Social Anthropology

Social and Cultural Anthropology, although not widely known among the general public, is arguably an extraordinarily important subject for inspiring students and helping them to become profoundly knowledgeable, genuinely curious, and deeply caring about trying to make for a better world. 

Intent & Purpose


Social Anthropology encourages students to delve into a wide range of things that are going on in the contemporary world. This in turn inspires them to pursue in-depth research so as to understand what is happening while at the same time this encourages them to do everything they can to change things for the better.   


As well as learning from their own fieldwork research, the course covers a wide range of topics each of which is taught by means of ethnographic film and published books and articles. Students thus become highly knowledgeable in a wide range of contemporary issues. 

Enquiring and caring global citizens 

Students of Social Anthropology are highly principled and the result of their studies about conflict, the treatment of the environment, and all the other issues, they become extremely caring about both their fellow human beings and also the world in which we all live. 

Excellence in education 

Excellence in education is first and foremost about producing wonderful, caring citizens of the world. Social Anthropology helps students to be that and at the same time to gain the most incredible academic results largely because of their passion for the subject. 


Implementation & Learning

Student-centered Learning 

The Social Anthropology course is extremely student-centered partly because of the fieldwork which all students of the subject have to undertake and partly because the topics covered are extremely relevant to the lives of young people today. 

Lifelong Learning 

Social Anthropology is not a course for which one simply sits an exam. It is a life-changing subject and the passionate interests fostered during the course will inspire students for the rest of their lives. 

Concept-Based Learning  

Concepts, a very large number of them, form the building bricks out of which the course is constructed. The nine major key concepts are belief/knowledge, change, culture, identity, materiality, power, social relations, society, and symbolism. Then each Area of Inquiry has its own relevant concepts. 

Student-led Inquiry 

The major student-led part of the course is the fieldwork which all students of the subject have to undertake. This is university level research for which students have to present their research proposal to their fellow students and then lead the discussion about how their fieldwork ideas could be improved. They can undertake their fieldwork anywhere in the world – so far Hockerill students of Social Anthropology have undertaken their fieldwork in fifty-two countries. 

Interdisciplinary Connections 

By its very nature Social Anthropology has many connections with other subjects. For example, there are intricate connections between Social Anthropology and Geography especially as regards the links between human beings and the land they live on. There are connections with Biology when there are discussions about how all human beings are essentially the same and how any minute differences are not biologically or anthropologically significant but may be highly culturally relevant. 


International Mindedness and British Values

International Mindedness is simply another name for Social Anthropology! The values embedded in the subject are universally acknowledged values: democracy, freedom for everyone regardless of their gender, freedom of religious belief, respect for and tolerance of difference. Our motto for Social and Cultural Anthropology at Hockerill is vive la difference


How does the curriculum support a holistic approach to education that goes beyond academic development? 

By its very nature, Social and Cultural Anthropology is about helping students to become lifelong learners – passionate about making for a better world. 

Environment: How is the curriculum adjusted to ensure all students can succeed? 

Social and Cultural Anthropology is easily accessible to all students. There is no one particular skill that is required. The two prerequisites for success in the subject are openness and interest/passion. 

Learning: How is feedback written into the curriculum to ensure that all students are set challenging goals? 

There is constant feedback – both oral and written – throughout the two years of the course. The course is not taught in a passive way – the students are massively involved in discussion and feedback from the start of the course. 

Year 12 Curriculum Map 

The six big anthropological questions:  

  • What is culture?
  • What does it mean to live in (a) society?
  • What does it mean to be a person?
  • How are we the same as and (yet) different from each other?   
  • To what extent is knowing others possible?         
  • Why does anthropology matter?

Two Areas of Inquiry:

  • The Body
  • Belonging 

Year 13 Curriculum Map 

 Fieldwork preparation: 

Anthropological Theory 

Research Methods 

Anthropological Ethics 

  1. Fieldwork preparation + Area of Inquiry 

Fieldwork presentations 

Communication, expression and technology 

  1. Two Areas of Inquiry (2) 

Health, illness and healing 

Communication, expression and technology 


CAS/Extra Curricular activities

There are the most fabulous opportunities to travel and study other cultures as part of the fieldwork or as part of pure curiosity. When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we will resume the annual July trip to India when for nearly three weeks students can be totally immersed in a very different and very wonderful way of life. 



Links to Theory of Knowledge

Social and Cultural Anthropology is constantly questioning what we think we know and replacing it with more securely founded knowledge albeit knowledge that is relative to particular groups and cultures.

Anthrobytes Podcast

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'Anthrobytes' is the new Anthropology Podcast put together by sixth form students and Mrs Dallas, in which we discuss all things human in bite-sized portions! 

  • In this first episode we present the letter 'A' and explain what Anthropology is, what it means to each of us and why it is important in our global community. Listen by CLICKING HERE
  • In this episode we present the letter 'B' and consider the Body and Beauty in different cross-cultural contexts and ask the question 'Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter 'C' and consider the concept of change in our globalised world and ask the question 'Does a change really do you good? Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter 'D' and ask 'What is the role of anthropology in development?'  We consider Archetti’s case study of the Quechua of Ecuador to demonstrate that the concept of ‘universal development’ as understood by Western NGOs and the United Nations may not reflect local subjectivities.  We also discuss the reasoning and controversies behind Scheper-Hughes’ call for a militant anthropology which is actively engaged in supporting studied groups. Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter 'E' and ask "What can we learn from indigenous relationships with the environment?" We firstly consider the ethnography ‘In The Shadow of the Palms’ to explore how the Marind people of West Papua conceptualise plantations of oil palm trees, in contrast with native plants, whom they regard as kin; secondly, we discuss the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania and their sustainable approaches to cow farming. Listen by CLICKING HERE
  • In this episode we present the letter 'F'  for 'faith'.  We ask 'What is the function of faith and extreme rituals in society?'  We explore rituals which may at first appear puzzling and counter-intuitive, as they cause great harm and suffering to their participants, considering how they can improve feelings of prosociality and in-group belonging through Xygalatas’ study of the Thaipusam in Mauritius. We also evaluate the usefulness and limitations of a Functionalist lens in anthropology for understanding cultural traditions. Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter 'G' and ask the question: 'How is the concept of gender constructed around the world?'  We look at the Bacha Posh of Afghanistan, girls who are dressed up as boys, and the Hijras of India, biological men who take on female names and behaviours yet are not regarded as fully women.  We consider how gender presentation can be a response to systematic oppression, or otherwise a form of self-expression, as well as the liminal status of individuals who exist outside the gender binary. Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter 'H' and ask in what ways is humour an integral part of society? In this episode, we look how ‘taboo’ humour can be used positively to construct social relationships between individuals, as in the case of the Mamprusi of Ghana, but also the way that viral memes on the internet can be weaponised by hate groups such as 4chan to spread violent and dangerous ideas. Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter 'I' for 'Identity' and ask 'How does identity intersect with politics?' We firstly explore the way immigration can affect people’s personhood and sense of belonging to a country, both from a standpoint of forced displacement and asylum and from the perspective of 2nd-generation immigrants and ‘third culture kids’. Next, we discuss the recent debate over the Scottish trans rights bill in the news, and how trans people’s identities intersect with national sovereignty and states’ constitutional rights. Listen by CLICKING HERE.
  • In this episode we present the letter ‘J’ for ‘Justice’ and ask ‘What is the role of anthropologists in seeking justice for studied groups?’ In this episode, we consider Bourgois’ In Search of Respect, looking at the way that violence and ‘street justice’ is used in the breakdown of legal institutions, as well as the ethicality of representing delinquent and criminal groups anthropologically. Next, we debated Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ concept of ‘advocacy anthropology’ and whether anthropologists should solely observe, or directly engage with studied groups for the purpose of ‘doing some good’.

    Listen by CLICKING HERE.

  • In this episode we present the letter ‘K’ for ‘Kinship’ and ask ‘How is kinship constructed differently cross-culturally?’ Firstly, we explore the way adoption is commonplace among the Inupiaq of Alaska, before looking at how the Malays of Langkawi view milk in relation to blood. We then consider how kinship can extend to non-human creatures, such as mountains and plants. Listen by CLICKING HERE.

  • In this episode we present the letter 'l' and ask what does language mean to us, and why are they worth preserving? We firstly began with Kulik’s A Death in the Rainforest, considering ways that indigenous languages may be lost through cultural change as traditional speakers turn towards more widely-spoken and ‘modern’ alternatives; however, we also looked into how cultural contact can lead to the creation of new pidgin and creole languages, as well as issues of legitimacy surrounding them. Lastly, we looked at the use of languages as lingua francas and how the speaking of language is embedded in hierarchies of power. Listen by CLICKING HERE

  • In this episode we present the letter 'M' and ask what is the value of anthropological methodologies in research? We take a more interview-based approach, firstly exploring (as Y13s) our own personal experiences of conducting fieldwork on perceptions of healthcare in Cuba, changes in family structures in Hong Kong and the UK, and white Kenyans’ constructions of belonging to the country. Next, we discussed the Y12s’ ideas for their upcoming fieldwork and the theoretical lenses they are planning to employ. Listen by CLICKING HERE

  • In this episode we present the letter ‘N’ and discuss what new insights has anthropology offered us, and what are our next steps? In this last-ever episode from the Y13s, we discuss the personal value anthropology has to us and how we hope an anthropological perspective can enrich our future career aspirations, ranging from HR and being a solicitor to working in the United Nations. From now on, the Y12s will lead, but nevertheless, the podcast will continue to communicate our shared love and passion for anthropology. Listen by CLICKING HERE

  • In this week's episode, Anthrobytes talks about the letter 'P' for 'Poster-Holiday reflections'.  Tune in for reflections on food, language, home and the cultural dissonance that can accompany the return back to everyday life following on from the holiday season.  Listen here: /uploads/asset_file/3_2135_250923-anthrobytes-p-final.mp3

  • This week, Anthrobytes talks about ‘R’ for ‘Resourceful’.  Anthropology is all about being open to difference, and that includes being open to different ways of Learning!  Tune in as we discuss our techniques for approaching revision, and tips on how to ‘stay human’ in the run up to exam season.  Listen here:  /uploads/asset_file/3_2142_anthrobytes-r.mp3