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The Department of Social Anthropology upholds the University of St Andrew’s commitment to world-class teaching and cutting edge research. Since its establishment in 1979, the department has championed innovative ethnographic and historical scholarship. It was founded as part of an initiative to develop social studies in the University with International Relations and Economic and Social History founded around the same time. That year Ladislav Holy was invited to St Andrews and appointed Reader in Social Anthropology. The following year he was joined by David Riches and was later elevated to a Professorship in 1987. Since 1992, Social Anthropology has been incorporated as a department within the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies. The School now comprises four academic departments:  Academic Music, Film Studies, Philosophy and Social Anthropology.

Regular research seminars, organised by the Department and its research centres, include invited speakers of international standing. These seminars, along with distinguished visiting professors who are appointed from time to time, enrich the exciting research environment of the Department.

A crucial element in fostering our international reputation is also an ongoing series of conferences, workshops and other events that consider important established or emerging theoretical issues within the discipline. The Ladislav Holy Memorial Trust, set up after his death in 1997, plays an important supportive role for some of these events. By means of small grants, the Trust also promotes student anthropological research and initiative, enabling students to organize conferences, conduct fieldwork and carry out archival research.

We are committed to facilitating and recognizing student excellence. Alongside our passion for the highest quality of research-led teaching, it awards a number of prizes annually to students in each year of their degree for their outstanding academic performances. Recognizing postgraduate excellence, the Trust administers the David Riches Medal, which is awarded for the best piece of postgraduate writing in any one year.