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Social Anthropology

infosheet-anthropology-226pxMaking the familiar strange, and the exotic familiar

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Why study Social Anthropology?

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.

Anthropology will broaden your understanding of the human condition and the way in which this is changing around the world. Life as an anthropologist means that you visit many other parts of the world, ask major questions about human variation and human difference, and study some of the pressing issues for 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.

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Anthropology at Otago

Anthropology has been taught at Otago University 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 a minimum of 20 papers for a BA. We also offer our graduate students a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Post Graduate 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.

Don't forget that students can take Anthropology as one of the majors in a Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc).

Two first year papers provide an introduction to Anthropology

ANTH 103 Introduction to Anthropology

In ANTH 103 you will enjoy lectures on both Archaeology and Social Anthropology. The relationship between these different branches of anthropology will be explained, along with some history of the discipline, basic concepts, and the principal means of conducting anthropological research.

ANTH 105 Global and Local Cultures

In ANTH 105 using global and local examples, as well as ethnographic research by social anthropologists, you will examine systems of
kinship, the importance of gifts and exchange, rites of passage, and local organisation in order to study how social hierarchies, political organisation, ethnicity, religion and globalisation have developed.

Second and third year levels of the BA majoring in Anthropology

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. These papers draw upon the area specialisations and contemporary research interests of our internationally-recognised lecturing staff. Topics include Pacific societies, contemporary 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 on 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.

Double major/degree options

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

Anthropology could be one of the majors in a Bachelor of Arts and Science. If you were wanting to do a double major in a BA, 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 exceptionally well in double degrees with studies in Commerce, Law, Science and Health Sciences.

See detailed information about Anthropology papers.

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Background required

No special high school papers are needed as preparation for your Anthropology degree – anthropology has been described as the most scientific of the arts and the most humanistic of the sciences.

Career opportunities

A degree focussed in Social Anthropology provides the sort of broad-based training that can lead to a wide range of careers. Students acquire a high level of expertise in skills which employers report are much sought after in the employment market. These include problem solving, analysis of information, research and writing skills, emotional and ethical intelligence, independent thinking , project management and expertise in audiovisual 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 and these opportunities, such as working in universities, museums, consultancy, applied research, require further postgraduate training after finishing the BA.

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. You pay only your New Zealand fees and complete your qualification within the same timeframe. Exchange programmes are particularly beneficial to Anthropology students for the learning experience of immersion into another culture.