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Social Anthropology (Visual and Sensory Media Pathway) (MA/PGDip)

Course content

The general objective of this programme is to communicate an anthropologically-informed understanding of social life in both Western and non-Western societies. By confronting students with the remarkable diversity of human social and cultural experience, its aim is to encourage them to question taken-for-granted assumptions and to view the world from a new perspective.

Through a set of core modules, comprising about a third of coursework credits, students are provided with a comprehensive grounding in classical as well as contemporary debates in social anthropology and are introduced to the distinctive research methods and ethical positions associated with the discipline. Students then complete their coursework credits by choosing from a broad range of around 50 different modules offered around the Faculty of Humanities. Through these options, students apply the social anthropological theories and methods learnt on the core modules to particular substantive themes and topics. Diploma students complete their coursework in May and formally graduate in July. Over the summer vacation, MA students carry out research for a 15,000 word dissertation that is submitted in September. They then would normally expect to graduate formally in December.

Most of the coursework optional modules have been organized into pathways based on particular themes and topics. Go to the Study Details tab for more details on the Visual and Sensory Mediapathway. Pathways are designed to ensure both an academic and timetabling fit between the options. Students are encouraged, on the basis of past experience and/or future goals, to select a pathway shortly after registration in consultation with the programme director. MA students' dissertation topics will normally also relate to this pathway. In addition to the Visual and Sensory Media pathway, there are currently six others. 

Please note that it is not compulsory to select a pathway and all students will be awarded the same generic degree, MA in Social Anthropology

Teaching and learning

In each semester students take a small number of 15 credit core modules, and a selection of optional modules that they choose shortly after arrival. Many optional modules are worth 15 credits, though some are worth 30 credits. In total, students are required to achieve 120 coursework credits. Over the summer vacation, students are required to write a dissertation which is worth a further 60 credits.

Some 50 optional modules are available, not only in Social Anthropology but across many other disciplines in the Faculty of Humanities, including Visual Anthropology, Archaeology, Museum Studies, Latin American Studies, Development Studies, Drama, Sociology & History. Drawing on this broad range of disciplines, a number of pathways have been devised in order to maximize the academic & timetabling coherence of the options chosen by students.

The Visual & Sensory Media pathway draws exclusively on modules offered by Social Anthropology & the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology.

  • Students normally take two modules exploring the representation of visual culture in the visual arts, in cinema & in ethnographic film & related documentary genres.
  • In the second semester, they take a practice-based module that offers basic training in photography & sound-recording as well as encouraging reflection on these media both as means of creating anthropological knowledge & as a means of representing it. An important feature of this module are the workshops given by practising professional photographers & sound-recordists. Please note that this last module requires the payment of an additional fee of £500 (currently under review) to cover equipment & facilities costs.
  • The dissertation normally consists of a text directly supported by & integrated with still images &/or sound recordings.

Coursework and assessment

In each semester, students take two 15-credit core modules, & up to 30 credits of optional modules. Many optional modules are worth 15 credits, though some are worth 30. In total, students are required to achieve 120 coursework credits. Over the summer vacation, MA students write a dissertation worth a further 60 credits.

Most modules are assessed by means of an extended assessment essay. Typically, for 15 credit modules, these must be of 4000 words, whilst for 30 credit courses, they are normally of 6000 words. But certain options involving practical instruction in research methods, audiovisual media or museum display may also be assessed by means of presentations &/or portfolios of practical work. The dissertation that MA students are required to submit is normally 15,000 words though this may be reduced in length if work in other media is presented in conjunction with the written text.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: 

Career opportunities

Past graduates of the MA in Social Anthropology have gone on to many different careers both inside and outside academic life. As it is a 'conversion' course aimed at those who want to explore anthropology after undergraduate studies in another field, or at least within a different anthropological tradition, it often represents a major change of career direction, opening up a wide range of different possibilities.

About 20% of our graduates carry on to do a doctorate, be it here or elsewhere. But the MA in Social Anthropology also represents a very appropriate preparation for careers in which an informed awareness of the implications of social and cultural diversity are important. Some past students have been drawn to the voluntary sector, either in the UK or with development agencies overseas, others have gone on to work in the media or cultural industries or in education at many different levels. Others again have found opportunities in business or the civil service, where ethnography-based methods are increasingly popular as a way of finding out how people - from consumers to employees - interact with their everyday worlds.

The MA in Social Anthropology also trains students in a broad range of transferable skills that are useful in many walks of life, including social research methods and the ethics associated with these, effective essay-writing, oral presentational skills in seminars and other contexts, basic computing skills, using the internet as a research tool and conducting bibliographic research.

Visit the Social Anthropology (Visual and Sensory Media Pathway) (MA/PGDip) page on the University of Manchester website for more details!




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