Anthropology is the comparative study of the manifold ways in which people make sense of the world around them and their behaviour. A few common questions posed by anthropology are: how are societies different and how are they the same? How can we explain people’s ideas about themselves and others? How can we explain people’s worldviews and actions? By taking the time to study peoples’ lives in detail and by participating in their lives as much as possible, anthropologists explore what makes us uniquely human. In doing so, they aim to increase our understanding of ourselves and of each other. In today’s global world - the world of migrating people, objects, money and ideologies - this knowledge is essential to the fostering of coexistence.
The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.
Anthropologists work as university teachers, community development workers, journalists, social workers, human resources managers, race relations workers, international organization administrators, charity officers, museum education officers etc.
Anthropology is interdisciplinary by nature because of its holistic approach. Anthropologists study human worldviews and behaviour by positioning their findings in wider context socio-economic and political contexts.
Depending on the student’s interests, the anthropology courses offered at UCU go well with Art History, Political Science, Sociology, History, Earth and Environment, Media Studies and courses about health.
Anthropology is a very broad discipline and there are many different specializations. At UCU, we offer courses in the Anthropology of Gender & Sexuality, Environmental issues, Art & Material Culture, Heritage and Museums, (Post)Colonialism and inequality, Medical Anthropology and Power.
All tracks start with the course ‘Introduction to Anthropology’ and offer an overview of the history of anthropology, some important anthropologists, and theories.
Relevant information about pursuing a Master's in anthropology in the Netherlands can be found on Study Portals Masters.
Utrecht University offers the following Master's programmes in anthropology:
UCSSCANT11: Introduction to Anthropology
The course introduces the basic concepts, terms, and research methods of cultural anthropology. Key texts by founders situate core concepts in the discipline’s historical development and acquaint students with the principal areas of anthropological inquiry, such as social organization, politics, subsistence, kinship and marriage. These are illustrated through a reading of a classic ethnography and a study of modern Brazilian culture in post-industrial society. This course has a broad appeal for liberal arts students, and complements interests in SSC (particularly geography, development, sociology, and psychology), HUM (philosophy, linguistics, history, literature), and SCI (environmental studies, medicine).
UCSSCANT22: Gender & Sexuality
This course focuses on the central questions that concern anthropologists interested in the nature and determinants of gender roles, gender relations, and gender stratification. By presenting ethnographic and historical accounts of gender variations and how they are currently understood and displayed, the course reveals the social and cultural forces that have created changes in sex/gender systems. It pays particular attention to the ways in which categories of gender/sexuality are deployed in various discursive regimes such as nationalism, modernism, colonialism, and globalization. Of interest to students in HUM (history, art history, linguistics, literature, philosophy) and SCI (pre-medical track, biology).
UCSSCANT23: The Materiality of Culture
This course examines how different forms of material and visual culture shape social action and discourses about authenticity, identity, tradition, modernity, heritage and citizenship. It draws upon key anthropological theorists to examine cases of visual and material culture, including cross-cultural uses of photography and art. Students make active use of visual research methods in a group project. The course is of value to students interested in comparative visual culture, human geography, law, politics, history, art history and museum studies, literature. UCHUMHAR22 Museum Studies and UCHUMHAR32 Heritage are both cross-listed with Anthropology.
UCSSCANT25: Anthropology of Conservation
The global environmental movement, and its corollary initiatives of ‘conservation’, is having dramatic effects on people and places throughout the world. It is amounting to powerful environmentalisms that are invoking a host of discursive and material contestation, transforming human-environment relations. We are in an environmental epoch, or the “Anthropocene”, as many have begun to call it. It is a period characterized, in part, by conservation complexes that are reframing how we conceptualize ‘nature’, transforming its use and governance, reconfiguring landscapes, and reconstituting identities in the process. Put another way, a whole new form of “environmentality” has erupted across the world, introducing new technologies of government and self. This course draws on political ecology and anthropological theories in order to understand the genealogy of conservation, the discourse of environment and sustainability, as well as the power and politics that animate contemporary opportunities and pitfalls in the field of environmental conservation. The course is of essence to all students interested in a sustainable world and/or pursuing environmental and sustainability studies.
UCSSCANT26: Decolonizing Anthropology: Epistemology, theory, practice
In this course students are introduced to the richness, diversity, commonalities and potentials of anthropology in the world today. Since its inception, anthropological practice has been dominated by the so-called Great Traditions (mostly Anglo-American). However, processes of decolonization, globalization and transnationalism, along with critical interrogation of dominant discourses, have led to greater visibility of ‘peripheral’ or ‘marginalized’ scholarship. The decolonization of the discipline has resulted in a radical and critical focus on the empowerment of cultures being studied, and to serious challenges posed to the politics of knowledge production in anthropology. This course engages with questions regarding anthropology as developing global discipline and the themes and theories it engages with.
UCSSCANT31: Anthropology of Power
This course gives an insight into the globally and locally constructed relations of power in the world today, and into their causes and consequences as well as the processes of resistance to the dominant power relations and alternative constructions of world order advanced by marginal groups. It is of interest to students intending to pursue careers in politics, civil service and law.
UCHUMHAR32: Heritage: Dynamics of Collections
This course focuses on heritage as a global phenomenon that includes both old and newer public museum collections, heritage sites, and intangible cultural heritage. The identification of that which is considered valuable for posterity is a continuous process involving negotiation and contestation, with canons being created and revised worldwide. The course examines historical collection formation, classification, preservation and mediation processes, through case studies from Europe and beyond, with the British Museum, as the first public museum in the world, as the centerpiece. This course is cross-listed with Museum Studies (CHIP) and is essential for those interested in a related career.
UCSSCANT35: Medical Anthropology
Increasingly more aspects of people's lives have come to be defined as an object of medical intervention under the global expansion of biomedicine. The definition of a condition as a medical problem, its perceived causes and meanings, the institutions involved, the preferred treatments and their accessibility are all locally rooted and culturally framed. This course engages with central concepts and debates in the anthropology of health, illness and medicine. It considers the specificity of local therapeutic communities as well as the processes that connect such systems of knowledge and practice. The production of medical knowledge and healthcare systems – including biomedicine – are also examined, for they, and their social actors, do not exist outside of culture, society and power relations.
Introduction to Anthropology
Gender & Sexuality
Any SSC 100-level, preferably 11
The Materiality of Culture
Any SSC 100-level, preferably 11
Anthropology of Conservation
Any SSC 100-level, preferably 11
Decolonizing Anthropology: Epistemology, theory, practice
11, or UCUHUMHIS14, or UCUHUMAR11
Anthropology of Power
any of 22, 23, 25, UCUHUMHAR22
any of 11, 22, 26 or UCSCIGLO21
Heritage: Dynamics of Collections
UCUHUMHAR11 or 22, or UCSSCANT23/cross-listed with CHIP