SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

The research of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology has significant influence on policy, practice and public education, through multiple interactions - with international development agencies, NGO networks, museums and galleries, the UK asylum system and law-making, and with craft industries. These interactions have an impact not only in SOAS regions of specialism - Asia, Africa and the Middle East – but throughout the world. 

The Department’s reach is extend by the enduring relationships it has built through repeated engagement with key economic, cultural and diplomatic non-academic users as diverse as the World Bank, NGOs in India, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  

Bringing the world’s attention to the art of central Nigeria

Exhibits in 'Central Nigeria Unmasked'

Emeritus Professor Richard Fardon is one of the main authors of a 600 page catalogue accompanying the international exhibition entitled ‘Central Nigeria Unmasked’, producing the first comprehensive overview of the hitherto poorly understood arts of the region. Read more... 

Supporting research on parliaments in Myanmar and Ethiopia

Supporting Ethiopian scholars to publish Workshop, Mekelle University

The Parliaments4People (P4P) Grants scheme was set up to create interdisciplinary research opportunities and support research capacity development in Ethiopia and Myanmar by funding local scholars. This network of scholars initially sought to research the relationship between parliaments and people but has since widened its scope, engaging in advocacy around the mobilisation of global voices in academic, creative industry, and policy-making environments. Read more...

Reasserting the value of labour and craft

Fine woodwork instructor and trainees, Building Crafts College, London

Through his fieldwork with builder-craftspeople in Yemen and Mali and fine woodwork trainees in East London, Emeritus Professor Trevor Marchand has developed a profound understanding of the nature of apprenticeship and the importance of learning and preserving manual skills. Professor Marchand has worked with UK craftspeople, architects and educationalists to advocate for crafts as key elements of the creative industries, contributing not only to the nation’s economy, but to its social and cultural life. Read more...

Using ethnography as a tool for understanding parliaments and transforming working practices

The •	House of Commons Chamber. This image is subject to parliamentary copyright.

Since 1998, Professor Emma Crewe’s ethnographies of the Houses of Parliament have transformed not only our understanding of the institution and the many people and relationships that underpin it, but the study of parliaments more broadly. Having pioneered ethnographic approaches to studying parliament, Professor Crewe’s work has positioned parliament as an object of anthropological study, whilst challenging political scientists in Europe, South Asia and Eastern Africa to approach their work with an ethnographic lens. Read more...

Informing policy and practice in international development

Literacy class in West Bengal. Photo: Sudipto Das

Development aid policy and practice around the world has been informed by the research of David Mosse, Professor of Social Anthropology. His novel approach to questions of policy analysis and policy change has been widely influential on thinking among policy makers and practitioners, from the UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID) to the university sector in China and the World Bank. Read more...

2020-2021 Annual Departmental Review

Dolls being ritually disposed of in Heisei, Japan. Image by Fabio Gygi

This Annual Review is to share the creative and wonderful anthropological engagements colleagues and students have continued throughout the pandemic year – often in the oddly less visible online world. The format is intended to allow individual stories and voices to be told, when read together they show the tremendous collective effort that has gone into the department this year. Read more...