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MA Medical Anthropology and Intensive Language

Course Description

Who is this programme for?:

- Intercalating medical students, or students intending to pursue a medical degree.

- Students with a degree in the social sciences or humanities wishing to acquire a broad understanding of medical anthropology with reference to Asia or Africa, but also including other parts of the world

- People with professional experience in medical practice who have an interest in cross-cultural understandings of health and illness.

- Students with a degree in social anthropology wishing to pursue more specialist topics in the anthropology of medicine.

- Students without a previous degree in Anthropology looking for an MA conversion degree to serve as a qualification for pursuing a further research degree in anthropology

- The two-year intensive language pathway is directed at students who want to engage with a country in a professional as well as academic way, as the intensive language courses will enable them to reach a near proficient knowledge of the language.

As one might expect of study at SOAS, our programme is unique in that we take a cultural and phenomenological approach to the anthropology of medicine. That is, we stress a truly cross-cultural method, one which unites all medical systems in a unified comparative perspective. This allows students to grasp the underlying principles and questions common to all therapeutic systems. Given the diversity of the School’s courses, students may choose options which strengthen either the humanities or the development studies aspects of their interests.

It can also be taken with an intensive language pathway over two years, therefore making this programme unique in Europe.

The Japanese pathway is available for students who have an intermediate level of Japanese. Students will be required to take a placement exam in the week before classes begin in order to determine if their level is suitable. Please contact Professor Drew Gerstle () for further information.

The Korean pathway is designed for beginner learners of Korean. Students with prior knowledge of Korean are advised to contact the programme convenor, Dr Anders Karlsson (). Students will take four course units in the Korean language, one of them at a Korean university during the summer after year 1.

The Arabic pathway is designed for beginner learners of Arabic. Students will take four units of Arabic, one of them at the Qasid Institute in Jordan or another partner institution during the summer after year 1. Programme convenor: Dr Mustafa Shah ()

Visit the website http://www.soas.ac.uk/anthropology/programmes/ma-medical-anthropology-and-intensive-language/


- Core course: Cultural Understandings of Health - 15PANC093 (1.0 unit).

- Dissertation in Anthropology and Sociology - 15PANC999 (1.0 unit). This is a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic agreed with the Programme Convenor of the MA Medical Anthropology and the candidate’s supervisor.

- In addition, all MA Anthropology students 'audit' the course Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1 - this will not count towards your 4 units.

- Students without previous experience of anthropology must take the foundation course, Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology - 15PANC008 (1.0 unit).

Option Courses - Group A and Group B:

Students then choose TWO 0.5 unit courses from the Group A and B lists.

- AT LEAST ONE of the two 0.5 unit courses normally must come from Group A
- Students not taking Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology may then select their fourth unit (either a single 1.0 unit course or two 0.5 unit courses) from the Option Courses list.
- Alternatively, one language course may be taken from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures
- In the two-year language pathway, students take 2 intensive language units and Cultural Understandings of Health (1 unit) in their first year. During the summer, they will participate in a summer school abroad (location dependant on language). Upon their return, they will take one intensive language unit in their second year and two optional anthropology units. In the intensive-language pathway, the same rules apply as for the usual MA.

Programme Specification

MA Medical Anthropology and Intensive Language Programme Specification (pdf; 230kb) - http://www.soas.ac.uk/anthropology/programmes/ma-medical-anthropology-and-intensive-language/file93566.pdf

Teaching & Learning

Aims and Outcomes:
- All students are introduced to the types of problem and areas of questioning which are fundamental to the anthropology of medicine.

- Students new to the discipline are given knowledge of the general principles of anthropological enquiry

- All students develop advanced knowledge and understanding of the theoretical approaches which help form an anthropological perspective.

- All students gain an understanding of the practical methods by which this perspective is applied in field research.
All students will be provided with a near proficient ability in a language.


- Students will be familiar with the foundational literature on the basis of which medical anthropology is linked to and emerges from broader disciplinary concerns.

- Students will have knowledge of the intersections linking medical anthropology to related fields, such as social studies of science, studies in bioethics, and critical approaches to public health

- Students will be familiar with the numerous ethnographic studies of health and illness.

Intellectual (thinking) skills:

- Students will learn to deploy an ethnographic kind of questioning – one directed toward teasing out of complex situations the sets of particular norms or principles which condition or shape them.

- As anthropologists, they will be trained to look for the specifically social in everything (even & especially in the “natural”)

- Students will learn how to form an anthropological problem – that is to distinguish an anthropological problem from a mere topic or area of interest.

Subject-based practical skills:

- Personal drive: Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning

- Students will develop research skills: including location and adjustment to differing types of library collection, as well as locating organizations and people who hold significant information

- Listening & understanding: Students will be able to assimilate complex arguments quickly on the basis of listening – and to discuss or disagree constructively with points made by others.

- Planning and problem solving: students will be able to set targets and achieve them, and will be able to work well to deadlines.

- Working in a group: students will learn to lead by contributing to the development of consensus.

- In the two year intensive language pathway, to acquire/develop skills in a language to Effective Operational Proficiency level, i.e., being able to communicate in written and spoken medium in a contemporary language.

Transferable skills:

- Students will develop an ability to begin from a general question or issue and develop an appropriate research model and method.
- Ability to clearly represent a concise understanding of a project/problem and its solution.
- An ability to recognize and appreciate for what it is an unconventional approach or an unfamiliar idea
- An ability creatively to resolve conflict while working in a team; being able to see the other person’s point of view
- An ability to work and feel at ease in multicultural or cross cultural environments.

Find out how to apply here - http://www.soas.ac.uk/admissions/pg/howtoapply/

Visit the MA Medical Anthropology and Intensive Language page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

Student Profiles

Canon Collins Scholarships - No. of awards TBC

These scholarships are for Masters study in any subject field.
The application process normally opens in December and closes in February, for study commencing in September the following year. Please go to the Canon Collins website and click "Apply for A Scholarship" and then "Canon Collins Scholarship for Masters Study in the UK" for further information on how to apply.

Value of Scholarship(s)

See website


Country/Nationality: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Application Procedure

See the website

Further Information



SOAS Master's Scholarships - Faculty of Arts & Humanities - 5 Awards

There are five SOAS Master's scholarships available in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities (Department of Anthropology and Sociology - 1 scholarship, History - 1 scholarship, History of Arts&Archaeology/Music & Media - 2 scholarships, Religions and Philosophies - 1 scholarship). Each scholarship is valued at £16,765 in total. Fees will be deducted from this amount and the remainder will be used toward maintenance. Candidate Assessment
- Candidates will be assessed on academic merit by an Advisory Panel consisting of at least three academic members of the Faculty. - The assessment of your application will be based on the information in your scholarship application. Selectors will be looking at the degree results and also at academic references, statements and other relevant information.Scholarship Application Deadline
- Scholarship applications must be received no later than 17:00 (UK local time) on 24 February 2016.- In order to be considered for this scholarship, you must ALSO submit a complete online application to the degree programme as soon as possible and then submit an application for the scholarship. Applicants applying for scholarships must also submit an application for admission well in advance. Please note that complete applications for admission can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of year. You should prepare to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods. - Late or incomplete applications will not be considered

Value of Scholarship(s)



- Applicants must possess or expect to be awarded a First Class Honours Degree or equivalent. Students with a non-UK degree to be adjudged in the top rank by their referees and transcript.
- This scholarship is open to UK/EU applicants only.
- Applicants must have an offer of admission to pursue one of the eligible full-time masters programmes at SOAS by the scholarship application deadline.
- The scholarship cannot be held along with any other major scholarship or studentship.

Application Procedure

You must apply for this scholarship via this on-line scholarship application form.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

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