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Anthropology of Education MSc

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  • Objectives
    Despite a long history of inter-disciplinary connection between education and anthropology in the USA, this new Master's programme is to be the first of its kind. Its distinctiveness derives from an anthropological approach to the study of teaching and learning that focuses on the questions of how people learn in childhood and what they take for granted as cultural knowledge. How do systems of education relate to religious and national identities? How has the expansion of literacy affected social and cultural transformation? Is education inevitably culture-bound? This new MSc allows you to develop your anthropological interests and/or your professional practice in education by exploring the answers to questions such as these. Additional subjects that may be explored include: * history and theory of anthropology with special reference to education, learning, cognition and childhood; * anthropological theories and ethnography relevant to the relationship between learning, education and the politics of culture and society; * anthropological theories relevant to the relationship between international development and educational practice/research in the west and elsewhere; * cross-cultural and ethnographic comparisons of various forms of knowledge transmission; * cross-cultural and ethnographic comparisons of formal and informal learning environments; * research methods in anthropology of education; * specific research in the field of anthropology of education. The course aims: * To provide a theoretical and practical introduction to the field of anthropology of education as the study of how humanity transforms itself over time through culturally specific processes of teaching and learning. * To equip students with a range of research skills to enable them successfully to complete anthropological research, either as part of a research team or as individuals. * To provide the opportunity for anthropologists and those working in all sectors of education to improve their professional practice and career development as a result of acquiring an anthropological perspective on current issues to do with learning and teaching. * To provide students with a background in the history and theory of anthropology with special reference to learning, cognition and childhood. * To expose students to the contemporary approaches to the study of subjectivity, personhood and experience in formal and informal learning environments in the developed and developing world. * To expose students to anthropological and educational perspectives on teaching and learning.
  • Entry requirements
    Normally a good Honours degree from a UK institution; an equivalent overseas qualification; or an equivalent professional qualification (eg from a teaching or child welfare background or similar). Candidates not fully meeting these criteria may nevertheless be considered. Students whose first language is not English must have IELTS of at least 6.5 or equivalent.
  • Academic Title
    Anthropology of Education MSc
  • Course description
        *  How does culture shape and inform the learning process? How does education impact upon social and cultural practices?

        * Are distinctions between ‘formal’ education and ‘informal’ education useful? How are social distinctions, like social class or ethnicity, reproduced through processes of education?

        * What is the role of schools in the production and transmission of particular cultural values? How does literacy alter processes of learning?

    This new MSc in the Anthropology of Education at Brunel University allows you to develop your anthropological interests and/or your professional practice in education by exploring the answers to the following kinds of questions:

        * What is the difference between compulsory western education and other kinds of learning outside school and in parts of the world where formal education is more marginal?
        * Does literacy bring about predictable political and economic transformations?
        * How are we to analyse and understand the ideological imperatives of different systems of education?
        * How can a cross-cultural perspective on learning and education help us to improve our education practice?

    Compulsory Modules

    Anthropology of Education
    Main Topics of Study: history of anthropology of education and learning; evaluating the anthropological contribution to research in education; education, learning and the politics of culture and society; education, learning and international development; education and schooling in social context; education, authority and the transmission of knowledge; education and apprenticeship; education, learning and literacy; education and categories of social distinction – age, kinship, nationalism and religion; education and categories of social distinction – race, class, gender and ethnicity; education, knowledge and social memory; education, the state and nationalism.

    Anthropological and Psychological Perspectives on Learning
    Main topics of study: models of learning in anthropology and psychology; children as subjects and objects; learning as an embodied microhistorical process; space-time coordinates of learning; kinship and intersubjectivity; person and gender; language and consciousness; ritual and learning.

    Ethnographic Research Methods
    Main topics of study: the centrality of fieldwork to anthropological research; theoretical and practical issues of participant observation, open-ended unstructured interviews and semi-structured interviews; the advantages and disadvantages of using questionnaires during fieldwork; different styles of ethnographic writing; gaining access in ethnographic research; ethical clearance and ethical dilemmas arising in the course of fieldwork; constructing a research proposal.

    The specific topics and/or research problems discussed in the dissertation are a function of the student’s particular research interest in the domain of the anthropology of education and learning and the data generated by the student’s own fieldwork.

    Optional Modules

        * Kinship and New Directions in Anthropology
        * The Anthropology of the Body
        * Anthropology of the Person
        * Anthropology of Disability and Difference

    Plus two unassessed reading modules

    History and Theory of Social Anthropology
    Main topics of study: evolutionary' anthropology; 'race', 'civilisation'; diffusionism and the Boas school; the development of ethnographic research; functional, structure and comparison; structuralism; neo-evolutionism; culture and the interpretation of cultures; critiques (Marxism, feminism, post-modernism).

    Issues in Social Anthropology
    Main topics of study: kinship; gender; religion; anthropology of the body.

    It may also be possible to select modules (which will be unassessed) from our MA in Education

    Further details (School of Social Sciences web pages)

    Special Features

    Our course team has worked in countries across the globe including South, West and East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, as well as Britain.

    Research interests of our current team of internationally respected anthropologists are as follows:

    Dr Nicolas Argenti has undertaken long-term fieldwork in Cameroon and in Sri Lanka. He is an expert on children’s and young people’s experience of conflict and on theories of material culture and social change.

    Dr Andrew Beatty specialises in religion, kinship and emotion. He has worked on the relation between family forms and styles of thinking (conceptual and moral relativism) in Java, has a research interest in Mexico and has published on the anthropology of emotion.

    Dr Peggy Froerer has undertaken extensive fieldwork in India on Hindu nationalism, Christian/Hindu ethnic relations and education. Her recent work focuses on childhood, learning and cognition, and on children's understanding and beliefs about illness and health.

    Dr Eric Hirsch has a long-standing interest in the ethnography and history of Papua New Guinea. His research focuses on issues of historicity, landscape, power and property relations. He has also carried out fieldwork in Britain on the relations between new technologies and personhood.

    Professor Cecil Helman was recently awarded the Career Achievement Award of the Society of Medical Anthropology, American Anthropological Association and the Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Some recent research includes beliefs about Diabetes Mellitus among British Bangladeshis and perceptions of childhood immunisations among Xhosa people in rural Transkei, South Africa. He is the author of the standard international textbook Culture, Health and Illness.

    Professor Adam Kuper is an expert on the history of anthropological theory, kinship, and the ethnography of Africa.

    Dr Isak Niehaus works on the diverse fields of population removals, cosmology, witchcraft, masculinity, sexuality, politics and AIDS in the South African lowveld, and is interested in the parallels between post-Apartheid in South Africa and post-Communism in the Czech Republic. He is currently writing the biography of a South African teacher.

    Dr Melissa Parker has undertaken research in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana and London. Her publications address a wide range of issues including tropical diseases; maternal and child health; female circumcision and sexuality; HIV/AIDS and sexual networks; anthropology and public health.

    Dr James Staples conducts fieldwork in South India, including long-term research with leprosy-affected people in a rural coastal community and, more recently, with disabled people in the major city of Hyderabad. His thematic interests include personhood, performance and the body; disability and notions of human rights; and marginal livelihoods, including begging.


    Assessment is variously by essay and practical assignment (eg analysis of a short field exercise). A final dissertation of approximately 15,000 words, based on fieldwork in the UK or abroad, is also required. There are no examinations.

    Teaching Methods

    Teaching is by seminar, lecture, and film showings/discussions.

    Candidates will acquire analytical and research skills that can be applied in a wide range of careers. For example, graduates will find that the degree enhances professional development in areas such as teaching and education, social work, counselling, educational and child psychology, social and public policy, and the development sector.We expect that some of our graduates will also go on to do further research for a PhD in the anthropology of education.

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