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Master Cultural and Social Anthropology

Study programme

Cultural and Social Anthropology (MSc)

Programme outline

The Master's programme consists of three stages: designing your research project, conducting fieldwork and writing your thesis.

In all three stages, you will be supervised individually by a member of the academic teaching staff. You will also receive collective support in group seminars, although your main focus will be on your own research.

The Master's programme consists of the following components:

  • Key Debates in Anthropology (6 ECTS)
  • Theory for Ethnographic Practice (9 ECTS)
  • Designing Fieldwork (9 ECTS)
  • Ethnographic Fieldwork (18 ECTS), minimum of 12 weeks full-time research
  • Thesis seminar Writing Ethnography (3 ECTS)
  • Thesis (15 ECTS)

UvA Course Catalogue - Master's programme Cultural and Social Anthropology

Key Debates in Anthropology

Key Debates in Anthropology examines the state of the art in Anthropology. The course offers an overview of important contemporary anthropological theory by focusing on six key-concepts in anthropological research and thinking. These concepts are: culture, structure, power, agency, economy, and experience. In this way, important theoretical concepts and ideas from cultural, social, political and economic anthropology are discussed on Master’s level.

Theory for Ethnographic Practice

This course will allow you the opportunity to link major theoretical debates to your own research. This enables you to place your research question within a broader, relevant theoretical debate. This course provides the opportunity, prior to embarking on fieldwork, to engage in systematic and thoughtful reflection on the relationship between theory and empirical research.

Designing Fieldwork

During the ‘Designing Fieldwork' course, you work on your research proposal combining anthropological literature on your research topic with the proper methodological tools. You also practice research techniques in a series of assignments that enable you to turn the research question into a practical research project based on a series of methodological choices.


Fieldwork is a central component within the Master's programme. This can be in the Netherlands or anywhere abroad. During the fieldwork period you are expected to devote all of your time to your research. Using various methods and techniques of investigation, like formal interviews, observations, chats, drawing maps or genealogies, recording of household expenditures or the use of social media, you will seek to collect material and gain insights in order to formulate an answer to your research question. 

For students who wish to conduct research that has an applied character aimed at solving problems or contributing understanding where this is directly needed, we offer the possibility to specialize in Applied Anthropology.

Thesis seminar ‘Writing Ethnography’

Upon returning from your field research, you attend the compulsory weekly thesis seminar. During the thesis seminar, fieldwork experiences are discussed, as well as relevant issues with regard to writing an extended academic text: 

  • How to structure your research material
  • How to organise your thoughts about the research material
  • How to identify the main and subsidiary issues
  • How to construct a cohesive argument
  • How to devise a realistic schedule
  • What form and style to use

In addition to the practical aspects of writing a thesis, there is also room for presentations and discussions concerning specific aspects of the thesis. 

Master’s thesis

Upon returning from ‘the field’ even if it is right around the corner, you will start writing your thesis. While writing the thesis, you learn to interpret research results and present experiences in abstract terms. The main challenge is to combine anthropological theory with fieldwork data in a way that is both elegant and effective in presenting your findings. Your supervisor will support you in planning and writing your thesis.


Every student is assigned an individual supervisor from the academic teaching staff. The allocation of supervisors for fieldwork and theses is based as much as possible on matching the expertise and areas of specialization of the staff with the research interests of students.

Your supervisor will function as your adviser during the writing of your research proposal, your contact  during fieldwork and your adviser during the thesis writing process. For more information about the academic teaching staff members and their specializations, see Academic staff.