. The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development and the Practice of Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.
    Mosse, D. 2005. Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. London: Pluto Press
  • Redfield, Peter. 2013. Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders. Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Shah, Alpa 2010. In the Shadows of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism and Insurgency in Jharkand, India. Durham: Duke University Press
  • Tsing, A. 2005. Friction. An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton: Princeton University Press


A Masters in Social Anthropology of Development helps you to understand the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised.

This programme will endow you with specialist understanding of producers, audiences, and other cultural and social aspects of mass media. 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 visit Graduate Destinations for this department.

Find out more