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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Welch

A plunge (back) into university life

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

In September 2022 I'll be returning to (part-time) university studies, after a gap of - wow - sixteen years.

During lockdown I explored some really interesting online learning courses - beginning with Activism and Social Movements, progressing through Sex, Power, Gender and Migration, and then on to Social Anthropology: An Introduction via the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford (I'd really recommend all of these courses, and the first two are free).

I found all of these courses, but especially the introduction to Social Anthropology to be genuinely eye-opening, giving me a lens through which to reconsider the familiar, and to contextualise the practical knowledge and experience of my career. A little to my surprise, I found myself totally immersed in the reading, loving the conversations with students all over the world, and complementing my professional experience with more international, historical and theoretical perspectives. As a result, I've applied and been accepted onto the part-time Masters programme in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, starting this autumn.

The idea of returning to university after such a long gap is a little intimidating. That said, I’m finding that (a bit of) additional maturity and (a bit more) experience that I'm bringing to studying this time around is allowing me to think more deeply, to be curious - rather than defensive - about what I don’t understand, to ask better questions and to embrace the nuance, contradictions and messiness inherent in humans and their connections to one-another.

The time and expense of Masters study is considerable, and not something I'm taking for granted. I thought I'd use this blog to share a selection of links, reading and other interesting material I come across. If you're interested in social anthropology, community-building and / or creativity, I hope there's something here to get you started. I'll keep adding to this as I go.

Online learning

Activism and Social Movements, Duke University, via Coursera (free). Accessible, bite-size learning with a nicely international flavour.

Sex, Power, Gender and Migration, National Tsing Hua University, via FutureLearn (free). Fascinating and eye-opening, and wonderful to approach topics from a non-European perspective.

Social Anthropology: An Introduction via the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford. Top-quality (and really flexible) learning, with in-depth support from a tutor, which really added to the experience.

(Non-academic) books

  • Watching the English: The hidden rules of English behaviour, by Kate Fox

  • Undreamed Shores: The Hidden Heroines of British Anthropology, by Frances Larson

  • Exotic No More: Anthropology for the Contemporary World, edited by Jeremy MacClancy

  • Direct Action, an Ethnography, by David Graeber

  • Stuff, by Daniel Miller

  • Radical Intimacy, by Sophie K. Rosa

  • Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucault

  • Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell

  • Joyful Militancy: by Nick Montgomery and carla bergman

Online resources

Sapiens, a website and newsletter 'with a mission to bring anthropology—the study of being human—to the public, to make a difference in how people see themselves and the people around them. Our objective is to deepen your understanding of the human experience by exploring exciting, novel, thought-provoking, and unconventional ideas'.


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