Social anthropology examines human societies and cultures in a broad comparative perspective. Social anthropologists try to explain the causes of variation in social and cultural behaviour, and also to understand what it means to belong to a cultural group whose values and rules may be very different from those familiar to you. Studying anthropology will provide a framework to help you see what is universal to all human societies and what is variable. The programmes aim to build your capacity to analyse social and political relations and so to engage productively in major contemporary debates concerning social justice, multiculturalism and the direction of political and economic change in today's world.
Features of LSE courses
Anthropology degrees across the UK share a common core of cross-cultural study. At LSE we are distinctive in our strengths in the fields of law, human rights, cognition, religious practice, kinship, gender, nationalism and everyday forms of the state.
Our concern with the global south (or third world) leads to a serious engagement with issues of development, globalisation, industrialisation and the effects of neoliberalism.
As well as encouraging a sympathetic understanding of different cultural practices, we also make it our priority to develop the critical faculties of our students. We analyse all forms of information – from texts to films – in ways that will enable you to question received interpretations of the world. Thus, as a student you will increase your factual knowledge of social phenomena as well as strengthen your analytical and critical skills.
While an anthropology degree is not a vocational training, the skills you develop in reading critically, writing coherently, reasoning effectively and expressing yourself publicly are widely valued by employers.
We have two degree programmes, both of which involve studying 12 courses over the three years, plus LSE100. You will also have the opportunity to apply for a year abroad at one of our global exchange partners. For an outline of the different characteristics of our degree programmes, see BA/BSc Social Anthropology and BA Anthropology and Law.
What the selectors are looking for in an application
Selectors welcome applications from students with a background in the arts and social sciences, the natural sciences, or a combination of the two.
Your personal statement should be original and interesting, and should outline your enthusiasm and motivation for studying anthropology. You should mention how anthropology relates to your current academic programme, any aspects of the discipline that are of particular interest to you and what additional reading or extra-curricular experiences you have had which have led you to apply for your chosen degree.
Mentioning any other extra-curricular activity, such as work experience, charitable or sporting involvement, is also useful, particularly if you indicate how you have benefited from these experiences.
To study social anthropology (with or without law) it is important that you are able to ask incisive questions, think independently, read widely and adopt a creative and flexible approach. In addition, you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.
For the joint anthropology and law degree, you should demonstrate an equal interest in both subjects, and possess excellent time management skills.
Please visit lse.ac.uk/ug/apply/ant for further information about admissions criteria.
Teaching and assessment
Most courses involve weekly lectures of one hour each, and associated classes where you discuss reading assignments in a small group with a teacher. In the first two terms you will typically have eight or more contact hours of formal tuition a week. In addition, we show films about anthropology and the world's cultures throughout the first two terms. There are tutorial meetings, linked to essay assignments, which vary in number depending on the degree. Your academic adviser is available to offer general guidance and assistance with both academic and personal concerns.
Assessment is generally a combination of continuous assessment (which usually involves one or two substantial essays per course) with a traditional unseen examination in May or June each year. In the second year of the BA/BSc Social Anthropology, students conduct an ethnographic study and write a report of up to 5,000 words; in the third year of the BA/BSc Social Anthropology, students write a 'special essay' of up to 8,000 words. Law courses are normally examined wholly by unseen examination.
If you wish to gain further insight into social anthropology, we suggest that you look at one or more of the following books:
R Astuti, J Parry and C Stafford (eds) Questions of Anthropology (Berg, 2007)
T H Eriksen Small Places, Large Issues: an introduction to social and cultural anthropology (Pluto Press, 2001)
K Gardner Songs at the River's Edge: stories from a Bangladeshi village (Virago, 1999)
M Shostak Nisa: the life and words of a !Kung woman (Harvard UP, 2000)
Social anthropology is not a vocational degree (unless you choose to carry on with the subject at PhD level), but it provides an excellent foundation for many careers. For example, recent graduates have gone on to work in journalism, development, medicine and counselling, law, human rights, nursing, teaching, business, theatre and film.