What can students expect to do here?

At Birmingham, you can expect a degree that fosters intellectual flexibility and a diverse familiarity with humanities and social-science disciplines. We teach Anthropology in combination with other programmes. African Studies is itself an interdisciplinary programme that ranges from literature to geography to politics. It is available either by itself, with Anthropology, or with Development.

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All of our programmes enable you to make the most of our Department as a recognised centre of anthropology (2nd in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017 (Middle Eastern and African Studies), and as a world-leading hub of expertise on Africa (rated the best such department and the second of all area studies centres in the UK, in the government’s last research assessment).

We offer you the chance to combine anthropology’s critical, comparative perspective on societies and cultures with other approaches to being human. Rigorous core training in Anthropology involves learning to question our basic cultural assumptions; grounding this way of thinking in a detailed understanding of social arrangements on the ground; and combining theories and debates with direct experience conducting ethnographic fieldwork. All of this prepares you to conduct original research, supervised one-to-one by an expert, as part of your final-year dissertation. This process is combined with programmes in African Studies, History, Political Science, Archaeology, or Classical Literature and Civilisation. The result is that you take Anthropology’s critical, comparative stance even further by learning to question yet more assumptions from yet more points of view. In our Joint Honours degree programmes, we offer you the chance to spend a year abroad in a university to broaden your outlook further still!

As an African Studies student, you will be offered a range of options that introduce you to the history, literature, geography, cultures and politics of Africa. Core training helps you bring these diverse approaches together through a country case study, and later takes you through the process of developing an original research theme for your final-year dissertation. If you are interested in Development, you will also learn about aid, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and rural livelihoods, before developing a specialist dissertation interest. Regardless of your programme, the Department of African Studies and Anthropology provides you with personal, tailored supervision as you research and write your dissertation. In our Single Honours degree programmes, you can spend a term abroad in your second year, so that you can develop your interests in new ways. 

A range of optional modules range from those organised around themes (e.g. economic life, religion and ritual), to those that focus on African or Trans-Atlantic regions (e.g. African popular culture, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade), to those examining particular countries in detail (e.g. Ghana, South Africa). At the beginning of your degree, we introduce you to African anthropology because this is our own primary region of expertise, but anthropologists can then choose to what extent they take advantage of this regional specialism as a way to ground comparative ideas.

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