Students who wish to conduct doctoral-level research in Nepal, or in preparation for professional employment in e.g. a government agency or international NGO.
This is the only Masters-level programme offered anywhere in the world that provides students who intend to proceed to conduct anthropological research (broadly defined) in Nepal with the necessary skills (disciplinary, linguistic, methodological).
What will this programme give the student an opportunity to achieve?
- The ability to read, write, speak and understand Nepali to a level suitable for field research in Nepal - A grounding in the scholarly literature on Nepali history, society and culture - Expertise in anthropological theory and practice that will provide a basis for research in a Nepali context
- Year 1 Students take a 1.0 unit Nepali language course (either Nepali Language 1 or Nepali Language 2); 1.0 unit Culture and Conflict in the Himalaya; 1.0 unit Theoretical Approaches in Social Anthropology (or other anthropology options, chosen in consultation with programme convenor, for students with equivalent anthropology training); 0.5 unit Media Production Skills; and 0.5 units of anthropology options.
- Summer break between years 1 and 2 Two weeks of intensive Nepali language tuition at SOAS after the June exams, followed by two months in Kathmandu, attached to the Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities and the Bishwo Bhasa Campus of Tribhuvan University. At the end of the summer students will be required to submit a 5000-word preliminary fieldwork report and research proposal, accompanied by a 500-word abstract written in Nepali.
- Year 2 Students take the following courses: 1.5 unit Nepali for researchers; 1.0 unit Anthropological Research Methods (0.5 units Ethnographic Research Methods in term 1 and 0.5 units in Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Social Research in term 2). They also attend the compulsory weekly MPhil Research Training Seminar in anthropology and write a 15,000 word MA Dissertation.
Language courses will be assessed though a mixture of written papers and oral examinations.
Non-language courses will be assessed on the basis of coursework essays and written papers.
What methods will be used to achieve the learning outcomes?
Knowledge: 1. How to assess data and evidence critically from manuscripts and digital sources, solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations, locate materials, use research sources (particularly research library catalogues) and other relevant traditional sources.
2. The Research Methods course focuses on teaching the various research methods associated with anthropological fieldwork including: participant observation, historical research, qualitative interviewing, quantitative data collection, Rapid Participatory Assessment, how to design questionnaires and, especially, on how to formulate a research question and design a project and consider the ethical issues involved. The Statistics courseworks on how to compile statistics, and how to critically assess statistics.
3. The Research Training course, which is assessed by the Masters dissertation, works on students’ writing skills with an emphasis on thinking of the history of the discipline, writing to schedule, writing to requested word count, how to formulate a research question based on the material gathered, as well as how to do a presentation, how to comment on presentations and how to apply for funding. Term three looks at the strategies for working on the Masters’ dissertation and how to be upgraded at the start of the MPhil year.
4. A good grounding in the sociocultural and political history of and contemporary sociocultural and political issues in Nepal, and familiarity with the scholarly literature on these topics.
5. Proficiency in spoken and written Nepali sufficient for the purposes of anthropological field research: ability to conduct conversations and interviews, and read and synthesise information from Nepali written sources.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
1. Students should become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents can and cannot tell us.
2. Students should question interpretations, however authoritative, and reassess evidence for themselves. They should be able to design a research project, set a timetable, understand the principles of fieldwork, and consider questions of ethics.
3. Students should learn to read each others’ work for both its strengths and weaknesses, develop their skills as public speakers, learn how to compose short abstracts of their project (for funding), be able to think critically and yet be open to being critiqued themselves.
Subject-based practical skills
The programme aims to help students with the following practical skills:
1. Communicate effectively in writing, in both English and (at a less advanced level) Nepali 2. Retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources in both English and Nepali. 3. Present seminar papers. 4. Listen to and discuss ideas introduced during seminars. 5. Practice research techniques in a variety of specialized research libraries and institutes. 6. Be prepared to do fieldwork for an anthropology PhD.
The programme will encourage students to:
1. Write good essays and dissertations. 2. Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing. 3. Understand unconventional ideas. 4. Present (non–assessed) material orally. 5. Function as a student and researcher in a radically different environment. 6. Be able to apply for funding to do a PhD. 7. Be prepared to enter an Anthropology PhD programme and to be upgraded from MPhil to PhD in the shortest possible time.
Students who study MA Anthropological Research Methods and Nepali develop a wide range of transferable skills such as research, analysis, oral and written communication skills.
The communication skills of anthropologists transfer well to areas such as information and technology, the media and tourism. Other recent SOAS career choices have included commerce and banking, government service, the police and prison service, social services and health service administration. Opportunities for graduates with trained awareness of the socio-cultural norms of minority communities also arise in education, local government, libraries and museums.