Social anthropology studies 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 sympathetic understanding of different cultural practices, we also make a priority the development of 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 versions of the world. Thus, as a student you will increase your factual understanding of the world, and of the interdependence of different parts of it.

While an anthropology degree is not a vocational training, the skills you develop in reading critically, writing coherently, reasoning effectively and public expression are widely valued by employers.

Degree structure

We have two degree programmes, both of which involve studying 12 courses over the three years, plus LSE100. Their different characteristics are outlined on the following pages.

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 have up to eight 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 final 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.

Preliminary reading

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)

Graduate destinations

Social anthropology is not a vocational degree, unless you choose to carry on with research in the subject. But it provides an excellent foundation for many careers. Thus, recent graduates have gone on to work in human rights, journalism, development, medicine and counselling, law, administration of refugees, nursing, teaching, business, theatre and film.