Anthropology of International Development and Humanitarian Assistance MSc
- Special Features
- Course Content
- Teaching & Assessment
- Entry Criteria
About the Course
The course will appeal to graduates from a variety of backgrounds, including: anthropology, sociology, economics, politics, geography, law and development studies. It will provide the necessary training to enable students to seek employment with NGOs (such as Oxfam and Save the Children Fund), international agencies (such as the World Health Organisation and the World Food Programme) and the civil service (such as the UK Department for International Development). It will also provide a useful stepping stone for those seeking to undertake doctoral research in international development.
Over the last ten years, global aspirations to reduce the suffering of the "bottom billion" have led to unprecedented attention on international development. International agencies, governments and NGOs are working more intensely than ever before to deliver appropriate policies and interventions.
Anthropology has played a key role in the emergence of new perspectives on humanitarian assistance and the livelihoods of populations caught up in extreme circumstances such as famines, natural disasters and wars.
On the one hand, this has led to a radical re-thinking of what has been happening, but on the other hand, it has led to anthropologists sometimes playing controversial roles in agendas associated with the "war on terror".
This course examines these contemporary issues and debates, and explores their implications. It also sets them in the context of anthropology as a discipline. In so doing, students will discover how the apparent insights and skills of anthropologists have a long history associated with ethnographic work on economics, education, health, deprivation and conceptions of suffering dating back to the origins of the discipline.
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Course director: Dr Peggy Froerer
While its approach is anthropological, this degree offers genuine multi-disciplinary possibilities by drawing on modules from Politics, Health Sciences, Law and Business. Students will have the opportunity to explore the multiplicity of issues arising from critical shifts in global policy across the following key themes:
- The ways in which economic anthropologists have enhanced our understandings of livelihoods in ways that are dramatically different to dominant approaches in economics.
- The hazards and limitations of relying solely upon biomedical interventions to alleviate suffering and sickness.
- The ostensibly positive relationship between education and development, and the role of education as a vehicle for eradicating illiteracy and lowering fertility and mortality rates.
The programme is run by experts in their field, who have worked in countries across the globe including South, West and East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, as well as Britain. Find out more about our course team and their research interests.
The Anthropology Department also has two associated research centres focusing on children, child development, youth education, learning and medical anthropology:
• Centre for Anthropological Research on Childhood, Youth and Education (CARCYE)
• Centre for Research in International Medical Anthropology (CRIMA)
Rona studied Anthropology of Education
“As a teacher, the MSc in the Anthropology of Education gave me a different perspective on education and a multicultural view. Lectures were lively and informative and led to great discussion. Commuting from central London to Brunel hasn’t been too far and combined with the intensive two-day schedule I was able to maintain my working career whilst studying.
"Lectures are accessible and approachable. The support I have had, particularly during my dissertation, has been second to one. I’ve also made some super friends on the course from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.”
Typical ModulesThe following modules are a selection and are subject to change.
- Anthropology of International Development
Main topics of study: introduction to international development; anthropology and the colonial encounter; anthropology as critical political economy: questioning policy, practices and perceptions of international development; development and the nation-state; development and indigenous knowledge; education and development; poverty alleviation and development; gender and development; anthropological perspectives on the environment; hidden livelihoods; economic analysis and the informal economy; international development and human rights.
- Anthropological Perspectives on War and Humanitarianism
Main topics of study: contemporary warfare and complex emergencies; humanitarian responses to contemporary warfare; origins of humanitarianism: from the founding of the Red Cross to Medecins Sans Frontier; war and ethnic violence; war, famine and scarcity; refugees and mass forced displacement; international criminal justice and humanitarian assistance; re-building war-torn societies. Ethnographic case studies from East Africa, West Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East will be used to engage with these topics.
- Ethnographic Research Methods
Main topics of study: bringing 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.
Main aims of module: to bring perspectives derived from the taught modules to bear upon an issue of research interest to the student in the domain of the anthropology of international development and humanitarian assistance: i.e. the dissertation should reflect a specifically anthropological approach to research and analysis. Primary research data are to be derived primarily from participant observer study in a field site chosen by the student, supplemented by other research methods such as interviews, ethnographic tasks etc. The object of the dissertation is threefold: (i) to review the relevant literature on the topic; ii) to analyse an issue or problem that arises out of the data gathered during fieldwork; and (iii) to show how this analysis is warranted by the field data and how it relates to relevant literature in (and to other research) this area.
School of Social Sciences (Anthropology):
- 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.
- 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.
- Medical Anthropology in Clinical and Community Settings
Main topics of study: theoretical framings: nature-nurture/culture-biology debates and the concept of local biologies; clinically and critically applied medical anthropology; risk perception and discourse on risk; narrative, suffering and subjectivity; biomedicine, population sciences and medicalisation; political economy of health and development; governance and politics of international aid; rights-based approach to health and bioethics; thematic examples: ‘adolescence’ and the life-cycle; cross-cultural psychiatry and community-based mental health; alternative therapies and medical pluralism; doctor-patient interactions; evidence-based medicine and policy-making; childbirth and maternal health; sexuality and reproductive health; genetics and biotechnology; medicines and the pharmaceutical industry.
- Anthropology and Global Health
Main topics of study: changing conceptions of public health; constructing public health problems: the case of female circumcision; the social construction of epidemics; constructions of health and sickness in war zones; the changing relationship between anthropology and epidemiology; targeting people, targeting places: the limits of HIV prevention strategies; neglected tropical diseases and the case for targeted disease control programmes; public health and healing in the aftermath of war; evaluating public health policy; human rights and public health; ethical aspects of public health policy and practice.
- Anthropology of Education and Learning
Main topics of study: education and learning: culture and cognition; learning and embodiment; education, learning and apprenticeship; learning, language and knowledge; learning, identity and social difference; learning and social memory.
- History and Theory of Social Anthropology
Main aims of module: to provide a critical, historical perspective on the development of major theories and characteristic methods of social anthropology. Main topics of study include 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 and post-modernism).
- Political and Economic Issues in Anthropology
The course introduces students to some of the key research topics in modern social anthropology, including aspects of political economy, social organisation, cultural systems, historical change, and theoretical frames through which to view them.
School of Social Sciences (Politics and History):
Main topics of study: timescales of globalisation; international political economy; the ‘Global South’ in the world economy; climate change; international migration; the states system; globalisation and social theory: modernity, post-modernity and capitalism.
School of Health Sciences and Social Care:
- Global Agendas on Young People, Rights and Participation
Main topics of study: human rights: history, critiques and mobilisation; theorising children’s rights: child liberation and caretaker views; changing conceptions of children’s rights; the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: history and critiques; alternative conceptions of children’s rights: the African Charter; children’s rights in practice: children’s rights in national laws; claiming rights; participatory development: history and practices; children’s participation: the arguments; participatory projects with children; problematising children’s participation; youth and participation; youth politics and activism.
- Young Lives in the Global South
Main topics of study: popular and academic perspectives on childhood and youth; the ‘new social studies of childhood’ and critiques thereof; intergenerational relations: families and social reproduction; youth transitions; vulnerability and resilience; livelihoods and sustainability; work; education; health and sexuality; migration.
- International Development, Children and Youth
Main topics of study: exploring definitions of childhood, youth and international development, and theories of childhood and youth. In particular students will be introduced to the new social studies of childhood. The key tenets of this approach – the social construction of childhood and youth, and the agency of young people will subsequently be used to examine how theory, policy and practice in international development has accounted for and impacted on young people’s lives.
- Minorities and Indigenous Rights
Main topics of study: characteristics of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in international law; characteristics of international peoples in international law and overlap with minorities’ characteristics; historical development of minority and indigenous rights in international law and the political, social and legal processes that contributed to their development; UN standards related to minority rights; rRegional standards related to minority rights; UN standards on indigenous peoples; rRegional standards related to indigenous rights, with particular focus on indigenous land rights and natural resources; the formulation, implementation and current status of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law
Main topics of study: theory of international human rights law; origins, development and sources of international human rights law; the United Nations human rights regime; civil and political rights – ICCPR; equality and non-discrimination within the UN regime; social, economic and cultural rights – ICESCR; rights of women – UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women; rights of children – UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; torture – UN Convention on Torture; rights of the disabled – UN Convention on Disability; group rights – an overview of the UN protection for groups, minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and migrant workers.
- The Migrant, the State and the Law
Main topics of study: multi-disciplinary, theoretical and historical understandings of ‘the migrant’, ‘the refugee’ and ‘the state’; critical legal understandings of refugee and migration law; international refugee law in context – the formulation, implementation and current status of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 New York Protocol; international approaches to the regulation of labour migration; the European Union’s Common European Asylum system in the context of its wider migration policy; the role of refugee and migrant ‘others’ in nation-building processes; postcolonial theory, exile and migration; feminist legal theoretical approaches to human trafficking.
Brunel Business School:
- International Business Ethics and Corporate Governance
Main topics of study: business ethics, stakeholder theory and corporate social responsibility; ethical theory; making decisions in business ethics; ethics and employees in international business; consumers, supply chains and fair trade in international business; corporate governance. In addition, there will be two un-assessed compulsory reading modules.
Assessment is variously by essay and practical assignment (eg analysis of a short field exercise). A final dissertation of approximately 15,000 words, based on fieldwork in the UK or abroad, is also required. There are no examinations.
- Doctorial research and research assistant positions
- NGOs (e.g. Oxfam, Save the Children Fund, Islamic Agency for International Relief) and international agencies (e.g. World Health Organisation, World Food Programme)
- Civil service employment (the UK Department for International Development)
- General private sector employment (e.g. administrative/managerial positions and consultancy)
The course will provide the necessary training to enable students to seek employment with NGOs (such as Oxfam and Save the Children Fund), international agencies (such as the World Health Organisation and the World Food Programme) and the civil service (such as the UK Department for International Development). It will also provide a useful stepping stone for those seeking to undertake doctoral research in international development.
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 UK Honours degree, an equivalent overseas qualification, or an equivalent professional qualification (eg from a health background). Candidates not fully meeting these criteria may be considered. Students whose first language is not English must have IELTS of at least 6.5 or equivalent.
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.