About the MA Program

The master of arts program in Anthropology and Social Change is unique among graduate programs in the United States due to the its focus on activism and social justice. We recognize social movements as a key location of knowledge production alongside that of the university. The mission of the MA program is to generate a dialogue among agents active in these two locations of knowledge production. Our intention is to establish a particular kind of institutional space where social movement activists immersed in organizing would meet scholars primarily engaged in theoretical work. The program, inspired in part by the vision of the Popular University of Social Movements, proposed by the Portugese academic and activist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, is envisioned as a space of translation of academic and grassroots knowledge and experiences, produced in the encounter among social scientists, artists, and activists from the Bay Area.

Students will work with some of the most prominent activists in San Francisco Bay Area, as well as with core faculty from the department and the Institute. In this process of encounter and co-learning, students and faculty are expected to share ideas, debates, and practices of radical politics and social movements, as well as practical skills in research, organizing, campaigning, policy analysis, legal and environmental work, and activist media.

The MA in Anthropology and Social Change provides students with an opportunity to simultaneously engage with the world of prefigurative social struggles and with the world of social science and radical theory. As our program is located in an area that is unique in terms of diversity and richness of social struggles, we encourage students to establish a relationship with local social justice groups, organizations, movements, and campaigns. Activist research with a focus on concrete utopia makes this investigative experience rewarding both for students and for the local community.

Our MA program focuses on creating contexts and spaces of encounter among social scientists, theorists, artists, and activists (for a more detailed elaboration of this educational vision, visit universidadepopular.org). We welcome students interested in becoming activists and scholars. The program offers three interrelated sets of courses. Required theoretical courses include ideas for action, global social movements, radical political economy, radical theory, and unthinking social science. Research courses include activist ethnography I and activist ethnography II. Activist skills include media skills (strategic filmmaking, writing and publishing, Internet skills, radical radio), and organizing skills (legal skills, policy analysis, environmental skills, economic skills, and campaigning and organizing skills). Students are expected to choose two out of the activist organizing skills courses (organizing, analysis, campaigning, environmental, or legal) and two out of the activist media skills courses (radical radio, filmmaking, web, or activist writing).

A key aspect of the MA program is a research-based portfolio. In the first year of the program students are expected to begin to make contacts or seek out appropriate material for the completion of a research portfolio. Students are encouraged to do an activist research practicum with a community group or organization in order to undertake original research. This work culminates in an integrative seminar that students are expected to take in the last semester of their graduate study. The portfolio is comprised of a project based on activist research (this could be a campaign report, research report, website, video, or radio document), a collection of essays from core courses in the program, and one shorter integrative essay.

Required Courses (26 units)

  • Introduction to Theory
  • Global Social Movements
  • Image and the Ethnographic Imagination
  • Activist Ethnography I
  • Activist Enthography II with Practicum
  • Ecology, Climate, and the Crisis of Nature
  • Contemporary Capitalism
  • Autonomous Seminar
  • Integrative Seminar

Activist Organizing Skills (Choose 2)

  • Campaigning for Social Justice
  • Organizing for Social Justice
  • Activist Environmental Skills
  • Activist Legal Skills
  • Activist Policy Analysis
  • Activist Skills: Art, Activism, and Social Justice
  • Writing Grant Proposals for Anthropological Research
  • Native American Community Organizing and Global Indigenous Politics
  • Hidden History in Plain Sight: Stories from Oakland to San Francisco
  • Introduction to Economic Activism: People's Power and Corporate Greed

Activist Media Skills (Choose 2)

  • Activist Writing Skills: Writing, Editing, and Getting Published
  • Activist Media Skills: Web Publishing and Digital Media
  • Activist Media Skills: Producing Radical Radio
  • Activist Media Skills: Introduction to Documentary Videography and Strategic Filmmaking
  • Writing Grant Proposals for Anthropological Research

Career Outcomes

The MA in Anthropology and Social Change offers an opportunity to develop research, theory, and skills that are relevant to careers in education and social justice work. Our program has been structured to respond to two related aims: the first is to provide a particular experience in training for research in education; and the second is to provide relevant knowledge and skills required by social movements, networks, and nonprofit/non-governmental organizations. Like our sister programs in Leeds, Maynooth, Puebla, and Exeter, the program will offer students extensive knowledge of critical theory and activist anthropology; academic skills needed for continuation of their graduate studies; engagement with the important debates in anthropology and other social sciences; experience in working with networks and community groups; competence in various activist research techniques; organizing and media skills appropriate for employment in a range of progressive and social justice professional environments.

MA Program Admission Requirements

Applicants must meet the general admissions requirements of the Institute. In addition, we require two letters of recommendation, one from an academic advisor or someone familiar with the applicant's ability to do academic work, and one from a supervisor in a recent professional or volunteer setting. Applicants are also asked to include a recent sample of scholarly writing. The required autobiographical statement should describe significant events in the applicant's life that have led to the decision to pursue admission to this department. A goal statement reflecting areas of academic interest should be included.

Applicants to the Anthropology and Social Change MA program need not have an undergraduate major in anthropology; however, it is necessary to have had at least three upper-division-level social science courses. If lacking, these courses can usually be taken concurrently with graduate courses, although they will not be counted toward required degree units. The Activism and Social Justice MA is a residential program.  

Students may pursue a part-time course of study in consultation with their academic advisor.

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