MA Sociocultural Anthropology
Institute of Anthropology, Room 110.01.07
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The consecutive master program in sociocultural anthropology provides a theoretically and empirically well-founded and in-depth training in sociocultural anthropology. In a transculturally connected world, sociocultural anthropology plays a special role as a comparative discipline in the humanities that looks at the variety of human ways of life and cultural perspectives. The subject of the program is the advanced study of cultural processes and dynamics in a globally connected world without losing sight of the local and emplaced dimensions of everyday life.
As part of the Centre of Asian and Transcultural Studies, the program’s regional foci lie in Southeast and South Asia, but other world regions and Western societies are also covered under the program’s comparative scope. Courses are also accessible from other master programs within the Centre of Asian and Transcultural Studies that have an anthropological aspect. The main language of instruction is English. Incoming students must be able to make complex presentations and write academic papers in English. Occasionally, courses are offered in German.
In the module handbook (version of 2023) you will find a detailed description of the structure and aims of our M.A. program. You can find model curricula at the end of the handbook starting on page 30.
Please have a look at the information system of Heidelberg University if you want to know which courses are offered in the Master's Programme at the present term.
Admission to our consecutive MA program in sociocultural anthropology requires the following:
A BA or equivalent university degree in cultural/social anthropology, or a degree in a course of studies comparable in topics and theoretical orientation (sociology, area studies, philosophy, geography) with at least 70 credit points acquired in anthropologically relevant seminars (please upload your transcripts and highlight the anthropologically relevant seminars).
Without a degree in social and/or cultural anthropology (Ethnologie) or less than 70 credit points acquired in anthropologically relevant seminars, applicants need to submit a letter of motivation and the transcripts of their BA studies proving their familiarity with anthropological methods and theory together with the other required documents.
Please highlight the seminars you consider to be anthropologically relevant in the submitted transcripts. The letter of motivation must convincingly explain the specific motivation to apply for our consecutive MA program in sociocultural anthropology based upon the applicant’s thematic and regional areas of interest. Please detail your engagement with anthropological theory and methodology during your BA studies. Read the module handbook in advance and answer the following questions in your motivational letter: How do your interests relate to the program’s contents and aims? What study focus would you like to choose and why? In addition, the letter must detail the language and methodological qualifications of the applicant that will equip them for our MA program. How do you want to build on and possibly expand these qualifications in your studies?
These documents need to be submitted together with the other admission documents online via heiCO. The admissions commission will review the documents and will either indicate that the applicant is eligible on heiCO or invite the applicant to an interview via email. Please contact the program coordinator if you are unsure, whether you have to submit additional documents.
All applicants need to prove very good proficiency in English, i.e. at least level B2 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).
- English from 5th grade until Abitur in Germany
- a minimum score of 72 in the internet-based TOEFL
- a minimum score of 5.0 in the IELTS
- a certificate of the language centre of Heidelberg University with "good" (2.0) or better
Please note that applicants with a degree from a university whose language of instruction is English and who have written their BA thesis in English do not need to provide TOEFL or IELTS scores. B-level proficiency or higher needs to be proven in one more foreign language other than German or English. A certificate for one's first mother tongue (if it is not German or English) is not required.
All applicants apply online via heiCO. The closing date for the application is March 31 for the summer semester, September 30 for the winter semester.
Please don't forget to submit proof of prior academic certifications (certified copies), all previous academic transcripts, and proof of English language and/or another foreign language proficiency. If your university does not issue a final grade, please submit an internal university ranking.
You will be informed by heiCO, whether your application was successful. The Institute of Anthropology is not allowed to communicate any details about the application process to applicants. Please refrain from contacting the Institute of Anthropology or the programme coordinator with questions regarding the state of the application process and direct all questions related to the posting and receipt of your application directly to: email@example.com
Once admitted to the MA Anthropology, follow the steps detailed on the International Relations Office’s homepage to matriculate prior to the start of the semester. Further details and information on the application are available at the International Relations Office. Please contact the International Relations Office for any technical questions relating to the application process.
Please inform the programme coordinator immediately after you have received the official admission notification.
German nationals and EU residents pay the Universität Heidelberg administrative fee of EUR 186,50 per semester.
Starting in the winter semester 2017/18, international students from non-EU (European Union) and non-EEA (European Economic Area - Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway) countries with a foreign university entrance qualification will be required to pay a tuition fee of EUR 1500 per semester for Bachelor’s/Staatsexamen and consecutive Master’s degree programmes at all institutions of higher education in Baden-Württemberg (Germany).
International students, thus, need to pay a total sum of EUR 1686,50 per semester.
For further information regarding the possibility of exceptions for payment obligations, please visit the university's information page.
The program's five research foci
The MA program articulates five research foci. While students need to familiarize with all of these five research foci, they will concentrate more narrowly on two and can further decide whether they want to focus on one, which will be displayed on their diploma.
a. Environmental anthropology – human-nonhuman entanglements
Environmental anthropology explores ‘more-than-human’ lifeworlds hence transcending the modern nature-culture dichotomy. It offers new perspectives on anthropocene debates. This requires the ethnographic study of human-induced changes in the environment and the cultural and social responses to them to develop a better understanding of the multiple ways environments are imagined, constructed and lived through the interactions of humans and nonhumans.
b. Economic anthropology – gift exchange, reciprocity and the market
Economic anthropology considers the full range of human transactions, including alternatives to market-oriented models of the economy with the anthropological paradigm of the maximizing homo oeconomicus at its centre. In particular, theories of the gift in sociocultural anthropology focus on the enduring relationships between exchangers and the possibility of sociality and relationships between humans and nonhumans. Economic anthropology thus provides a critical reassessment of global economic formations and offers a venue to escape the economic reductionism that characterizes contemporary social sciences.
c. Transcultural anthropology – mobilities, media and placemaking
Transcultural anthropology foregrounds the fact that much that impacts local lifeworlds and notions is part of transcultural entanglements that require a multisited and translocal approach. This focus offers themes ranging from mobilities and migration studies to urban anthropology and the practice of locality to aspects of visual and media-related productions of knowledge and meaning.
d. Anthropology of religion – religion, ritual and performance
The anthropology of religion focuses not only on different belief-systems, cosmologies or metaphysical convictions but also on the ways in which they are performed in rituals or arts, and practiced or embodied in everyday life. The term ‘religion’ has no equivalent in many lifeworlds and the anthropology of religion includes therefore a critical assessment of its central analytical category, which often refers to doctrinal belief systems rather than representing a universal empirical phenomenon.
e. Philosophy and ethics for anthropologists
Anthropological findings are not assembled as quantitative data but rather interpreted as paradigmatic cases suggesting a reconsideration of our tacit assumptions about reality, humans, thoughts, moral values, scientific truths, etc. In this self-critical respect, sociocultural anthropology engages with concepts of theoretical and practical philosophy, as the most recent ‘turns’ of the discipline show, namely the ‘ethical turn’ and the ‘ontological turn’.
Course of Studies and Contents
The MA program in sociocultural anthropology is structured as follows
(please also check the model course structures below):
Model Curricula (25%, 75%, 100%)
Each student needs to complete a one-semester course covering basic themes of sociocultural anthropology while linking them with current debates in the field (Module 1). Students read canonical texts from the history of anthropology alongside contemporary research and seek to build an understanding of how concepts, methods, and positionalities within the discipline have shifted over time. The module is tied to the institute colloquium which is compulsory for MA students in the first semester.
Students build thematic and regional expertise through the seminars in Module 2. Students choose from a variety of seminars from the program's five research foci, participate in discussion sessions, and craft research papers addressing a chosen topic within the scope of the seminars.
Students deepen methodological skills and gain practical experience by undertaking independent research during the laboratory phase (Module 3). During this two-semestrical seminar consisting of Laboratory 1 and Laboratory 2 students formulate an individual ethnographic project and pursue research, either within the structure of a research internship with an outside organization, through independently organized fieldwork or through an in-depth engagement with theory.
In Module 4, native speakers of German have the opportunity to lead BA tutorial sessions and gain teaching experience. Otherwise, students will take additional seminars from Module 2 to deepen their thematic and regional expertise.
In pursuit of a well-rounded and expansive interdisciplinary knowledge base, students are advised to take courses outside of the Institute of Anthropology. We strongly encourage students to acquire additional language skills in a non-European language through the language courses offered at the Institute or the University’s Zentrales Sprachlabor (Module 5).
In their final semester, students complete their Master’s Thesis, participate in the Master’s Colloquium with other students at the same stage, and sit a final oral exam at the very end of their studies (Modules 6, 7 and 8).
The Institute of Anthropology at Heidelberg University
The Institute of Anthropology (IfE) at Heidelberg University is part of the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS). The studies of Anthropology at the IfE can be complemented by courses at two further institutes at CATS: The Department of Anthropology at the South Asia Institute, and the Chair of Visual and Media Anthropology at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS). The Institute of Anthropology focuses on Southeast Asia, while the Department of Anthropology at the SAI offers courses in Medical Anthropology and the Anthropology of South Asia. In addition, the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS), with its focus on transcultural studies, offers students avenues for comparison with East Asia and access to current, innovative, and internationally linked research. Students of the MA in Anthropology can also take courses offered by the programmes 'Master of Health and Society in South Asia' located at the South Asia Institute and the 'Master of Transcultural Studies' offered by the HCTS.
We recommend that students, who wish to study abroad while being enrolled in the Master Program sociocultural anthropology, use the third semester as a mobility window for a stay between 3-6 months at a different university in Germany and beyond. This can either be done as part of the coordinated ERASMUS-Program, in form of self-organized stays at one of the Institute’s partner universities in South and Southeast Asia or at another university of their own choice outside of Europe.
We also encourage students to develop and conduct self-organized field trips in order to gain practical experiences with ethnographic methods in the form of exploratory fieldwork projects (during the laboratory phase or in preparation of the MA thesis). Coordinated ethnographic fieldschools in South and Southeast Asia are also offered as part of the program, albeit in irregular intervals.
Students need to discuss their planned stays abroad with one of the program coordinators to clarify which seminars may be taken and to develop a possible course structure. Students, who wish to use the mobility window in order to study or conduct research abroad, have ideally finished modules 1 and 3. When studying abroad, we recommend to choose seminars accountable for modules 2 and 5 as these modules offer the greatest flexibility regarding content and requirements. The acknowledgement of credit points obtained during a stay abroad will be based on the valid examination regulations. The program coordinators are responsible for the acknowledgment. Self-organized fieldwork projects fit well into the laboratory phase between the first and second semester or in preparation of the MA thesis after the third semester.
Forms / Downloads
- Plagiarism declaration (please submit the signed declaration together with you term papers)
- Style sheet for the first page of term papers
- Application form for the MA Anthropology
- Formal Criteria for Term Paper
- Examination regulations MA Anthropology (only in German; in the version of 2023)
- Examination regulations MA Anthropology (only in German; in the version of December 03, 2015)
- Module handbook MA Anthropology (in the version of 2023)
- Module handbook MA Anthropology (in the version of 2020)