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Human, Social, and Political Sciences - HSPS Tripos


What is Social Anthropology?

Social Anthropology addresses the big questions about ‘what
it is to be human’ by studying the amazingly diverse ways in
which peoples in all parts of the world make a living, organise
themselves, make families and communities, and relate to
each other.

Topics studied include love and intimacy in online worlds,
how Amazonian communities respond to deforestation,
how globalisation affects factory workers in India, how
communities in the Arctic understand climate change, and
experiences of citizenship and democracy in African cities.



What's special about Social Anthropology at Cambridge?


Social Anthropology has been taught in Cambridge since 1900 and the University has been home to many of the most distinguished anthropologists in the history of the discipline.
Today it is one of the foremost anthropological institutions in the world, regularly at the top of the tables in assessments of research and in the published rankings of teaching departments. The department houses a diverse and  a flourishing community of researchers, teachers, students, and teaching resources such as a world-leading anthropology museum, and Social Anthropology’s own Visual Anthropology Lab with filmmaking equipment and a unique collection of ethnographic films.


The structure of the course

First Year: Four Papers

  • Social Anthropology
  • Plus two options from Politics, International Relations, Sociology
  • A fourth paper, chosen either from the above core HSPS subjects, or alternatively from outside the Tripos, either in Biological Anthropology, Archaeology or Psychology.

Second Year: Four papers

Two core papers in Social Anthropology give a grounding in the fundamental subject areas of the discipline: states and political processes, economic production, exchange, consumption, kinship, marriage, gender, sexuality, religion,
myth, and ritual, as well as the study of anthropological theory and methods.

Each student also chooses:

  • ƒa third paper studying an ethnographic region of the world in depth (e.g. South Asia, Africa, Europe)
  • ƒa fourth optional paper either from within Social Anthropology or from one of the other subjects in the Faculty.



Third Year: Four papers (one of which can be a Dissertation)

Two core papers in Advanced Social Anthropology address cutting-edge questions in the fields of thought, belief and ethics, and political economy and social transformations. These papers put anthropological studies into direct dialogue with the latest research in fields as diverse as cognitive science, economics, moral and political philosophy, and social theory.

In this year, students also choose two optional papers; from within Social Anthropology and the other related subjects. One of these optional papers may be substituted with a dissertation, based on your own fieldwork.


Optional Papers

Optional papers in both Years 2 and 3 may include the anthropology of city life, gender, colonialism, law, development, medicine and health, and media and visual culture; and also choices from other HSPS subjects and beyond.


Joint tracks

In the second and third years, as an alternative to studying Social Anthropology as a single-honours degree course, you can do a joint degree in Social Anthropology and Politics or Social Anthropology and Sociology.


Future career prospects

Graduates of Cambridge Social Anthropology have been successful in carving out a wide range of careers. A majority stay in academia, largely within anthropology or closely related social sciences. Others go on to work in international and local NGOs, organizations, the Civil Service, and development work, policy analysis and advocacy, the media, law, finance, film, consultancy, industry, politics and Arts and museum curatorship.

Further information

Interested? Want to know more? Read more about Social Anthropology at Cambridge, on


Social Anthropology Booklet

SocAnth Booklet