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The Institute of Anthropology - in English

About the Institute of Anthropology

In 1912, the University of Neuchâtel instituted the first chair in social anthropology at a Swiss university. Since then, the Institute of Anthropology has developed into a thriving institution, active in research, teaching and cultural projects, with partnerships in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and abroad. We maintain close collaboration with, among others, the Museum of Ethnography and the House for the Understanding of Social Processes, both based in Neuchâtel. 

With over 400 students, anthropology is one of the most sought-after disciplines at the University of Neuchâtel, but at the same time, small classes ensure a stimulating learning environment.     

Social and cultural anthropology studies all forms of human action in societies across the world with the assumption that no society is better than any other. Historically, anthropologists used to study societies they considered to be “exotic” (usually in far-away places), but contemporary researchers have increasingly turned to studying their own societies. The common theme in anthropological research is to understand the material and symbolic productions in a society (artefacts, beliefs, technologies, institutions, etc.) as well as their dynamics and changes over time. In sum, anthropology provides intellectual and methodological tools to comprehend social and cultural diversity and the social questions they raise.  

At the institute, we pursue a wide range of interests in research with a special focus on the anthropology of development and humanitarian aid, environmental issues and agriculture and food governance. Our research projects regularly receive the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation or are conducted under mandates. The full list of our current and past research projects can be found under the following link.

The Anthropology Institute offers Bachelor, Master and PhD programmes. The list of courses offered at the Institute can be found on this page

Bachelor

Students can choose anthropology as one of their majors within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Our bachelor programme provides students with a solid training in ethnographic methodologies and offers courses on a variety of topics, teaching students to look at questions of society through an anthropological lens. 

Students also have the possibility of enrolling in the interfaculty Bachelor programme in Biology and Anthropology that offers a unique interdisciplinary combination designed to question current environmental issues.

Master

Our MA programme is integrated in the interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Social Sciences that offers the possibility of combining two disciplines. In addition to the regular methodological and thematic classes, students of anthropology as their major can choose between three options (each option earns students 30 ECTS): 

  1. “Professions of culture”: comprised of three practice-orientated courses in ethno-museology  ethno-musicology and ethnographic film, this option prepares students to work in cultural institutions.     
  2. “Anthropology of social and environmental action”: this option enables students to specialise in contemporary social and environmental questions. Students are strongly encouraged to conduct the research for their MA thesis in collaboration with NGOs or other institutions. 
  3. “Fieldwork”: although all students carry out fieldwork for their MA thesis, students who plan to conduct particularly long or complex fieldwork (e.g. with accessibility or language issues) can select this option. 

Our institute also offers a specialised MA in ethnomusicology, in collaboration with the University of Geneva and the University of Applied Sciences (music) in Geneva. All useful information can be found here and here.  

PhD

Currently we have about 20 PhD students undertaking research on various topics around the world for a doctoral degree. See the list of current and past theses. Before enrolling for a PhD, prospective students need the written confirmation from a professor at our institute that s/he is willing to supervise the thesis.  

Our PhD programme does not require students to follow courses but a participation in the Swiss Graduate Program in Anthropology is strongly recommended.