UCL Anthropology


MSc Politics, Violence and Crime (PVC)

The programme offers an intensive training in the anthropology of politics, violence and crime. It uniquely enables students to explore the central role of anthropology as a tool to engage with other people's politics, 'the state', 'democracy', 'the rule of law' and with it pressing questions related to the unpredictability of the electorate despite all sorts of opinion polls; the tendency towards new charismatic populist leadership; ongoing violent and/or democratic revolutions; radicalisation and terrorism; violations of human rights, 'mafia systems' and extractive political economies, community disputes and violent conflicts. Such interlinked phenomena are uniquely explored through cutting edge ethnographic case studies of specific countries and regions and novel anthropological theoretical frameworks.

Crucially the MSc Politics, Violence and Crime (PVC) draws on the exceptional expertise at UCL anthropology. Our fieldwork takes us from the study of communal violence and organized crime in South Asia, to the investigation of ongoing revolutions in South America and the Middle East, genocides and wars in Central Africa and vernacular understanding of democracy and law in India and Venezuela. The new MSc will boost and build upon the current department's involvement with the Sigrid Rausing Trust. The Foundation supports cutting-edge research in the global field of Human Rights - with a specific focus on issue related to transparency and accountability, conflict and litigation and gender issues: all thematics at the heart of the new degree curriculum.

The degree is primarily intended for graduates with degrees in a core social/human science subject or law, these may be either students contemplating future doctoral research in the subject or students who wish to acquire anthropological expertise in the topic to enhance their professional skills. As such the program is of interest for people working (or planning) to work in the policy world, international government agencies, law firms, security and risk analysis companies, election consultancy companies, humanitarian organisations and NGOs.


The programme will consist of:  

  1. Two term core course component  'The Anthropology of Politics, Violence and Crime'
  2. Compulsory post-graduate methods training courses 'Ethnographic Methods'
  3. Dissertation    
  4. Three option courses 

The core course will run across two terms. In the first term, the seminar course will introduce students to Critical Issues in Social Anthropology and key themes in the anthropology of politics, violence and crime. There will also be a compulsory methodological training component in term one that will focus on providing skills in ethnographic methods. The second part of the core course in Term Two will examine and critically engaged with applied aspects of political and legal anthropology - using practical class-based exercises, small team research and deep engagement with ethnographic case studies. Students will be taught how to use anthropology as a tool to engage with pressing research questions, for example: what are the social and political factors that produce extremely violent social conflicts and riots? Through what 'socio-cultural' mechanisms do politicians gain popularity and charisma? How is violence against women and rape used as a tool of statecraft to impose or maintain authority in different contexts? What is a 'Mafia State'?  Guest speakers from inside and beyond academia will be invited to participate in the second term core course.

Over the course of the year, students will also take three optional courses.

Current relevant optional courses in the department available to students will normally include (although these may be subject to change)

  • ANTH3003 Anthropology of Crime
  • ANTH0193 Anthropology of War
  • ANTH0129 Risk, Power and Uncertainty
  • ANTH0048 The Anthropology of Islam in Diaspora
  • ANTH0077 The Social Forms of Revolution
  • ANTH0059 Anthropologies of Religion
  • ANTH0029 Anthropology of Nationalism, Ethnicity and Race
  • ANTH0131 Theory in Anthropology

Areas related courses (this will allow the student to focus upon a particular region of the world)

  • ANTH0082 Anthropology of Latin America
  • ANTH0072 Anthropology of India
  • ANTH0069 Ethnography of Forest People
  • ANTH0056 Anthropology of Socialist and Post-Socialist Societies

*** Options on related topics offered by other Departments will be available upon agreement with Programme Tutors on yearly basis

Further Information

To register your expression of interest in the degree or if you have further questions please contact Lucia Michelutti (l.michelutti@ucl.ac.uk)