If you’re preparing to study a postgraduate degree in Social Anthropology, getting a grounding through books is a good way to start. We’ve put together a selection of introductory readings that are recommended in preparation for the MA Social Anthropology degree at SOAS.
Anand Pandian’s A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times is an ideal place to start. Described as ‘an ethnography of anthropologists at work’, the book ‘explores the moral and political horizons of anthropological inquiry, the creative and transformative potential of an experimental practice.’
Think Like an Anthropologist by Matthew Engelke will help you get into the anthropology headspace. Engelke explores how anthropology helps us understand who we are and what the discipline can tell us about culture. Thomas Hylland Eriken’s Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology addresses classic topics in social anthropology, such as kinship, ethnicity, ritual and political systems, and their enduring relevance for understanding the contemporary world.
SOAS’s very own Ed Simpson is next on our list, with his monograph entitled The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and Amnesia in Gujarat, India. Ed explains that his book ‘traces life after a catastrophic natural disaster over the course of a decade. The writing is gentle – intended to reach broader audiences – and the narrative unfolds in both words and pictures.’
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is an ethnographic exploration of the commodity chain of matsutake, a wild mushroom growing in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere and a valuable gourmet treat. The book ‘offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: What manages to live in the ruins we have made?’
Having read these books, you’ll be well-prepared to start your MA in Social Anthropology at SOAS – or you may even be inspired to apply!