Ground-breaking research exploring social and cultural worlds and relations between humans and their environments.

Study Information

At a Glance

Degree Qualification
MRes or PhD

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Aberdeen’s anthropology department was established at the turn of the millennium, initially with a specific focus on the Anthropology of the North, an orientation unique among UK departments. Our research has since expanded to encompass other ethnographic regions, from South America to Europe to Central and South Asia. It addresses a broad range of contemporary social and cultural themes, including religion, the state, human-animal relations, museums and indigenous politics.

Postgraduate research applicants to the Department can choose between two programmes:

MRes in Social Anthropology

Provides cutting-edge courses in anthropological theory, advanced training in anthropological research methods and the opportunity to develop a research project under the guidance of a supervisor. The MRes project may lead to PhD research.

PhD in Social Anthropology

Suitably qualified applicants develop and work on their own research projects under the guidance of supervisors with related research interests. PhD applicants are strongly advised to contact potential supervisors before applying to this programme.

Doctoral studies in The School of Social Science can be undertaken on a full or part-time basis and we would be happy to discuss the feasibility of distance study which will depend on the nature of the research project. PhD study can be undertaken either on campus or at a distance.

We welcome cross-disciplinary PhDs with a variety of disciplines, such as Anthropology and Archaeology, Film Studies, History, Divinity, and others.

Image by Anthropology PhD student, Linye Han

Our Research

The Department attracts research students from all over the world, regularly holds workshops and exhibitions with international collaborators and weekly research seminars with invited speakers. In recent years it has hosted two major research projects, Arctic Domus and Knowing from the Inside.

Research Interests

Anthropology of Art and Craft

Anthropological studies of art and craft through traditional' anthropological settings of indigenous art and studies both of and with digital media, contemporary art, and the revival of craft skills.

Expert: Prof. Alison Brown, Dr Jo Vergunst, Dr Nancy Wachowich

Environment and Perception

Anthropology at Aberdeen is internationally renowned for its distinctive approach to environmental questions, founded on the idea that environments are never complete but continually coming into being, along with their inhabitants, in creative processes of life, growth and movement. We have a particularly strong interest in human relations with other species.

Experts: Prof. David Anderson, Dr Arnar Árnason, Dr Maggie Bolton, Dr Rachel Smith, Dr Jo Vergunst, Dr Andrew Whitehouse, Dr Rob Wishart

Religion Belief and the State

The Department’s research in religion is wide-ranging, but with a particular focus on Buddhism, Islam, and the theme of death, embodiment and the person. Our research interests include ritual theory, moral subjectivity, anthropology beyond the secular, and evolutionary theories of religion.

Experts: Dr Arnar Árnason, Dr Martin Mills, Dr Johan Rasanayagam, Dr Rachel Smith,

Entry Requirements

To apply for this programme applicants must have at least a good honours degree in anthropology or a related subject. Applicants intending to progress from the MRes to the PhD programme should also provide a short statement about their research interests.

PhD Programme

Applicants for this programme must have a good honours degree in anthropology or a related subject and must normally provide evidence of postgraduate training in anthropological research methods.

In addition, applicants must provide a detailed research proposal.


We are open to discussing all potential projects with applicants, including the possibility of undertaking these via distance learning.

Guidelines for writing a Research Proposal.

For both programmes, applicants must provide two academic references from their most recent academic institution. For further guidance on applying, please contact Maggie Bolton.

If English is not your first language you must also show evidence of attaining standards in English. View details of English language criteria.

International Applicants


There are many opportunities at the University of Aberdeen to develop your knowledge, gain experience and build a competitive set of skills to enhance your employability. This is essential for your future career success. The Careers and Employability Service can help you to plan your career and support your choices throughout your time with us, from first to final year – and beyond.

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Contact Details

School of Social Science
University of Aberdeen
Edward Wright Building
Dunbar Street
AB24 3QY