Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Social and Cultural Anthropology considers people, through and through, as social beings. It learned to do this through an early interest with 'exotic' places. But the approach that it learned applies to all of us. It has forced the realisation that everything that all of us do, in whatever society or culture at whatever period of history, rests on assumptions, which usually are not stated but which are largely shared with our particular neighbours, kin, friends, or colleagues. Everything social is open to question, including solidly held beliefs and attitudes and ideas about causality, the self in society, and nature and culture. Learning to relate different versions of the world to each other is learning to be a Social Anthropologist. In turn, Social Anthropology has been described as 'empirical philosophy'.

Social Anthropologists are usually area experts, often spending a lot of time, when relevant, on language, literature and history. But they talk among themselves about general problems of how to understand the social world. Specialisation can be by topic (for example economics, politics, religion, medicine, migration, or the visual, material, and embodied), but the subject as a whole is not topic-based. Social Anthropology asks where the topics come from, what they reveal and what they conceal, and what light, if any, they throw on the deep assumptions that persons in society might share. In so far as it does that, it is happy to take as its subject matter whole other disciplines in academia, or whole institutionalised forms of knowledge, such as science, law, nationalism, or pyschoanalysis, just as it does other cultures or societies or forms of common sense. As a discipline, it represents a way of making sense of disparate lives, societies, and ideas of the world.

 

Current Postdoctoral Associates and DPhil students from the ISCA

Dr Konstantina Isidoros is a social anthropologist researching the Western Sahara conflict in North Africa. She examines the region's failed decolonisation, war and geopolitical United Nations processes and conducts ethnographic research among the Sahrawi on their self-determination processes.

Darryl Stellmach, a DPhil candidate whose thesis asks how medical humanitarian practitioners define emergency, and how it is made known through the combination of action, debate and numbers. To this end, Darryl spent a year as an ethnographic observer with Médecins San Frontières (MSF) in their headquarters in Amsterdam and field sites in Juba and Leer, South Sudan. He followed the outbreak of the South Sudan conflict and MSF's response to it as it happened.

Melyn McKay, a DPhil candidate whose thesis looks at uncertainty and the rise of religio-nationalism in Myanmar. It focuses on women’s support for religio-nationalist groups, specifically Ma Ba Tha, and the ethical rationalities that inform women’s varied expressions of solidarity. Her fieldwork will be conducted in two areas in Myanmar over the course of approximately 14 months.

Susana Hancock, a DPhil candidate interested in nationalism in divided communities and whose research is based in Israel and looks at the development of pre-state Jewish identity, and its subsequent maintenance, through community programming and physical education.

 

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