Social and cultural anthropology examines differences between human cultures and societies through comparative ethnographic analysis. The discipline of anthropology at the University of Helsinki is Finland’s largest unit in the field and provides researchers with strong connections to anthropological departments at universities abroad. The methods, themes and focus areas of anthropological research change to reflect global and social changes. At present, the discipline studies topics such as the politics of border areas, cities, natural resources policy, human migration, and the new meanings of global religious movements, musical styles and communication technologies.
Social and cultural anthropology
Social and Cultural Anthropology has always aimed to explore the diversity of human cultures and social formations through ethnographic research that takes a comparative approach towards creating knowledge.
While this overall aim remains, both the means and the focus have changed in recent years, for the worlds that anthropologists study have changed radically, as have the relations between those worlds. The research conducted in our discipline focuses, for example, on politics of borders, global migration, natural resource politics, religious change and new meanings in music and communications technologies.
The fundamental goal of anthropological research is to examine micro-level social life as well as global-level phenomena from a comparative point of view, thereby continuously expanding the boundaries of the researcher’s previous competence.
In the teaching of anthropology at the University of Helsinki, a strong emphasis is placed on the tradition of fieldwork research through which modern anthropology is connected to the central questions and issues of sciences concerned with culture, society and human behaviour. Anthropological studies cover an extensive range of research traditions and the philosophical and theoretical questions which have been asked throughout the history of the discipline. The purpose of the programme is to ensure that every student becomes acquainted with the research fields of modern anthropology, its research methods and ethnographic studies across the globe.
A major part of the expertise accruing from anthropological studies is the competence to work in a wide range of different fields and professional environments, along with the ability to come up with solutions to unpredictable problems in any situation. In addition to finding positions in diverse research initiatives, anthropologists are employed in international organizations and government administration and as cultural experts in the corporate world, and they have found niches in fields such as journalism and other communication media. Anthropologists are required as teachers both in universities and other educational institutions, and they are in particular demand in non-government organizations, museums, and welfare bodies.
Beginning from 2017, Social and Cultural Anthropology is taught within the Bachelor’s and Master’s programme of Social Change. The Bachelor’s degree is designed to be completed in three years and the Master’s degree in two years of full-time study. Both programmes are taught in collaboration between four disciplines: Anthropology, Development Studies, Political History, and Social and Economic History.
We aim at providing a comprehensive anthropology training for students specializing in anthropology. Students are assigned a disciplinary major at the end of the second year of the Bachelor’s programme, and the third year is focused on learning about anthropological research traditions and methods. Courses taken at the Master’s level cover a diversity of anthropological research topics and theoretical and methodological perspectives. Both degrees also require the students to participate in a seminar that supports thesis work on a topic of their own choice. The Master’s thesis in anthropology is typically based on material collected on an ethnographic field trip. In addition to basic anthropological training, the programme offers a diversity of courses in the theories and methods of social sciences.
Prospective students can apply to the program at both levels. The students accepted to the Bachelor’s program receive the right to continue their studies in the Master’s programme after completing their BA. The Master’s programme accepts additional students who have a suitable BA degree from some other university or faculty. International students can study anthropology at the Master’s level by enrolling in the international Master’s programme on Contemporary Societies. Much of the Master’s level instruction in anthropology is given in English, which allows international and Finnish students to take part in the same discipline-specific seminars and courses.