Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology MSc
- Special Features
- Course Content
- Teaching & Assessment
- Entry Criteria
About the Course
- Do our categories of behaviour – normal and abnormal – translate across cultures?
- Why do ethnic minorities have different experiences of mental health?
- Is there a ‘human nature’ underneath all the cultural differences?
Anyone interested in psychological processes, feeling and expression, memory and trauma, culture and personality, will have asked themselves questions of this kind. However, they are less likely to have asked themselves how (or if) we can recognise and analyse different emotions in other cultural settings.
In this new MSc degree, the first of its kind anywhere in Europe, we tackle these and other issues from an anthropological perspective, looking at the social and cultural dimensions of human experience. By engaging with debates on these important topics and through the examination of world ethnography (including the UK), participants will learn about selfhood, emotion, madness and identity in cultural context.
This MSc aims to give candidates a solid grounding in key topics in psychological and psychiatric anthropology. Through detailed consideration of cases from Britain and around the world, we explore the ways in which person, emotion, and subjectivity are shaped through cultural practices.
Candidates from backgrounds in health, therapy, social work and psychology will be able to challenge the categories and assumptions inherent in standard approaches to psychological and behavioural issues.
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Course director: Dr Andrew Beatty
This degree looks at psychological and psychiatric topics from an anthropological perspective. There is an overlap with psychology and psychiatry in the things we look at (identity, consciousness, cognition, mental health etc., but the approach is quite different; indeed, the findings can be startlingly different. In all cases, we explore the point of view and experience of the insider, the ‘native’, in a range of cultures; we analyse this inside view in relation to the social and cultural environment. What we seek is a dynamic conception of human nature that is true to experience as well as illuminating broader social processes of which the individual may be only partly aware.
This degree challenges standard assumptions about normality and deviance, social and personal identity, the boundaries of the self, and the constituents of experience. For those employed in the health, social and educational sectors, it will enhance professional practice and broaden understanding. But for every student it will open up new avenues.
The programme is run by experts in their field, who have worked in countries across the globe including Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, sub-Saharan Africa, Melanesia, India and Sri Lanka, as well as Britain.
Fatima Masarrat studied Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology MSc. She carried out fieldwork in a psychiatric unit in Karachi.
"I chose this Masters because of its structure – the range of modules and the opportunity to conduct fieldwork abroad impressed me. The fieldwork experience has challenged me to reflect and question my approach to the subject. Furthermore, the main advantages of my MSc studies are the solid research skills, as well as the prestige of doing a Master's in one of the best UK Universities.
"The academic staff in the Department are regarded as world leaders in their field. They presented anthropology in a way which was both inspiring and thought provoking. Even the most eminent professors will take the time to discuss research with postgraduates and the help is invaluable.
"I also found the lunch time seminars particularly beneficial as they are a great way to meet other postgraduate students and to exchange experiences. I’d advise prospective students to embrace the 'whole' experience as you only get out of it what you put in and if you’re prepared to get involved, the MSc in Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology is brilliant!
"My postgraduate degree at Brunel has caught employers' interest and, in terms of a career, the opportunities are endless. I am currently working in Mental Health in Karachi and hope to secure enough funding for a PhD."
Modules are subject to variation and students are advised to check with the School on whether a particular module of interest will be running in their year of entry.
Themes in Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology
Main topics of study: the development of psychological and psychiatric anthropology; theories of emotion (approaches to, and critiques of, the 'social construction of emotion'); selfhood and subjectivity in cross-cultural perspective; psychoanalytic approaches; folk psychologies; culture and personality; mental health and ethnic minorities; cultural perspectives on madness; narrative and illness; the construction of diagnostic categories.
Ethnographic Research Methods
Main topics of study: the centrality of fieldwork to anthropological research; theoretical and practical issues of participant observation, open-ended unstructured interviews and semi-structured interviews; the advantages and disadvantages of using questionnaires during fieldwork; different styles of ethnographic writing; gaining access in ethnographic research; ethical clearance and ethical dilemmas arising in the course of fieldwork; constructing a research proposal.
A dissertation of approximately 15,000 words based on fieldwork is required. Dissertation topics will be agreed with a supervisor and formulated in group discussions. Students have the opportunity to develop a project related to their normal work or to strike out into new fields. Recent examples of dissertations include:
- Becoming Muslim - religious conversion and habitus;
- Religious affiliations in four different generations in Cyprus and how they connect to matters of ethnicity and identity;
- Transcending fluid boundaries: Paganism in London;
- Integrating psychological systems in theory and practice: interactions between traditional Chinese medicine and psychosomatic medicine at the Gezeten Haus Klinik (GHK), Bad Godesburg, Germany;
- The making of the warrior - ritual, transformation and body in martial arts;
- Lose your mind, come to your senses: an ethnographic study of psychological rehabilitation at Civil Hospital Karachi, Pakistan;
- Construction of racial identity in mixed-race children;
- The Brownie experience: building self-esteem in British girls;
- Membership of a peer group organisation as a medium for social integration.
Anthropology of Education and Learning (Recommended)
Main topics of study: models of learning in anthropology and psychology; children as subjects and objects learning as an embodied microhistorical process; space-time coordinates of learning; kinship and intersubjectivity; person and gender; language and consciousness; ritual and learning.
Anthropology of Childhood and Youth
Main topics of study: the concept of the child in society; children's participation in society; children's ways of coping with violence; child play; child labour; the history of youth as a political category; young people's resistance to marginalisation; the radicalisation of young people.
Medical Anthropology in Clinical and Community Settings
Main Topics of Study: The therapeutic “triangle”, at the micro-level, of patient, doctor and patient’s kin and community; at the macro-level, the political economy of health, the dynamics of a national medical culture; the problem of efficacy in treatments and the role of the placebo effect; how might one change people’s health behaviour through public health? Plus problems in the specific analysis, cross-culturally, of 1 chronic illness and disability; 2 the process of dying; 3 pain; 4 ‘mental illness’.
Anthropology of Biomedicine and Psychiatry (Recommended)
Anthropology and Global Health
Main topics of study: health care pluralism in the UK, and abroad; folk, traditional and alternative healers; cultural attitudes to food and causes of malnutrition; cross-cultural psychiatry, and cross-cultural definitions of mental illness; culture-bound syndromes; migration, stress and health; urbanisation and the urban poor; family planning programmes; HIV and AIDS; primary health care; malaria; cultural barriers to international aid programmes.
Kinship and New Directions in Anthropology
Main topics of study: descent and alliance, the household, the incest taboo, new reproductive technologies, kinship and the state, gay kinship, the abortion debate, conceptions of social reproduction, kinship and migration, the social and cultural construction of paternity.
Anthropology of the Body
Main Topics of Study: The social body; embodiment, ‘habitus’ and phenomenological approaches to the body; cross-cultural perceptions of the body; the body in parts; sex and gender; childhood and the body; bodily norms, beauty and ideas of the perfect body; biomedicine and the body; death and the dying body.
Anthropology of the Person
Main topics of study: theories of the person; the notion of 'normality'; the emergence of memero-politics; classifications, kinds, and kind-making; 'looping effects'; cultural bound syndrome and 'ecological niche'.
Anthropology of Disability and Difference
Main Topics of Study: A critical overview of the medical and social models of disability that have framed discourse on disability; ethnographic and phenomenological alternatives to such approaches; conducting fieldwork with cognitively and physically impaired people; disability across the life course, with a focus on childhood disability; identity and disability; social policy, development, the state and disability; ethical dilemmas and the new genetics.
Plus two unassessed reading modules
History and Theory of Social Anthropology
Main topics of study: evolutionary' anthropology; 'race', 'civilisation'; diffusionism and the Boas school; the development of ethnographic research; functional, structure and comparison; structuralism; neo-evolutionism; culture and the interpretation of cultures; critiques (Marxism, feminism, post-modernism).
Issues in Social Anthropology
Main topics of study: kinship; gender; religion; anthropology of the body.
Assessment is variously by essay, practical assignment (eg analysis of a short field exercise), and dissertation. There are no examinations.
Candidates will acquire analytical and research skills that can be applied in a vast range of careers (overlapping with those catered for by sociology and anthropology). For those taking time out from an established career, the degree will enhance professional development in such fields as psychology, psychiatry, nursing, social work, education, social policy, charities and development. There is also the opportunity for graduates to do further research for a PhD in psychiatric-focused anthropology.
UK/EU students: £5,800 full-time; £2,900 part-time
International students: £12,000 full-time; £6,000 part-time
Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.
Entry RequirementsNormally a good Honours degree from a UK institution; an equivalent overseas qualification; or an equivalent professional qualification (eg from a health background or similar). Candidates not fully meeting these criteria may nevertheless be considered.
English Language Requirements
- IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
- TOEFL Paper test: 580 (TWE 4.5)
- TOEFL Internet test: 92 (R20, L20, S20, W20)
- Pearson: 59 (51 in all subscores)
- BrunELT 65% (min 60% in all areas)
Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accept a range of other language courses. We also have a range of Pre-sessional English language courses, for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.