MA in Material and Visual Culture
Introduction | Core | Options | Staff | Application | Contact
This programme is designed as an advanced research degree providing exposure to a vanguard and creative field within anthropology and related disciplines.
In the first term the core course will introduce students to recent ethnographic writing on visual, material and digital culture, explore the contribution of key thinkers in the field and engage a number of key theoretical paradigms. The second term students will be presented with a wide range of case studies highlighting material culture in the wider world - ranging from art, through photography, clothing, consumption, cultural memory, monuments and the built environment with a view to exploring how these might be illuminated from a material culture perspective.
During the year students will also have the opportunity to take three specialist options from a range of courses offered within the Department. Finally they will be able to concentrate on a single topic, involving their own original research, through a dissertation at the end of the year.
The programme is suitable both for those with a prior degree in anthropology and for those with degrees in neighbouring disciplines who wish to be trained in anthropological and related approaches to material and visual culture.
The degree can lead to further doctoral research or careers in a wide range of areas such as architecture, media, commerce and aspects of development work where an emphasis on the material and visual environment is central.
More information generally applicable to all postgraduate programmes within the department can be found here. Contact the MA Degree Tutor Dr. Victor Buchli (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions not answered on these pages.
The MA is nominally completed in one year of full-time study or two years part-time. In the Autumn term students enroll in the Material and Visual Culture core course (and at least one optional course), followed in the Spring term by the second half of the core course and 2 optional courses. The two-hour written exam is administered in the third term (usually in May), and the bulk of dissertation research and writing is conducted between May and August, with submission in mid-September.
Those studying part-time are restricted to enrollment in the core course in their first year (with the exam in term 3 of that year), while optional courses and dissertation research/writing normally occur in the second year. Fees for part-time study are typically half the fees of full-time study in any given year. The full 2012/13 academic calendar can be downloaded here (as a PDF).
Fees and Bursaries
Details regarding the course fees for 2021/13 can be found by searching for "Material and Visual Culture' on this page. Details on funding opportunities can be found on the Anthropology Department's funding page and on UCL's funding pages for UK/EU and Overseas applicants to master's programmes.
The MA in Material and Visual Culture is based on the following components
1. Core course in Material and Visual
This is taught over two terms. The course is examined by a combination of a 2,500 word course work essay, a methodology practical, and a written examination at the end of the year.
Note that the aim of the practical skills training component of the core course is not to provide comprehensive fluency in technique (since we deal with a wide range of applications over the period) but to give enough sense of each technique that a student can envisage how and why these might be incorporated into anthropological research.
Students take three optional courses, at least two of which are typically from among those taught by Material & Visual Culture staff. These courses are examined by one essay each of 3,000 words, worth 8.33% of the course grade each.
- Anthropology of Art & Design
- Anthropology of Consumption & Media
- Anthropology of the Built Environment
- Anthropology and Photography
- Advanced Topics in Digital Culture
- Transforming and Creating the World: Anthropological Perspectives on Techniques and Technology
- Social Construction of Landscape
- Documentary Film and the Anthropological Eye
- Practical Ethnographic and Documentary Filmmaking (Lab-Based)
Full list of the optional courses can be found here.
3. Masters Research Methods seminar.
Typically 16-18 sessions are convened within the Research Methods seminar over the academic year. These sessions are made available to all masters students, and while only six are usually compulsory for students in the programme they may attend as many as they wish. The Research Methods seminars vary from year to year but typically include the following sessions:
- Participant observation
- Investigating space and place
- Interviews (I & II)
- Questionnaires (I & II)
- Using new technologies for research
- PRA (participatory rural appraisal))
- Against method
- Investigating kinship and relatedness
- Ethnographic writing
- Historical sources
- Researching ritual
Please note: this sequence is subject to change in 2012/13.
4. Dissertation. A 15,000 word dissertation to be submitted by mid September of each year, conducted under the supervision of a member of the material and visual culture staff, on an agreed topic. This will count for 50% of the overall mark.
5. A weekly seminar series, in Material and Visual Culture, with invited international speakers. Not examined.
This diagram illustrates the individually assessed components of the programme. The area of each box is proportional to its weighting (the upper layer represents the core course, the middle layer the options, and the bottom half the dissertation).
Past MA Dissertations
Click here to see a selection of previous MA Dissertations.
Current Staff Research Projects in Material and Visual Culture
- Usagewatch was created in 2005 by Francesco Cara to track the evolution of user practices with new digital media. Stefana Broadbent has since taken it on and is transforming it into a more narrative and analytic tool. The idea is to combine three levels of analysis : 1. the stories of individuals in their daily use of communication channels; 2. quantitative data from different sources on the adoption and usage of different digital services and society trends; 3. analysis of what is happening in society as a consequence of the adoption of all these new channels.Some of the analysis are long texts that want to really explain the macro phenomena that are happening, other are short texts that comment on the stories that are being published or on the data of the day.The main idea now is to let people tell their stories, let them do their own narration. Up to now the stories have been collected by anthropologists and social scientists, the objective is now to mix our own interviews with texts that people send us recounting how they communicate day after day.
- The current research project focuses on new materials and new technologies examining the rise of rapid manufacturing or 3-D printing. This research was part of a co-organised ESRC funded intiative entitled New Materials, New Technologies with Susanne Kuechler and Graeme Were in UCL Anthropology and Materials Sciences at Kings College London. This work is part of a wider collaboration with the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum on the interdisciplinary study of Materials. In addition he has just completed work as a member of the interdisciplinary Templeton Scholars Group on the origins of domesticity at the Neolithic site of Çatal Höyük in Turkey where he is examining long term culture change and processes of material iteration and innovation as they relate to the domestic sphere. Currently, Victor is Co-Investigator of the Adaptable Suburbs Project funded by the EPSRC with Laura Vaughan (Bartlett) and Muki Haklay (Geomatic Engineering). This is an interdisciplinary project investigating the sustainability of economic and social life in the London surburbs in the present and over time.
- My research interests so far have focused on the study of the relationships between people and things through two related angles: techniques and arts, especially in the Pacific area (mainly Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia). This implies investigating knowledge, materials and skills as well as addressing dimensions such as rituals and aesthetics in relation to social dynamics and environment.
- Research into material translation, new materials & new technologies is conducted into prototypes designed in Euro-American research laboratories. Current research is directed to an ethnographic exploration of the nature and perception of materials, with special reference to networks of knowledge transmission active linking centres of innovation to the materials industry and sectors of design. Ethnographic research is piloted into centres of research and innovation, and into sites of materials manufacture, design and marketing. The research is conducted in close collaboration with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, London (IOM3).
- New Material, New Technologies: Innovation, Society and Future
- Art and Cultural Dialogue: Executive Member and Task-group leader of EU Project Sus.Div: Sustainable Development in a Diverse World
Clothing The Pacific: An ESRC funded Study of Material Innovation and Social Change
- Miller has carried several research projects on the media which have resulted in publications including The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach (with D. Slater) Berg: Oxford 2000 and The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication (with H Horst) Berg: Oxford 2006, Tales from Facebook Polity 2011, and with Dr. M Madianou of Cambridge University Migration and New Media: transnationalism and polymedia (Routledge Sept 2011). He is currently working on the impact of social networking and webcam on transnational relationships and within Trinidad.
- The Leskernick (Bodmin Moor) archaeology and landscape project involving the excavation and field survey of a Bronze Age village and its relationship to the surrounding landscape in the past and present. Fieldwork completed in 1999. Monograph in final stages of preparation.
- Landscape and monumentality in prehistoric Europe. Studies in Conwall, (Neolithic to Iron Age monuments) Brittany (menhirs), southern Sweden (Bronze Age rock carvings and cairns) and Malta (Neolithic Temples) Book in Press.
- A comparative ethnographic study of residential gardens and gardening in Sweden and England. Swedish field research completed. First stage of English research to be completed by August 2003. Preparation of first book planned after that.
- Pinney's research has a strong geographic focus in central India: initial ethnographic research was concerned with village-resident factory workers. Subsequently he researched popular photographic practices and the consumption of Hindu chromolithographs in the same area. His publications combine contemporary ethnography with the historical archaeology of particular media (see eg. Camera Indica and Photos of the Gods). The Coming of Photography in India, based on the Panizzi Lectures was published by the British Library in October 2008.
Also developing relationships with: