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Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology is a constantly evolving, well-established discipline that asks the fundamental question of ‘what it is to be human’. It seeks to answer this by examining the diverse ways in which human beings establish and live social lives in the contemporary world.

Anthropology at St Andrews deals with a full variety of human contexts, and builds particular strengths in the study of societies of East and West Africa, the Pacific, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia. The Department has a distinctive orientation that combines interpretative, experiential, philosophical and historical research that is politically engaged, reflexive and critically aware.



Social Anthropology MA (Hons) 

Joint degree options

You can take Social Anthropology MA (Hons) with another subject as part of a joint degree or a "with" degree.



Anthropology, Art and Perception MRes
Social Anthropology MRes
Social Anthropology and Amerindian Studies MRes
Social Anthropology with Pacific Studies MRes


Please contact a supervisor in your research area to inquire about PhD opportunities.

Visit St Andrews

If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at an open day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.


Booking for our autumn visiting days will open in early September 2017.

  • Wednesday 27 September 2017
  • Wednesday 4 October 2017
  • Wednesday 18 October 2017
  • Wednesday 25 October 2017
  • Wednesday 1 November 2017



  • November 2017 - date to be confirmed.

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Social Anthropology research areas

There are a number of academic specialisations within Social Anthropology, backed up by field work conducted across the globe. The four main research areas are:

Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean studies

The Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CAS) conducts research in the history, languages and ethnography of South America and the Caribbean.

Linked with CAS is The St Andrews Latin American and Caribbean Network (LACNET) which is interested in all aspects of the literature, political economy, music, art, history, popular festivities as well as the constantly innovatory patterns of thought, imagination and ritual practice that continue to characterise Latin America and the Caribbean.

Research staff:

  • Dr Roddy Brett: the international, regional and national socio-political, legal and cultural factors determining and shaping armed conflict, war and authoritarian regimes, particularly within Latin America.
  • Professor Peter Gow: research on myth, history, kinship, aesthetics and the anthropology of art, particularly in the Amazonia.
  • Dr Mark Harris: ethnographic fieldwork with peasants of mixed ancestry (cabocios or ribeirinhos) in the Lower Amazon.
  • Dr Sabine Hyland: historical anthropology in the Andes; mission history; colonialism; writing systems; graphic pluralism; Andean ethnopoetics; Inka ethnohistory.
  • Professor Joanna Overing: egalitarianism and ‘individualism’ among the indigenous peoples of Amazonia.
  • Professor Tristan Platt: history, anthropology and language of the Andes through a comparative approach.
  • Dr Huon Wardle: ethnography and history of Jamaica and the West Indies; indigenisation; ethnogenesis.

Cosmopolitan studies

The Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies (CCS) explores the implications and the possibilities of cosmopolitanism, which is understood as encompassing: the complexity of global social and cultural settings; the experience of the individual citizen; and the openness of a just society.

Research staff:

  • Dr Paloma Gay y Blasco: cosmopolitanism and gender, sex, memory, narrative, Gypsies and urbanism.
  • Dr Stephanie Bunn: cosmopolitanism and material culture, the environment, architecture, space and learning.
  • Dr Mattia Fumanti: cosmopolitanism and youth cultures, popular and elite cultures, capitalism.
  • Dr Mark Harris: cosmopolitanism and identity, embodiment, imagination, epistemology, ecology and peasantry.
  • Dr Stavroula Pipyrou: cosmopolitanism and migration, memory, representation and power.
  • Professor Tristan Platt: cosmopolitanism and history, modernity, technology, peasantry and post-colonialism.
  • Professor Nigel Rapport: cosmopolitanism and liberalism, individuality, universalism, humanism and freedom.
  • Dr Adam Reed: cosmopolitanism and urbanism, imprisonment, media of representation and indigeneity.
  • Dr Huon Wardle: cosmopolitanism and modernity, urbanism, creolization, selfhood, adventure and imagination.

Pacific studies

The Centre for Pacific Studies (CPS) encourages the study of the Pacific and Melanesia regions. The group’s focus is on anthropological research including the region's historical variation, religions and languages; the politics of its states, cities, towns and villages; literature, art, public and domestic ritual; kinship and household organisation; and law.

Research staff:

  • Dr Tony Crook: fieldwork study with the Ankaiyakmin, Ningerum and Telefolmin peoples, focusing on knowledge-practices, gardening, ancestor cult ritual and the impacts of the Ok Tedi mine.
  • Dr Adam Reed: memory, forgetting, money, document culture, cigarette sociality, Christianity, youth and gang culture, disciplinary regimes, postcolonial institutions, nationhood, urban culture and new social forms in Melanesia.
  • Professor Christina Toren: all aspects of the lives of Fijian islanders – space and hierarchy, temporality, kinship and household organisation, money and the morality of exchange, and Fijian Christianity.

Minorities Research

Anthropologist Dr Stavroula Pipyrou has been central to setting-up a new research centre that spans six Schools in the University of St Andrews. The Centre for Minorities Research (CMR) is a unique initiative that will bring together interdisciplinary expertise from an outstanding pool of staff from across six Schools at the University of St Andrews. The focus of this timely Centre will be to explore the complexities – challenges and opportunities, continuities and discontinuities, unity and ruptures – of the  ‘everyday lives’ of minorities, both in Scotland and internationally.

Social Anthropology research centres

There are four research centres related to Social Anthropology at St Andrews:

Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CAS)
CAS conducts research in the history, languages and ethnography of South America and the Caribbean.

Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies (CCS)
Cosmopolitan Studies is an ontological project, endeavouring to define the human, its capacities and liabilities as universalities beyond differences of social, cultural and historical condition.

Centre for Pacific Studies (CPS)
The objective of the CPS is to encourage study of the Pacific and Melansia regions with an emphasis on anthropological research.

Social Anthropology research portal

Social Anthropology website

Careers for graduates in Social Anthropology

A degree in Social Anthropology is important for any career where knowledge of other cultures is vital, such as in overseas development or in community relations work in Britain. Students with degrees in Social Anthropology have also proceeded to a wide range of careers, including the diplomatic service, social work, law and business.

Any occupation that requires a sensitivity to different ways of life, or which demands the manipulation of theoretical ideas and detailed empirical data, benefits from the study of Social Anthropology.

Graduates have gained successful employment in areas such as:

  • teaching
  • wildlife conservation
  • international policy
  • journalism (BBC and The Independent)
  • marketing.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Funding opportunities

There is a range of funding opportunities at all levels of study.


The following Faculty of Arts scholarship provides financial assistance for students studying within the Faculty who are academically gifted but would otherwise struggle with the cost of studying at St Andrews.

Undergraduate scholarships

Postgraduate students

There are many potential scholarships and support schemes available to postgraduates.

Postgraduate taught scholarships

PhD students

Find out about funding for PhD research.

Funding for PhD students

Awards and accreditations

Social Anthropology at St Andrews was ranked top in Scotland and fourth in the UK by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2017 for teaching quality, student experience and graduate prospects. 



Department of Social Anthropology
University of St Andrews
71 North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2977

Social Anthropology website Social Anthropology research portal