School of Anthropology

Master of Arts in Social Anthropology

Department of Sociology and Social Administration
College of Social Sciences


Purpose and Scope of Social Anthropology

Social anthropology g concerned with the comparative study of cultures. It takes a keen interest in pre-industrial societies whose peoples are predominantly non-literate and have been hitherto perceived as marginal. Consequently, they have been tither denied attention in conventional studies or viewed in terms of Western history and culture.

Social anthropology derives its data from intense field research, requiring active e participation in and observation of the daily life of the people being studied. The Feat diversity of cultures in the world bas made it possible for social anthropology to gain a comparative understanding of the principles of social organization and dynamics, thus contributing to a genera1 theory of society as well at to the resolution of many problems of socioeconomic development.

The M.A. Program's Significance in Ethiopia

A graduate, training program in social anthropology is significant in Ethiopia for the following reasons:
  1. The existence of diverse cultural systems in Ethiopia an extraordinary opportunity for using the tools of social anthropology in understanding the forces of unity and diversity.

  2. High-level manpower, trained in social anthropology, should contribute greatly to Ethiopia's efforts to preserve the cultural identity of it peoples, to ensure their sociocultural equality, and to promote their national integration.

  3. Traditional cultural systems are important heritages, serving as back-drops for the process of modernization and social change. An adequate understanding, of the existing conditions as well as the requirements for change is imperative for the formulation and implementation of appropriate development policy.

  4. Since Ethiopia is playing an important role in African affairs, a graduate program in social anthropology should contribute to a much-needed pool of knowledge about the sociocultural systems of the peoples of the continent.

Specific Objectives of the Program

The main objectives of the graduate program in social anthropology are the following:
  1. To train professional1 social anthropologists knowledgeable in anthropological theory and method so as to carry out re-search in the field so as to build a body of data on the diverse sociocultural systems of the country.

  2. To respond to the manpower needs of the Department of Sociology & Social Administration as those of other academic and public institutions.

  3. To provide graduate students in other academic units of the University the opportunity to take relevant courses in social anthropology, thereby broadening their understanding of Ethiopian society.

  4. Finally, to establish scholarly relations with other universities and research institutes for cooperative teaching and research in social anthropology.


A total of 11 courses and a thesis of 39 credits are needed to complete the M.A. program in social anthropology. The program is expected to take 2 years to complete. Additional time may be necessary for field research. The courses offered in the program consist of core, specialized, and methodological courses in social anthropology and related disciplines.

During the dirt year, course offerings will be based mainly on lectures and extensive reading assignments, followed by seminars and student presentations during the second year. For each course, students will be evaluated on the basis of their performance on tests, examinations term papers, and class participation. The descriptions of the courses offered are at follows:

SoAn 511: History of Anthropological Theory (3)

The evolution of anthropological thought: early travel accounts, 18th century philosophical anthropology, the emergence of anthropology as an academic discipline, evolution and diffusionism, diversity of anthropological theory and schools: functionalism, structuralism, culture and personality, cultural materialism, cognitivism, ethnohistory, etc.

SoAn 521: Human Biological & Cultural Evolution (3)

Historical and contemporary anthropological ideas regarding the biological and cultural evolution of humans, the fossil evidence for human evolution, the evolution of hominids and the origin and development of culture, prehistoric cultures, the dawn of the Stone Age, ancient urbanization in both the Old and New Worlds.

SoAn 531: Anthropological Linguistics (3)

Topics discussed will be theories regarding human biological evolution and the capacity for symbolic communication and language acquisition; significance of language in anthropological theory and research; relations between language and oral literature, language and culture language and society; language as a universal system; principles behind the genetic classification of languages; the major linguistic theories.

SoAn 522: Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods (3)

Field research methodology, methods and techniques in the use of primary and secondary sources, quantitative methods will include descriptive and inferential statistics, causal models; path, factor, and cluster analysis; the use of computers and some of the well-known statistical packages.

SoAn 532: Ethnography of Africa (3)

Survey of African societies, parallels and distinctions among these societies with regard to origin and development, human settlements the evolution of prehistoric cultures, ancient and feudal states, trade routes, early external contacts, colonization and the anticolonial struggle, language groups, traditional economic systems and sociopolitical structures, traditional and contemporary belief and comparative systems, etc.

SoAn 542: Advanced Ethnography of Ethiopia (3)

An in-depth study of Ethiopian peoples and cultures, covering the major ethnographic studies; linguistic groups; traditional sociocultural features of the peasants and pastoral nomads; ongoing processes of urbanization, modernization. and national integration.

SoAn 611: Kinship and Marriage (3)

Biological and social necessities for the formation of family and kinship systems; people's ideas concerning procreation and incest; family and kinship systems as basic principles of social organization and as combined descent and alliance systems; forms of male selection and marriage; patterns of residence; relationship of family and kinship systems with other social institutions; other principles of social organization will be discussed.

SoAn 621: Social Organization and Political Anthropology (3)

The concept of anthropological jurisprudence in relation to theories of various centralized political systems; ways in which laws maintain the institutions of society; laws as ideals of the culture; mechanisms of social control; ways in which political institutions apply law and maintain values that underlie law; handling disputes and conflicts; ways in which people organize social institutions to cope with deviations from norms; mysticism. ritual and the maintenance of social order, property rights and economic activities, etc.

SoAn 631: Economic Anthropology (3)

The meaning of ``economy'' from the perspective of anthropology; major theories developed in economic anthropology: cultural ecology, cultural materialism, formalism, substantive, dialectical materialism; types of market economies.

SoAn 622: Anthropology of Religion (3)

Anthropological approaches to the study of religion, magic, sorcery, witchcraft and their relation with other social institutions; origin and development of religion; social functions 0f religion; symbolism, world view, and religion; comparison of magic, religion, and science; religious conversion and movements; religion and social differentiation; religion and social change.

SoAn 632: Social and Cultural Change (3)

Processes of social change; urbanization and industrialization; factors influencing social change; cultural constraints; colonialism, neo-colonialism and underdevelopment; rural- urban migration; implications of rapid structural transformation to traditional African societies.

SoAn 641A/641B: Thesis (3/3)

The M.A thesis is to be based on original field research carried out under the supervision and guidance of instructors.

Schedule of Course Offerings

Teaching & Research Resources Available include the following:


The Department has 17 staff: 13 local (1 graduate assistant, 2 assistant lecturers, 5 lecturers, 2 assistant professors, and 3 associate professors) and 4 visiting professors. Most have had extensive teaching and research experience in sociology, social administration, and social anthropology.

Support Facilities

The Department is equipped with the following teaching and research facilities:


The Department has one high-capacity and one small IBM PS/2 computers with LaserJet and dot-matrix printers. Four additional computers (including one laptop) with printers have been ordered. Word processing (including desktop publishing), graphics, data base, and statistical software packages are available. In addition, the University's central computer facilities are accessible to both students and staff of the Department.

Libraries and Museums

All the facilities and resources of the University such as the Kennedy Library and its branches. the Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies will be accessible to both students and staff. Materials for the teaching of social anthropology and Ethiopian ethnography are available within the Kennedy Library systems which has accumulated anthropological publications in general anthropology, area studies on specific countries, regions, and continents, subject area studies in sociology, political science, law, economics, art, religion, urbanization, social change, and peasant studies. The Library has a reasonable collection of the main anthropological and sociological journals.

The Institute of Ethiopian Studies houses the best collection on Ethiopian ethnography and has also acquired ethnographic films, slides, cassette recordings, and photographs, all very useful for students and staff. In addition, the Institute has an ethnographic and art museum which has an extensive collection on the material culture of all regions of the country.

There are also other libraries and museums such as the library of the Economic Commission for Africa, which has collected the main ethnographic works on the continent, and the National Museum, which has ethnological and archaeological collections.

Admission Requirements

Admission into the M.A. program requires the approval of the Council of Graduate Studies and is effected according to thy rules and regulations set forth by the Graduate School (see School of Graduate Studies Catalogue 1987:9-11). Candidates will be eligible for admission if they have successfully completed their undergraduate studies in anthropology, economics, geography, history, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, social work, and sociology.

Method of Application

Qualified candidates should send their applications for admission to the Associate Registrar for Admissions (Graduate Admissions), Office of the Registrar, Addis Ababa University, P.O.Box 1176, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia.

Applicants must (1) obtain and complete the Graduate Admissions Form, and (2) enclose (a) 3 copies of official transcript(s). (b) 3 copies of degrees(s) earned (c) a sponsorship letter from the applicant's employer, and (d) 3 recommendation letters. Applications will be accepted at any time during the year, but admission is limited to the start of the academic year, i.e. in September.

Graduation Requirements

A student earns the Master of Arts degree in social anthropology upon fulfillment of the following two requirements, subject to approval by the University Senate:

(1) Passes with grades of ``C'' or better in each course taken in the graduate program and cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.0 or higher, and (2) Timely submission and successful defense of a thesis.

Thesis Requirements

Each student will be required to select a research topic [or the thesis which will have to be approved by the Department's Graduate Committee. The thesis shall be based on field research carried out by each student under the supervision and guidance of the student's principal advisor.

All theses must meet the general as well as the specific requirement of the Graduate School (see School of Graduate Studies Catalogue 1987:13-14). Each completed thesis is examined by an examining board set up by the Department's Graduate Committee which will also appoint each student's principal advisor in accordance with the rules of the School of Graduate Studies (see Catalogue 1987:13).