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Social Anthropology (available as a BA or a BSc)

Anthropology is a life-changing discipline. It shows you the incredible diversity of human experience, offering insights into ways of living that you might never have considered before. But it also forces you to confront challenging philosophical questions about what it is that makes us, as humans, so different – and about what we might nevertheless have in common.

The LSE course is designed for imaginative, critical thinkers who are passionate about understanding why the world is as it is – and about using the insights anthropology provides to make it better.



A Unique Course Structure

Social life is complex and wide-ranging; every aspect of it is interconnected. It requires a holistic understanding. That’s why we’ve structured our core course to give you a truly comprehensive understanding of human social life

You’ll learn how different political, legal, and economic systems influence people’s beliefs, values and practices. 

You’ll debate to what extent our evolutionary origins, and our pathways of cognitive and emotional development, might influence or constrain the kinds of people that we grow up to become. 

And you’ll interrogate the very categories we’re used to describing the world with – gender, religion, race – to see if they really do justice to human experience.

You’ll also examine how anthropological insights can be applied to make a difference: to see how legal systems could be made more just, how public health campaigns could be improved, and how development interventions could be made more effective.

We’re confident that no other anthropology degree in the UK offers such a deep or comprehensive foundation in the study of human social life. 

World-Leading Research

At the LSE, you’ll be taught by internationally renowned lecturers. Our department was ranked the very best in the UK for the quality of its research publications in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. More of our work was judged ‘world-leading’ than at any other institution.
We bring that sensibility into the classroom. Study with us, and you won’t just get a world-class grounding in anthropology’s intellectual history. You’ll also get to engage with the newest, most innovative, and most controversial developments in the discipline. 

Outstanding Teaching

We’re also top for student satisfaction. The 2015 National Student Survey saw us ranked higher than any other anthropology department in the Russell Group, with an impressive overall score of 4.7 out of 5. 
Students praised the passion and enthusiasm with which we teach, our clarity when explaining difficult concepts, and the excellent staff to student ratio. At less than 7:1, this is the lowest in the UK, and means that you’ll get to be known and supported as a unique individual during your time with us. 

Amazing Opportunities

Our degree offers you full training in anthropological research methods. You’ll do your own in-depth ethnographic study during your second year, and we even have a Summer Fieldwork Placements scheme that offers £16,000 funding for projects during the long vacation.
And the opportunities don’t end when you graduate. An LSE Anthropology degree opens doors. See the ‘Careers’ tab for further details. 


Your First Year

An Introduction to Social Anthropology introduces you to a broad range of themes and debates, opening up what it means to have an anthropological perspective on issues such as love, war, politics or religion.

Ethnography and Theory introduces you to the history of social theory, and the way it has been applied to, and challenged by, findings gathered via ethnographic fieldwork. 

Reading Other Cultures takes you deep into the life of six societies from across the world. Your reading is complemented by the study of films, photographs and artworks, so you can develop a holistic understanding of the places and people being described and explore debates over how best to represent the lives of others.

Your fourth paper can be chosen from any other department in the LSE. 

Your Second Year

Kinship, Sex and Gender explores the differing ways in which anthropologists have come to understand the most intimate and personal aspects of human experience. What makes people related? Is sexuality ‘natural’ or ‘socially constructed’? Why do some societies have more than two genders? And why do we only have two?

Political and Legal Anthropology explores life under a range of different political and legal systems, as well as investigating issues such as why people go to war with each other; what affects social movements’ success in securing change, and the legacies of colonialism on legal and political cultures.

Economic Anthropology 1 – Production, Exchange and Consumption (a half unit) offers an anthropological perspective on all aspects of economic life, from farming and factory work to gift exchange systems and contemporary consumerism. You’ll examine how anthropological research might complicate conventional economic theory, and how economic systems influence diverse aspects of social life.

Ethnographic Research Project (a half unit): This is where you get to do your own, hands-on ethnography. You can do it anywhere in London, on any topic of your choice, and you will conduct the fieldwork alongside classes and seminars on methodology to make sure you are fully supported as you develop your new research skills.

Your fourth unit can be chosen from our extensive range of in-house half-unit options, including papers on Anthropology and Human Rights, Anthropology and Development, Anthropology and Media, Cognitive Anthropology, Anthropology and Childhood, Anthropology of Revolution and the Anthropology of Selected World Regions. You can also, with permission, borrow options from other departments to complement your anthropological studies.

Your Third Year 

Anthropology of Religion examines core metaphysical issues at the heart of the human condition, investigating what it means to have faith, why so many human societies seem to exhibit religious beliefs, and how we should understand phenomena such as animism, shamanism and spirit mediumship.

Advanced Theory challenges you to closely engage with a selection of the latest, most cutting-edge works in anthropological and social theory. You’ll be asked to critically evaluate these texts and put them in close dialogue with perspectives encountered previously in your degree. 

Economic Anthropology 2 - Globalisation and Development (a half unit) examines how and why human existence has been transformed by the forms of global interconnectedness that have emerged since the 1970s, and how anthropological research on these issues can inform activism and policy.

Dissertation (a half unit): arguably the pinnacle of your degree, this allows you to write an extended essay that makes an original intervention into any anthropological debate of interest to you.

Your final unit in the third year is also a free choice – so just as in the second year, you can choose from the many options available in the Department and beyond!


An anthropology degree from LSE makes you highly employable. 91% of our 2013 leavers were in full-time employment, study, or taking planned time out just 6 months after graduation, and their average starting salary was £22,300.

Your time with us will equip you with capacities for critical analysis and lateral thinking that will be of value in fields ranging from consultancy and marketing to journalism and charity work. 

What really makes our anthropology graduates stand out, though, is their ability to simultaneously see ‘the big picture’ and appreciate how a policy or idea will play out on the ground. 

A BA or BSc in Social Anthropology can thus be a pathway to many different careers. Here are just a few of the destinations that our recent graduates have gone onto within two years of leaving us: 

In the Public Sector

• Stakeholder communications executive at Transport for London;• Assistant director of The Habeas Corpus Project, a non-profit organisation that provides pro-bono legal representation in challenging the unlawful detention of individuals in the UK;• Officer at The Open Book Project, Goldsmiths – a project to support access to higher education for adults from socially excluded groups;• Training contract with TeachFirst;• Project consultant at GovRisk – The International Governance and Risk Institute;

In the Arts / Media

• Development assistant at the Royal Academy of the Arts;• Researcher for PBS Frontline, a documentary film production company;• Producer at Mutant Jukebox, a creative audio agency;

In Business / the City

• Consultant with Deloitte;• Associate at Coutts, a private bank and wealth manager;• Manager of the Regulatory Insight and Credit Policy team at Lloyds Bank;• Research executive at Instinctif Partners, a communications and public relations consultancy;• Knowledge analyst at Russell Reynold Asociates, a recruitment consultancy;

Finally, many of our students find that their studies with us inspire them to go on to further study after their degree. The comprehensive foundation that our social anthropology programme offers allows high-achieving students to proceed straight into a PhD programme with no need for an additional masters.  The degrees also support a progression into more vocationally-oriented postgraduate study, in fields such as public policy, international development, and documentary film-making.


“I would definitely recommend anthropology at LSE to friends. The staff are enthusiastic about anthropology and their fieldwork is fascinating and inspiring. I've learnt so much and developed a love for the discipline.”

“The course aspires for a high level of excellence which is very positive. The weekly coffee mornings, etc. in the Seligman are great. I have really loved the community the Anthropology Department has. The courses covered are fantastic.”

“The particularly low student to staff ratio makes engaging with class teachers and lecturers much easier and we find it easy to contact them and have lengthy discussions outside of class. Furthermore, the focus on reading Social Anthropology through academic-level journals and books means that by the end of the degree you are thoroughly versed in the subject… 
The system of having an Academic Advisor is great… My experience with these advisors has been that they are willing to invest a lot of time into your development and anxieties, as and how you need it. Finally, the selected readings are some of the most engrossing pieces of critical debate I have ever read.”

“Extremely eye-opening / perspective-changing subject matter. Close-knit department and access to professors whose work you are reading!”

The standard offer for our Social Anthropology programme is AAB at A-Level, or 37 points in the International Baccalaureate with 6,6,6 at Higher Level.
For details of alternative qualifications, and preferred subjects, please click here 

Successful applicants have a strong personal statement that demonstrates their potential to flourish on our degree programme. We are looking for people who show a deep enthusiasm for and commitment to social anthropology, and who can demonstrate a capacity for imaginative, original, and critical thought.  

While a strong track record at GCSE and AS-Level is helpful, we recognise that such exams do not always reflect a student’s full potential and are committed to assessing each application on its individual merits.

For some suggested introductory readings, please click here

We are thrilled to announce that we have established a Departmental exchange arrangement with the University of Melbourne, offering undergraduate students reading Social Anthropology or Anthropology and Law the opportunity to spend a Year Abroad in Australia as part of their degree. This is in addition to the School-wide exchanges with Sciences-Po and the University of California, Berkeley.

The Melbourne anthropology department is widely recognised as amongst the best in the world, with particular expertise in anthropology of migration, the body and the environment. Students taking a Year Abroad at Melbourne will also be able to select from a wide range of outside options, including in subjects not available at the LSE. We're very excited about this addition to our programme.