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Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology MSc

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  • Objectives
    Anyone interested in psychological processes, feeling and expression, memory and trauma, culture and personality, will have asked themselves some of the questions systematically addressed in this new MSc degree, the first of its kind in Britain. Do our categories of behaviour - normal and abnormal - translate across cultures? Is one person's madness another's spirit possession? Why do ethnic minorities have different experiences of mental health? Can we distinguish between human universals and their local expressions? Are 'anger' and 'shame' the same in Britain, Uganda and Java? In tackling these and other issues anthropologically, participants will acquire comparative knowledge, practical, analytical and research skills, and a reflective understanding of their own cultural and professional practices, whether they work in health, education, or psychology sectors, or are simply seeking a more systematic and culturally enlightened approach to human nature. The new MSc aims to give candidates a solid grounding in key topics in psychological and psychiatric anthropology. Through detailed consideration of cases from Britain and around the world, we explore the ways in which person, emotion, and subjectivity are shaped through cultural practices. We also explore classic topics such as 'Culture and Personality' and assess their contemporary relevance. Candidates from backgrounds in health, therapy, social work and psychology will be able to challenge the categories and assumptions inherent in standard approaches to psychological and behavioural issues. They will also learn to apply cross-cultural perspectives on madness, depression, trauma, and alternative states of consciousness. Those seeking a better understanding of ethnic and cultural variety in Britain will gain new insights and skills applicable in professional settings. The programme offers a broad-based anthropological approach, with options on learning and cognition, the body, childhood, and psychoanalysis as well as intensive training in ethnographic research methods designed to equip the student for practical assignments in work settings or 'the field', wherever it may be. An important part of the degree is a dissertation based on a research project agreed with supervisors and formulated in group discussions. Students have the opportunity to develop a project related to their normal work or to strike out into new fields which might include projects such as spiritual healing and neo-shamanism in the New Age; the experience of being a refugee; depression among London Bangladeshis; friendship in an English school; the construction of emotion in an African community; memory and trauma among asylum seekers.
  • Entry requirements
    Entry Requirements Normally a good Honours degree from a UK institution; an equivalent overseas qualification; or an equivalent professional qualification (eg from a health 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
    Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology MSc
  • Course description
        *  Do our categories of behaviour - normal and abnormal - translate across cultures?

        * Why do ethnic minorities have different experiences of mental health?

        * Is there a ‘human nature’ underneath all the cultural differences?

    Do our categories of behaviour - normal and abnormal - translate across cultures? Why do ethnic minorities have different experiences of mental health? Is there a 'human nature' underneath all the cultural differences? This new MSc - the first of its kind in Britain - aims to give candidates a solid grounding in key topics in psychological and psychiatric anthropology. The programme offers a broad-based anthropological approach, with options on learning and cognition, the body, childhood and psychoanalysis as well as intensive training in ethnographic research methods. In tackling these and other issues anthropologically, participants will acquire comparative knowledge, practical, analytical and research skills, and a reflective understanding of their own cultural and professional practices.

    Compulsory Modules

    Themes in Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology
    Main topics of study: the development of psychological and psychiatric anthropology; theories of emotion (approaches to, and critiques of, the 'social construction of emotion'); selfhood and subjectivity in cross-cultural perspective; psychoanalytic approaches; folk psychologies; culture and personality; mental health and ethnic minorities; cultural perspectives on madness; narrative and illness; the construction of diagnostic categories.

    Ethnographic Research Methods Parts 1 and 2
    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.

    Dissertation
    Main Topics of Study: 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 psychological anthropology, and the data generated by the student’s own fieldwork.

    Recent examples of dissertations by students taking this course include:

        * Construction of racial identity in mixed race children.
        * An ethnographic study of psychosocial rehabilitation.
        * Religious affiliations in four different generations in Cyprus.

    Optional Modules

    Anthropological and Psychological Perspectives on Learning - Recommended
    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.

    Anthropology of Childhood and Youth
    Main topics of study: the concept of the child in society; children's participation in society; children's ways of coping with violence; child play; child labour; the history of youth as a political category; young people's resistance to marginalisation; the radicalisation of young people.

    The 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.

    Clinically Applied Medical Anthropology
    Main topics of study: medical versus lay perceptions of illness; body image and the interpretation of symptoms; psychosomatic disorders; reproduction and childbirth; death, dying and bereavement; ritual in health care; family culture and health; alcohol, tobacco and drug use and abuse.

    Applied Anthropoloogy and International Health
    Main topics of study: health care pluralism in the UK, and abroad; folk, traditional and alternative healers; cultural attitudes to food and causes of malnutrition; cross-cultural psychiatry, and cross-cultural definitions of mental illness; culture-bound syndromes; migration, stress and health; urbanisation and the urban poor; family planning programmes; HIV and AIDS; primary health care; malaria; cultural barriers to international aid programmes.

        * Kinship and New Directions in Anthropology
        * The Anthropooogy 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.

    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

    Assessment is variously by essay, practical assignment (eg analysis of a short field exercise), and dissertation. There are no examinations.

    Teaching Methods

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

    Careers

    Candidates will acquire analytical and research skills that can be applied in a vast range of careers (overlapping with those catered for by sociology and anthropology). For those taking time out from an established career, the degree will enhance professional development in such fields as psychology, psychiatry, nursing, social work, education, social policy, charities and development. There is also the opportunity for graduates to do further research for a PhD in psychiatric-focused anthropology.

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