Social and cultural anthropology

Social and cultural anthropology examines differences among 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. At present, the discipline studies topics that include: the politics of border areas; state formation, climate change, and migration; the development of social cognition in culturally different contexts; and religious movements, secularism and the ethical and moral questions connected to them.
An­thro­po­logy at the University of Helsinki

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 topics such as: the politics of border areas; state formation, climate change, and migration; the development of social cognition in culturally different contexts; and religious movements, secularism and the ethical and moral questions connected to them.

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.

The teaching of anthropology at the University of Helsinki emphasizes the tradition of field research as a means to address central questions and issues regarding culture, society and human behaviour. Anthropological studies cover an extensive range of research traditions and engage the philosophical and theoretical questions which have defined 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.


Ongoing research projects

Recently finished research projects

New­est doc­toral theses from the dis­cip­line

Study­ing an­thro­po­logy

How do I get to study an­thro­po­logy?

Beginning from 2017, Social and Cultural Anthropology is taught within the Bachelor’s and Master’s programme of Society and 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.

In the Bachelor’s programme, students can choose anthropology as their study track after one year of common studies. The Master’s programme is fully anthropological, excluding elective studies and a single, interdisciplinary course. Social- and cultural anthropology belongs to the Social Sciences Doctoral Programme to which you can apply to do anthropologically focused graduate studies and to write a thesis in anthropology.

Prospective students can apply to the Society and Change program at both the BA and MA level. 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.

What is stud­ied in the an­thro­po­logy track?

We aim at providing a comprehensive anthropology training for students specializing in anthropology. Students are assigned a disciplinary major at the end of the first 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 research 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 anthropological training the study programme provides a wide variety of social research methods and theory courses. 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.

Degree programmes that offer teaching in social and cultural anthropology
An­thro­po­lo­gists in work life

Anthropology helps to understand complex entities thanks to its holistic perspective, ethnographic methods and analytical thinking skills it offers. Jobs requiring anthropological expertise cannot be automated since anthropology as a human science provides ways to analyze social interaction and cultural change.

Anthropological studies prepare students to work in a wide range of fields and professional environments, and anthropological training helps students to excel at problem-solving in unpredictable situations. In addition to careers in research, anthropologists are employed in both domestic and international organizations, government administration and as cultural experts in the corporate world. They have found niches in fields such as journalism and other communication media. Anthropologists are also required as teachers in universities and other educational institutions, and they are in particular demand in non-government organizations, museums, and welfare bodies. There is an increasing demand of anthropological expertise in the private sector, for example, in service design.

Anthropologists are particularly well equipped to work in positions which require the skills of cultural interpretation. They, for instance, work in organisations which deal with immigration and multiculturalism. Cultural expertise is also needed to understand, for example, the differences between social classes, the relationships between consumers and products or the interaction between the law and its object.

Dis­cip­line re­lated blogs, so­cial me­dia chan­nels and im­port­ant webpages
News from Anthropology-blog

Short presentations of the personnel of Social and Cultural Anthropology can be found on the Anthropology blog.

Discipline coordinator: Senior University Lecturer Toomas Gross

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