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School of Social Sciences

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MA Visual Anthropology
A master's degree from the world's leading centre for visual anthropology and sensory media.

MA Visual Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course description

  • Study at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology - widely recognised as the world's leading centre for Visual Anthropology and Sensory Media
  • The course combines anthropology with practical training in film-making, editing, visual methods, photography, sensory ethnography and sound
  • Students are provided with professional equipment and supported by an internally renowned staff comprising the largest visual anthropology faculty in Europe

We welcome students from across the social sciences and humanities. The MA in Visual Anthropology is tailored to meet the needs of different levels of anthropological and film-making experience, whether you have little or no background in formal anthropology, film-production, visual methods and photography, or if you have substantial experience in one or more of these areas.

For nearly 30 years, the University's Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology has been widely recognised as the world's leading centre for Visual Anthropology. Our graduates have produced more than 400 ethnographic films seen around the world and it is now at the forefront of the emergent dialogue between art and anthropology, including sensory ethnography and sound, experimental and practice-based methods, photographic and digital media, museum and gallery installations.

Our MA and MPhil courses combine anthropology with training in film-making and editing, visual methods, photography sensory ethnography and sound. Students are provided with professional equipment and supported by an internationally renowned staff comprising the largest visual anthropology faculty in Europe.

The Granada Centre's teaching and research continues to set the standard of excellence in the social sciences as well as arts. This was formally recognised by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council), and by the AHRC, awarding the master's programme the status of a Professional Preparation masters, something awarded to no other visual anthropology programme in the UK.

In 2012 the Granada Centre 's MA in Visual Anthropology received a special commendation for teaching excellence by the UK's Higher Education Authority and the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA), and is the only such course to have been awarded this distinction.


Admissions Tutor: Dr Rupert Cox


Special features

As a course that teaches anthropology and practice based film and media skills, prospective candidates should be aware that the MA in Visual Anthropology is a highly intensive course and runs over 13-months rather than the standard 12 months. It extends beyond the conventional 12 months because of the additional time required for completing the audio-visual work. Editing the final film and media work is staggered over a 6 week period, from late-August to the beginning of October. Students who need to complete by the end of a 12-month period can apply beforehand in order that arrangements can be put in place.  Graduation Exhibition and Film Screenings held in mid October and are organised by the students themselves. These are not a compulsory part of the programme but they have become a traditional rite of passage and opportunity to show work to the public, friends and family.

Why Manchester?

Manchester is a creative, energetic and cosmopolitan city noted for its music scene, media links and industrial past. An advantage of studying in Manchester is the cheap cost of living and accommodation in that rents are approximately half the cost of London.

Teaching and learning

The course combines conventional lectures and seminars with practical 'hands-on' instruction and workshops. Students work in teams and individually.  Their final piece is an individual production, however throughout the year they will spend time working in teams so as to develop team-working & presentational skills as well as technical and artistic expertise. Work is presented to the class and receives feedback from fellow students as well as instructors. In this way, students learn to analyse their own and others works and through each other's successes and failures, generating a strong range of intellectual, practical and aesthetic resources as well as a sense of camaraderie and cooperation.

Coursework and assessment

During both semesters, students take 1 x 30-credit or 2 x 15 credit practical film or media courses and 2 x 15-credit lecture- or seminar-based modules on more theoretical, methodological or substantive ethnographic topics. The latter are each assessed by means of a 4000-word essay. The practical modules are assessed by various combinations of a portfolio of project work and an accompanying written text.

Course content for year 1

Overall structure of programme

SOAN70121 Ethnographic Documentary

Practical film making, directing, camera work and editing.

SOAN70591  Anthropology of Vision, Memory and the Senses 

Weekly lectures, screenings and workshops, on the anthropology of visual perception, the senses and memory.

SOAN70771 Screening Culture

Weekly lectures and film screenings on the history of anthropological and ethnographic film. 


SOAN The Anthropology of Sound

Explores social, cultural and political meanings of voice, sound, noise and silence, and their relationship to space and place, time and memory, identity and belonging.


Key Approaches to Anthropology

Those students without anthropological background are expected to take this course in place of either Anthropology of Vision, Memory and the Senses or Screening Culture HOWEVER they will still be expected to audit the course they do not take.


Choose one specialist course in anthropology

For Manchester graduates who have already taken Anthropology of Vision, Memory and the Senses or Screening Culture eg Regional Courses such as the Anthropology of Africa, Middle East, Europe or Latin America; or thematic courses eg Medical Anthropology, Urban Anthropology, Museum Anthropology etc)

Spring semester

SOAN609 9 2 Documentary and Sensory Media 

Photography, Sound, Art/Anthropology, Social Activism and Museums, delivered through lectures, practical workshops and field trips.

SOAN70142 Beyond Observational Cinema

Further Film training delivered through lectures and practical workshops.

SOAN60922 Dissertation Research Proposal

Students plan and develop their Final Project with the support of their supervisors.

SOAN70452 Images, Texts, Fieldwork

Research course in urban anthropology that explores traditional and experiential approaches and methods to anthropological research.


SOAN60212 Art, Activism and Anthropology

Explores the intersection between art and anthropology and their uses in political representation.

Additional workshops and training sessions run by industry professionals are run throughout the year, as well as weekly film screenings and presentations of works in progress by current PhD students.

Course unit details

Further information can be found in the  Programme Handbook.

Course unit details

Semester One involves intensive practical training in Film-making and Ethnographic Documentary, alongside courses on Visual and Sensory Perception, the history of Anthropological and Ethnographic films, and the Anthropology of Sound. Students with little or no anthropological background will also take introductory courses in anthropology where necessary.

In Semester Two, students will engage in more advanced modes of Ethnographic Film Making, alongside courses and workshops in Photography, Sensory Ethnography and Sound Recording and other art based and experimental forms. This is complemented with courses on anthropological and ethnographic methods in preparation of students' summer research projects. Throughout the year screenings and additional workshops are conducted by visiting professionals, including film-makers, photographers & sound recordists.

Over the summer all students engage in an original piece of ethnographic and anthropological research. The potential for research projects is wide ranging, both in terms of location and theme, and in any one year may focus on subjects as diverse as Burlesque Dancing in the UK, Education in China, Balkan Music, Brazilian Favelas, Palestinian Identity, US Summer Camps, Gay Cruising in Manchester, Life in Latin American Prisons, Migration across the Sahara, Congolese Fashion, East African Nomads. We actively welcome Manchester based projects and recent projects include The Manchester Library, Post-Industrial Ruins, Manchester Canals, Female Prisoners, Green Spaces and The Manchester Music Scene.

There are a number of formats in that students may make a 25-30 minute documentary or may choose to combine film with other forms of media and representation, such as photography, a gallery installation or sound and multi media pieces. The high standard of the MA summer projects is attested to by the number of domestic and international prizes and awards they receive. For example, in 2014 the graduation of films of Simon Rasing and Joao Meirinhos were both nominated for the Channel 4/One World Media Student Prize for Hip Hop my Desire and Afluentes Ayahuasca, following in the footsteps of Kieran Hanson and Maria Jose Pavlovic whose graduation films Shooting Freetown and The Yayas D'Elegance were both shortlisted for the same prize in 2012 and 2013. 

Recruitment is highly international: roughly one third of students are from the UK, a third from the European Union & the remainder from countries outside Europe.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: