SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Comparative Studies of Society and Culture

Module Code:
Module Withdrawn
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2

This module, the core course for the MA Social Anthropology, is intensively concerned with the application of theory to particular ethnographic instances and ethnographic problems. 

The first term deals with problems that have been considered specific to anthropology. Its aim is to introduce the idea of comparison as a mode of enquiry in social anthropology, to question the assumptions and limits of such enquiry, and to illustrate empirically some of the particular problems which have been the focus of comparison. Among the topics covered are: 

  • time, 
  • history, 
  • incest, 
  • kinship, 
  • the person, 
  • ethnicity and identity, 
  • the anthropology of the state.

The second term's course is designed to introduce macro-level approaches to history, sociology and anthropology. Attention is devoted to comparison in anthropology, colonialism and postcolonialism, issues of ethnographic writing, globalization, syncretism and world religions, identity, consumption and material culture. The second half of the course expands upon themes and issues in the first term and complements theoretical issues covered in Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology. On the one hand it considers the contemporary relevance and developments in the study of long standing anthropological concerns such as shamanism and ritual. On the other hand it also covers ethnographic approaches to contemporary social practices, such as consumption and mass communication, associated with a technologically changing, post-colonial world.

This course is specifically designed for students taking MA Social Anthropology and is normally compulsory.


This course is for students enrolled on the MA Social Anthropology and is also offered on the MA Anthropological Research Methods.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  • a grasp of key debates in social and cultural anthropology;
  • the ability to reflect in a critical and informed manner on the role of comparison in the social sciences and humanities, and particularly in anthropology;
  • a critical understanding of the relationship between ethnography and theory in the construction of anthropological knowledge.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules