Anthropology is a form of disciplined curiosity about people's life ways and world views. It seeks to understand human interactions in all kinds of social groupings, including families, networks, communities, institutions, organisations, groups, societies and nations. The concepts of 'culture' and 'society' are central to the discipline and help us describe and understand how organisations and institutions work. 'Culture' refers to preconceptions, values, knowledge and norms that structure and give meaning to peoples' relationships, 'society' is the linked institutions that structure and organise social behaviour.
Critical empirical enquiry is the cornerstone of graduate research and we take pride in fostering a strong research tradition among graduates. We emphasise ethnographic research and offer a particular focus on the southern hemisphere.
Anthropologists are useful to prospective employers because they are able to draw on comparative information about societies across the globe to challenge conventional wisdom and provide creative alternatives. Graduates of the Department of Anthropology at UCT work in fields as diverse as medical research and activism, housing and energy policy, journalism, documentary production, drama, psychology, advertising, urban planning, tourism, environmental science, market research, industrial relations - and of course as professionals in the academy. Some are professors in universities in South Africa and abroad. Some work as academic researchers in the Medical Research Council and Groote Schuur Hospital. Others have entered the NGO and consultancy fields, where they do research and advocacy work on, among other things, maternal and child health, reproductive health, housing, democratic process, natural resource management, environmentalism, conflict management, Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), development work, and social research agencies. Graduates also work in government - in municipal roles, as researchers on the Land Claims Commission, the Gender Commission, and in local government.
We actively encourage students to become research assistants in the department. In so-doing, they gain practical experience in managing and conducting research projects and developing their own skills and networks.