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Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology MPhil

University of Oxford

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Course options

  • Qualification

    MPhil - Master of Philosophy

  • Location

    University of Oxford

  • Study mode

    Full time

  • Start date


  • Duration

    21 months

Course summary

The MPhil acts as a terminal degree but will also prepare you for doctoral research by introducing a wide range of theories and perspectives on museum anthropology, visual anthropology, and material culture theory, as well as practical field- and museum-based research methodologies. It is intended both as a standalone degree and as a broader and deeper preparation for doctoral research than is possible with the MSc.

First year

The first year of the MPhil is structured around teaching for four papers. Papers one and two are assessed by a 5,000-word essay. Paper three is assessed by a portfolio of methods exercises and a research proposal. Paper four is examined by a conventional three-hour unseen examination paper in June. The examination of these papers in the first year constitutes the ‘qualifying’ examination for continuation to the second year.

1. Contemporary themes in visual, material and museum anthropology

This paper focuses on topics such as visual culture (including photography, the internet, art and aesthetics); music and performance; museum ethics and relationships with 'source communities'; landscape and the built environment; dress and body modification; religion and ritual; material culture, mass production and trade; debates concerning tradition, modernity and authenticity; transnational cultural flows and the wider issues of cross-cultural investigation.

2. Option paper

Candidates select one option paper from those taught each year for students in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME). Titles of options available will be made known at the beginning of each academic year.

3. Research methods in visual, material and museum anthropology

This paper consists of two parts. Paper 3a is an outline proposal for the MSc dissertation research of no more than 2,500 words. Paper 3b is a methods portfolio consisting of reports (including notes) on trials of three visual and material anthropological methods and/or ethnographic museological methods relevant to the research proposed in paper 3a. The word limit is 2,500 words.

4. Fundamental concepts in visual, material, and museum anthropology

This paper focuses on anthropology’s distinctive contribution to understanding social and cultural form and process, and the role of human creativity within them, with particular reference to artefacts of material and visual culture, and to the collection, display, production, circulation and consumption of such artefacts.

Second year

You will spend the summer conducting preliminary research and then over the second year of the degree write a 30,000-word dissertation. Fieldwork is not expected as a basis for the MPhil thesis, but it can be conducted, and you will be encouraged to make use of the extensive visual and material cultural resources available in the department and the museum in selecting and researching dissertation and thesis topics.

During the second year you will also write an additional examined essay and take another option paper, again selected from any of the options offered within the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

Tuition fees

Students living in United States
(international fees)

£ 28,040per year

Tuition fees shown are for indicative purposes and may vary. Please check with the institution for most up to date details.

University information

University of Oxford

  • University League Table


  • Campus address

    University of Oxford, University Offices, Wellington Square, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 2JD, England

Subject rankings

  • Subject ranking

    2nd out of 34

  • Entry standards

    / Max 212
    192 97%


  • Graduate prospects

    / Max 100
    78 78%


  • Student satisfaction

    / Max 5

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