The Anthropology of Childhood, Youth and Education MSc was the first degree of its kind in the world when it was established and is still unique in its thoroughgoing anthropological perspective on what it is to be a child or to be young.
Its key organising principle is that understanding children requires the study of how their relations with others - peers, older and younger children, parents, teachers and other adults - inform their practices, identities and world views.
This course addresses the following issues from an anthropological perspective: Do children of ‘different cultures’ live ‘different worlds’? How does education impact upon children’s worlds and upon social and cultural practices more broadly? How do everyday processes of learning – both formal and informal - help to shape children’s ideas of and engagement with society at large? What is the role of schools in the transmission and acquisition of cultural values to children and youth? And why are adults’ ideas about childhood and youth so important for what children learn and aspire to become?
The distinctiveness of this degree derives from an anthropological approach that focuses on the importance of children’s and youth’s perspectives, and on the role that education (formal and informal) plays in children’s learning processes and in the transmission and acquisition of cultural knowledge.
Anthropology at Brunel is well-known for its focus on ethnographic fieldwork: as well as undertaking rigorous intellectual training, all our students are expected to get out of the library and undertake their own, original research – whether in the UK or overseas – and to present their findings in a dissertation. Students take this opportunity to travel to a wide variety of locations across the world – see “Special Features” for more details.
Attendance for lectures full-time: 2 days per week - for 24 weeks Attendance for lectures part-time: 1 day per week - for 24 weeks (in each of 2 years)
Through an examination of ethnographic cases from around the world (including the UK), you will learn about the different ways in which childhood and youth are understood and conceptualised.
You will explore the different educational forms and processes through which cultural knowledge is transmitted and acquired, and how culture impacts upon these processes.
The course is designed to show postgraduate students how anthropological approaches can be used to gain access to and understand children and young people's lived experience, their ideas about the world and themselves, and their relations with peers and adults. In so doing, it aims to provide a rigorous grounding in key anthropological ideas and research methods and to show how a comparative social analysis illuminates our understanding of ourselves and other people.
The MSc consists of both compulsory and optional modules, a typical selection can be found below. Modules can vary from year to year, but these offer a good idea of what we teach.
Compulsory Reading Module: Political and Economic Issues in Anthropology Compulsory Reading Module: Contemporary Anthropological Theory Ethnographic Research Methods 1 Ethnographic Research Methods 2 Dissertation in Childhood, Youth and Education The Anthropology of Childhood The Anthropology of Youth
Anthropology of the Body Anthropology of the Person Kinship, Sex and Gender Ethnicity, Identity and Culture Global Agendas on Young People, Rights and Participation* Foundation Disciplines of Education* Literature Policy and Analysis* International Development, Children and Youth
Year 1 compulsory modules:
Compulsory Reading Module: Political and Economic Issues in Anthropology Compulsory Reading Module: Contemporary Anthropological Theory The Anthropology of Childhood The Anthropology of Youth Anthropology of Education Anthropology of Learning
Year 2 compulsory modules:
Dissertation in Childhood, Youth and Education Ethnographic Research Methods 1 Ethnographic Research Methods 2 and optional modules
Our course team has worked in countries across the globe including South, West and East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, as well as Britain.
All our degrees (whether full- or part-time) combine intensive coursework, rigorous training in ethnographic research methods, and a period of fieldwork in the summer term (final summer term if part-time) leading to a 15,000 word dissertation.
Students are free to choose their own research topic and geographic area, in consultation with their academic supervisor. In all cases, the dissertation research project provides valuable experience and in many cases it leads to job contacts – forming a bridge to a future career or time out for career development.
In recent years, students have undertaken fieldwork in locations across the world, including India, Mexico, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, China, Nepal, Peru, Morocco, and New Zealand as well as within the UK and the rest of Europe.
Teaching and Assessment
You will be taught via a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials and film.
Assessment is variously by essay, practical assignments (e.g. analysis of a short field exercise), and a dissertation of approximately 15,000 words. This dissertation is based upon fieldwork undertaken by the candidate. There are no examinations.