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Study Anthropology at Otago

Making the familiar strange, and the exotic familiar

Social Anthropology explores the cultural grounding of social life. By studying people who are ‘not like us’ – from whichever group of people it is that ‘we’ as researchers might belong – anthropologists learn about the surprising differences in everyday living around the world.

Otago offers a range of interesting and challenging study options within Social Anthropology. Visit our webpage to see our courses in Pacific cultures, friendship, reproduction and kinship, the anthropology of money, rites of passage, death studies, health studies, sex, cultural politics, religion and the supernatural, and anthropological technique and theory.

Learn about other groups of people and, in the process, find out more about yourself.

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Why study Social Anthropology?

Anthropology will broaden your understanding of the human condition and how this is changing around the world. What are the patterns by which people organise their lives? How do ideas of difference and sameness come about? How does the movement of people through a globalised world impact the meaning and experience of culture and our sense of belonging and heritage?

Anthropologists ask questions about human variation and human differences. They study issues that affect different societies, such as changing economic and political arrangements of power, sustainable living alternatives, the tensions around community inclusion and exclusion, and the contributions of local revivalisms, resurgences and resistance to our changing worlds.

Anthropology gives you the academic tools to create meaningful connections with a wide diversity of people. You will learn to engage with cultural groups ethically and explain social life through systematic questioning and critical analysis.

Career opportunities

A Social Anthropology degree provides broad- based training that can lead to a wide range of careers. Students acquire a high level of expertise in sought-after skills. These include problem-solving, analysis of information, research and writing skills, emotional and ethical intelligence, independent thinking, project management, and expertise in audio- visual presentations.

Graduates in social anthropology find work in museums, as policy advisors for the government or local bodies, in community development, the police force, and project co-ordination and management for non- governmental organisations such as Volunteer Service Abroad.

Other interesting careers include journalism, film and media industries, foreign affairs, international aid, teaching, tourism, working with refugees, disaster relief, management, historic preservation, social impact assessment, environmental management – the list is almost endless.

There are also opportunities for pursuing careers specifically in Anthropology, such as working in universities, museums, consultancy, applied research, which require further postgraduate training after finishing the BA.

Social Anthropology at Otago

Anthropology has been taught as a major for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) since 1966. The major normally takes three years and requires a minimum of nine papers in the subject, out of 20 papers for a BA. We also offer our graduate students a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and
a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts, which are both one-year courses available following the completion of a BA. Those students who do not want to major in Anthropology can pick up some anthropology papers as part of their degree, or do a minor in the subject, which requires a minimum of five papers.

Two first-year papers provide an introduction to Anthropology:

ANTH 103 Introduction to Anthropology

An introduction to the fundamental concepts and history of general anthropology, including archaeology and social anthropology.

ANTH 105 Global and Local Cultures

Being human, and humane, in a world where worlds collide. An introduction to cultural studies of globalisation, multiculturalism, tourism, media.

At the second- and third-year levels of the degree, you will begin to specialise in the areas of social anthropology that interest you the most, drawing on the specialisations and research interests of our internationally recognised lecturing staff.

Topics include Pacific societies, current issues in anthropology, and the ethics, politics and practice of ethnographic representation, a chance for 'hands-on' learning through immersion in the ongoing friendship research project, cultural politics, grieving and ritual, new reproductive technologies, the anthropology of money, the study of religion and the supernatural, and ideologies of health.

These subjects lead to our strong postgraduate programme, which offers papers in the Anthropology of Evil, Transnationalism, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology and the Past, and independently studied research dissertations. Students may then continue to a Master of Arts or a PhD.

Teaching style

Our programme offers a relaxed intellectual exchange with staff dedicated to good learning outcomes for students. All of our staff are active researchers and award-winning teachers who incorporate their research findings into their teaching.

Double major/degree options

It is possible to qualify with an Anthropology degree in which all of the papers are social anthropology, although we recommend taking some archaeology papers.

In addition, some useful double major options include History, Classics, Politics, Film and Media Studies, Māori Studies, Pacific Studies, Languages, Gender, Sociology, Criminology, and Religious Studies. Social Anthropology (because of its diverse subject area) also combines well in double degrees with subjects in Commerce, Law, Science and Health Sciences.

Student exchange

The University of Otago has exchange agreements with more than 70 institutions in over 30 countries. If your marks average B or better, you may qualify to attend one of these institutions for one semester or one year. Exchange programmes are particularly beneficial to Anthropology students for the learning experience of deep immersion into another culture.

Background required

There are no specific subjects you need to have studied at school in order to study Anthropology.


Anthropology as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Five ANTH papers, at least three of which must be above 100-level, including at least one above 200-level


ANTH papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
ANTH103 2024 Introduction to Anthropology 18 Semester 1
ANTH105 2024 Global and Local Cultures 18 Semester 2
ANTH106 2024 Human Origins and Civilisations 18 Semester 2
ANTH203 2024 Asian Archaeology 18 Semester 2
ANTH204 2024 Pacific and New Zealand Archaeology 18 Semester 1
ANTH205 2024 Anthropology and the Contemporary Pacific 18 Semester 1
ANTH206 2024 Anthropology of Globalisation 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH208 2024 Archaeological Methods 18 Semester 1
ANTH209 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH210 2024 Translating Culture 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH211 2024 Contemporary Ethnographic Research 18 Semester 2
ANTH222 2024 Conceiving Reproduction 18 Semester 1
ANTH223 2024 Anthropology of Health 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH225 2024 Rites of Passage: Death, Grief and Ritual 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH228 2024 Anthropology of Religion and the Supernatural 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH231 2024 The Emergence of Agriculture: An Archaeological Journey 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH310 2024 Special Topic 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH312 2024 Cultural Politics 18 Semester 1
ANTH317 2024 Historical Archaeology 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH321 2024 Archaeozoology 18 Semester 2
ANTH322 2024 Conceiving Reproduction 18 Semester 1
ANTH323 2024 Anthropology of Health 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH324 2024 Archaeological Practice 18 Semester 2
ANTH325 2024 Rites of Passage: Death, Grief and Ritual 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH326 2024 Special Topic: Sex and Culture 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH327 2024 Anthropology of Money 18 Semester 2
ANTH328 2024 Anthropology of Religion and the Supernatural 18 Not offered in 2024
ANTH329 2024 Landscape Archaeology 18 Semester 1
ANTH330 2024 New Zealand Archaeology 18 Semester 1
ANTH405 2024 Archaeological Excavation 20 1st Non standard period
ANTH409 2024 Material Culture Studies 20 Full Year
ANTH410 2024 Special Topic: Archaeological Science 20 Not offered in 2024
ANTH411 2024 Special Topic: 20 Not offered in 2024
ANTH413 2024 Oceanic Prehistory 20 Not offered in 2024
ANTH423 2024 Bodies, Technologies and Medicines 20 Not offered in 2024
ANTH424 2024 The Anthropology of Evil 20 Not offered in 2024
ANTH425 2024 Anthropology of Transnationalism and Diaspora 20 Semester 1
ANTH427 2024 Archaeological Theory 20 Full Year
ANTH430 2024 Advanced New Zealand Archaeology 20 Semester 1
ANTH431 2024 People, Culture and Development 20 Semester 2
ANTH490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year
ANTH495 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year
ANTH505 2024 Advanced Archaeological Excavation 30 1st Non standard period
ANTH550 2024 Archaeology and Heritage Practice 30 Full Year
ANTH590 2024 Research Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

More information

Contact us

Social Anthropology Programme
School of Social Sciences

Studying at Otago

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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