MSc Cultural and Social Anthropology

University of Amsterdam

Program Description

MSc Cultural and Social Anthropology

University of Amsterdam

The Master’s program in Cultural and Social Anthropology at the UvA is a broadly focused one-year Master’s program in which you design and conduct high-quality anthropological research. Questions of globalization, identity, and authenticity, migration, citizenship, but also of transnational relations, development, and myths of progress are at the heart of this program.

Contemporary Cultural and Social Anthropology aims to understand and explain particular ways of living and behaving in societies all over the world, among different groups of people. How do people relate to each other and their social and material environment?

The Master’s in Cultural and Social Anthropology is a broad, one-year program in which you design and conduct your own high-quality anthropological research. After completing a period of twelve weeks of fieldwork, you are expected to write a well-argued thesis. This program is designed to transform you into an active participant in the production of anthropological knowledge and the principles and practices of the discipline. A distinctive feature of this program is the relative freedom in choosing the topic for your Master’s thesis. In terms of regional focus, there are also many options, as there is a wide range of regional specializations among the Cultural and Social Anthropology staff, who can support and supervise your project.

For students who wish to conduct research that has an applied character, we offer the possibility to specialize in Applied Anthropology. You can find more information here. If you wish to apply for the specialization Applied Anthropology, please follow the normal steps for an application for the MSc program Cultural and Social Anthropology. In your motivation letter, you can indicate that you wish to specialize in Applied Anthropology.

Student profile

The academic standards of this Master’s program are rigorous and you are expected to demonstrate a high level of commitment, independence, and resilience. You need to have a strong interest in anthropology and a desire to learn how to write thorough analytical texts. You should also be able to demonstrate an anthropological orientation and have the ability to empathize with the perspective, emotions, and ideas of other people. A high level of flexibility and self-reliance is essential for the successful completion of fieldwork.


In a world of increasing globalization, the Master’s degree in Anthropology equips you with highly relevant skills, such as:

  • independently devising, implementing, evaluating and reporting on a large-scale project
  • experience in developing networks
  • knowledge of qualitative research methods, including participant observation and interviewing
  • the ability to write well and argue cohesively
  • the ability to present your own work and ideas effectively
  • sensitivity to the complexity and diversity of the anthropological discipline
  • the skills to understand and deal effectively with intercultural problems
  • the ability to obtain in-depth knowledge on a given topic in a short period of time.

Why study Cultural and Social Anthropology in Amsterdam?

The Master’s in Cultural and Social Anthropology is a broad, research-oriented program which equips you with the necessary skills and competencies for a future career in research or in the field. Furthermore, the University of Amsterdam, a major research university, offers a Master’s program taught by one of the highest ranking geography departments in continental Europe. The Graduate School of Social Sciences (GSSS) of Amsterdam provides a vibrant and international academic community. The GSSS values diversity in both research and academic content, academic staff and the student population.

Focus on research

While conducting fieldwork and writing your thesis, you are supervised by a member of the academic staff who is actively involved in anthropological research on an international scale. At UvA's Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research (AISSR), research is conducted on themes that include the mobility of people, goods and ideas, and the search for identity in a modern globalized world.

Program outline

The Master's program 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 program 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)

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 of the Master's program. 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.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated January 18, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Feb. 2018
Sept. 2018
1 year
Full time
2,060 EUR
Netherlands - Amsterdam
Start date: Feb. 2018
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Start date: Sept. 2018
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Feb. 2018
Netherlands - Amsterdam
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2018
Netherlands - Amsterdam
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
EU/EEA students. Non-EU/EEA students €14,740 per year.