731 How to Change Things

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

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How to Change Things

This module is a practical guide for engaging research and ideas in real-world settings. ‘How to change things’ is focused on advocacy, communication and learning to see how organisations work and ideas gain traction. Students will learn how to present research to different audiences, including parliamentary lobbying, report writing and social media. How to effectively put complex research ideas into engaging words, graphics, presentations? How to ensure that ideas are fed to the right audiences?

The module encourages students to make a positive difference in the world, building on their educational experience at SOAS as a resource. Students will explore how anthropology can be used to positively influence opinion, ways of working, thinking and institutions. With a strong focus on skills training and professionalisation as communicators and influencers, the module demonstrates new ways in which higher education can be used to impact realms outside of the academy as we focus on communicating what has been learned on other modules in a SOAS degree.

Representative topics covered include:

  • The History of Anthropology in Action
  • Theories of Change, Advocacy and Action
  • Shaping Development
  • Political Communication
  • Structures of NGOs and Charities
  • Providing Evidence to Parliament
  • Lobbying and Persuading
  • Representing the Rights of Diasporas, Refugees, and Migrants
  • Organisational Anthropology
  • Film Making for Change
  • Social Media


Compulsory module for all students on:

  • MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability

Guided option for students on:

  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies
  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies + Intensive Language
  • MRes Social Anthropology
  • MRes Social Anthropology + Intensive Language

This module is also a School-wide Open Option. No prerequisites.

  • Note: May be taken in combination with either 729 Anthropology of Sustainbility or 730 Anthropology and Climate Change , but not both. Combination of all three open only to students on the MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability and the MRes Social Anthropology.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understand the history and theories behind anthropology as an agent of change.
  • Identify, analyse and engage with external institutions.
  • Communicate complex research-based ideas in a variety of media.
  • Evaluate their own practice and skills-development needs.
  • Understand a variety of methods and techniques through which anthropologists can make impact outside of the academy.

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Dave, Naisargi, N. 2012. Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics . Duke University Press.
  • Farmer, Paul. 2004. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor . Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Fassin, Didier (ed.) 2017. If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography . Duke University Press.
  • Green, Duncan. 2016. How Change Happens. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mosse, David. 2019. Can the experience of participatory development help think vritically about 'patient and public involvement' in UK healthcare? Sociological Research Online, 24(3): 444–461.
  • Ortner, Sherry. 2019. Practicing engaged anthropology. Anthropology of This Century 25
  • Pink, Sarah (et al) 2016. Digital Materialities: Design and Anthropology. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Price, David H. 2005. Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI's surveillance of Activist Anthropologists. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press.
  • Wright, Erik Olin. 2010. Envisioning Real Utopias. London: Verso.
  • - And the changing debate in the pages of Current Anthropology :
  • Hastrup, Kisten, Peter Elsass, Ralph Grillo, Per Mathiesen and Robert Paine. 1990. Anthropological advocacy: A contradiction in terms? Current Anthropology, 31(3): 301-311.
  • Lassiter, L.E. 2005. Collaborative ethnography and public anthropology. Current Anthropology, 46, (1) 83-106.
  • Low, Setha and Sally Engle Merry, eds. 2010. Engaged anthropology: Diversity and dilemmas [special supplement on engagement]. Current Anthropology 51.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules