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Anthropology Desert Island Books


Looking to do some anthropological summer reading to get you in the academic mindset but not sure where to start? Wanting a casual read that’s both fun and informative? Not sure whether to start with classic or contemporary literature? Then check out this Desert Island Books recommendation by Anthropology Editor Jess Wiemer, who provides her must-read anthropological favourites.


Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology: Humanity, Culture and Social Life

By Tim Ingold

This volume is a comprehensive guide to the main theories and arguments in cultural and biological anthropology. It contains sections on human evolution, the components of culture and their histories, and social processes. This volume is ideal in gaining a basic understanding of the field of anthropology. Its short, succinct sections work perfectly as a quick and easy reference.



Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

By Yuval Noah Harari

This volume is ideal for the budding biological anthropologist. This historical overview of humankind begins discussing ‘The Cognitive Revolution’ through an examination of human biological evolution. From there Harari moves on to discuss ‘The Agricultural Revolution’ and the beginnings of human culture, followed by ‘The Unification of Humankind’ and imperialism. He concludes by examining ‘The Scientific Revolution’ which includes an in-depth analysis of capitalism and industry. This volume exquisitely details the main events in human history and its consequences. Sapiens is a perfect resource to use when attempting to examine social events with philosophical, sociological, historical, biological, and cultural anthropological perspectives.



Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory

By Alfred Gell

This intriguing volume examines arguments surrounding the agency of art. Agency is define as the intentional will of an actor for a specific outcome to occur. Gell theorizes that art objects are actors with the capacity to enact agency on the viewers of the art objects. For anyone interested in Actor-Network theory, art, or technology, Art and Agency is a brilliant work conceptualizing contemporary ideas on the blurred lines between the human and non-human.



Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache

By Keith Basso

This ethnography examines conceptions of space and place by focusing on landscape ontologies of the Western Apache nation of east central Arizona. This fascinating volume delves into theories surrounding the symbiotic relationship between humans and landscape, and the agency and cultural meanings derived from both. Basso’s poetic writing engages the reader whilst remaining analytical in his research. Wisdom Sits in Places is and exciting read for those interested in landscape, the agency of objects, or theoretical ethnographies.



Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography

By James Clifford and George Marcus

This brilliant volume edited by Clifford and Marcus is an essential read for anyone interested in writing ethnographically. It delves into controversial ethical dilemmas surrounding ethnographic writing including issues of bias and problematic data. It examines the argument that being a distant, scientific observer is not only impossible to be as an anthropologist, but the attempt perpetuates ideas of Western supremacy of knowledge which stems from imperialism. This volume thoroughly analyses the changing dynamic of ethnography and cultural intervention in the postmodern era, and is critical for students learning how to research and write ethnographically.


SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop: Highlights

The long-awaited SPA Post-graduate Applications Workshop was held this past Thursday, the 10th of March. If you wanted to go but didn’t get the chance, here are the highlights of the event to keep you informed on the realities of social science postgraduate applications! The workshop was conducted by Jess Wiemer, second year Anthropology student,in partnership with the SPA department as a Students as Change Agents project. Talks lasted approximately an hour and a half, followed by a chance to chat with the speakers over refreshments. The subject of postgraduate applications in sociology, philosophy, or anthropology was approached from four different perspectives by the four speakers.

Prof. Susan Kelly

Prof. Susan Kelly

The first was Professor Susan Kelly, one of the Sociology Professors in the department and Director of Post-Graduate Studies in SPA. She spoke about how to write post-graduate proposals. She provided excellent resources for good proposal writing in the forms of books and websites, including Przeworski and Salomon’s The Art of Writing Proposals (1995) and the ESRC guidance to research grant proposals found at She explained how to justify the costs of the research and connect to the research interests of potential supervisors and concluded by discussing the typical structure of a proposal.

Dr. Andrea Butcher

Dr. Andrea Butcher

The second speaker was Dr. Andrea Butcher, anthropology lecturer at the University of Exeter. She spoke about the importance of collaborative research and how to profile oneself for these collaborations. She explained the changing values placed on the social sciences and emphasised the current requirements to demonstrate impact outside of academia. She spoke about how interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborations can help provide funding for research through the demonstration of social, economic, or political impact. She provided links to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) website, which gives information on the expectations of research (, and to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Consortium website, which includes a list of different collaborative organisations ( She concluded by stressing the importance of networking and making yourself known through online profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and through joining organisations like the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA).

Lauren Redfern

Lauren Redfern

The third speaker was Lauren Redfern, Exeter Alumni and MA student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She spoke about post-graduate education and how to use your undergraduate degree to your advantage. She explained how skills acquired through experience may be even more relevant than academic excellence, and that these skills can come from areas which may not always seem relevant to the future research project. Drawing on her own experience she explained how her internship with an anthropological filmmaker give her the research skillsshe could highlight in her application for a medical research Masters programme. She explained that mixed methods are becoming more common and asked for in the social sciences and stressed interdisciplinary collaboration. She concluded by stating that the most important thing to keep in mind when developing research is to focus on an area that is needed.

Ashley Kilgallon

Ashley Kilgallon

The final speaker was Ashley Kilgallon, Exeter Alumni and PhD student at the University of Leeds. She spoke about the process of application to publication and the realities of the PhD journey. She also stressed the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the social sciences. She provided an example from her own research of the Police Liaison Teams of the Metropolitan Police Service. She explained that it was collaborating with the police force that provided her with the access needed to conduct her research. Collaboration, she explained, built trust between her and the employees of the Metropolitan Police Service. She then made several useful suggestions on how to conduct oneself in an interview for applications to research programmes. She stressed the importance of networking, field work, and having passion for your research. She concluded by noting that what makes you stand out is your drive, and to demonstrate this you must stay true to your character no matter what.

The SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop was one of many events conducted to inform students about careers and postgraduate education within the social sciences. The event was a wonderful opportunity to ask questions about the postgraduate journey to those who have already, or are currently, experiencing it. The speakers provided helpful advice on writing proposals, getting grants, conducting research, and publishing material. Informally chatting with them over refreshments afterward was a great way to network and to gain knowledge on the realities of social science academia. The SPA department at the University of Exeter continues to collaborate with the Careers office and Students as Change Agents projects to develop creative programmes and events to support its students. If you desire to organise an event, create your own Students as Change Agents project to make your idea into a reality!

Modern Anthropology and the Repatriation of Material Culture

Portrait of Chief Crowfoot (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Portrait of Chief Crowfoot (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Anthropology is often seen by the general population as a discipline which deals solely with broad, theoretical concepts. Being a discipline based in theory, it is not seen to have much practical use outside of academia. Until I began studying anthropology at the University of Exeter, I was among those who felt that way. I thought anthropology was interesting, but not very applicable. However, with a growing globalised world, anthropology is more relevant to practical life than ever before. Anthropology is necessary in international and European policy-making organisations, advocacy and aid groups, tourism, heritage sites, diplomacy, journalism, and day-to-day life. There are many examples of the uses of anthropology in Exeter, which I have come to learn about through my studies. One example is the recent debate over the repatriation of a collection of artefacts from the RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum) and how this involves changing attitudes toward ownership and the importance of material culture and heritage.

Repatriation of museum-based artefacts is an issue that many museums across the UK are currently facing. The RAMM in Exeter has held ethnographic collections from across the world for over a hundred years. One particular exhibit houses artefacts from various First Nations peoples of Canada, some of which were acquired during the colonization of Canada at a time of enforced power hierarchies between indigenous peoples and colonists. Museum curators must now re-examine the roots of these artefact acquisitions and the underlying ethical problems. They must also consider the educational value of these items, and where that value is best put to use. Of particular interest is Crowfoot’s regalia in the RAMM’s ethnographic exhibit.

Crowfoot’s regalia is a collection of items which once belonged to Issapoomahsika (or Crowfoot, ‘Leader of the Blackfoot’ of Canada). 110 years after it was sold to the museum, it received a visit from home. In November 2013, the RAMM welcomed representatives of the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai nations of Canada and the Blackfeet nation of the United States. This visit was conducted in an effort to attain better understanding of the artefacts through the interpretations of the Blackfoot people, but moreover it has opened up further discussion of repatriation. The collection hadn’t been seen by the Blackfoot people for 130 years. It contains a decorated deerskin shirt, leggings, a ceremonial knife, two pouches, a bow-case and quiver, bows and arrows, two quirts and a bear-claw necklace. They served as emblems of Crowfoot’s earned authority and status as a leader. It was sold to the museum for £10 in 1904 by Cecil Denny, then a member of the North West Mounted Police. It is unclear how Denny came to acquire Crowfoot’s possessions, but he did acquire them sometime before the signing of the 1877 Treaty and it was widely known that he and Crowfoot were friends. (Eccles 2015)

Physical possession of Crowfoot’s regalia is extremely important to the Blackfoot people, because they believed him to have been a significant leader in their history of whom many can learn from. Crowfoot was not the leader of all Blackfoot nations as some thought, but was acknowledged as one who could speak for all. He urged the Blackfoot to sign Treaty 7 in 1877 between the Crown, Blackfoot nations, Sarcee and Atsinas nations in the desire for peace and the only alternative to war. The treaty put the First Nations under the rule of the Crown, by which England could then implement various institutions into First Nation societies. Despite prejudice and unethical treatment of the First Nation peoples under the law, the treaty meant they were now required to obey the Crown. By signing this treaty, life for the Blackfoot, like many aboriginal nations, was characterised by cultural upheaval. Despite this, Crowfoot is seen by the Blackfoot people as a strong leader who always vied for peace. (Eccles 2015)

The RAMM has been in conversation with the Siksika Blackfoot elders to return the regalia to Bow Crossing, Alberta, Canada (Eccles 2015). Herman Yellow Old Woman, a cultural curator at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum east of Calgary on Siksika Nation, stated that repatriating the regalia would be ‘bringing [Crowfoot’s] spirit home’ (Dempster 2014). He went further to say, ‘To bring back these artefacts to our community will give us a sense of pride… Our children are starting to lose their identity and I think for these kind of artefacts to come back will give them a boost and a positive energy to connect back to who they are as Blackfoot people’ (Dempster 2014). Repatriation of the regalia would evidently contribute to the remembrance of cultural and historical identities of Blackfoot nations and be an educational asset to Canadians visiting the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum. The museum itself also supports the repatriation.

Tony Eccles, curator of the RAMM, was very supportive of the repatriation, stating, ‘Isn’t it about time Crowfoot came home?’ (Dempster 2014). Herman Yellow Old Woman planned to have the regalia returned to the Blackfoot Crossing museum by spring of 2015 (Dempster 2014). Unfortunately, though the regalia is no longer on display, this has yet to occur. Eccles stated that there is still a long way to go before the return of the regalia is agreed upon between involved parties, but was happy to say the RAMM and Exeter City Council are heavily involved in these negotiations. The content of this continuing discourse is not yet open to the public, but readers are urged to keep an eye out for the next issue of the Journal of Museum Ethnography, which will include an article written by Tony Eccles, Alison Brown, and Anita Herle about their involvement with the Blackfoot.

Even small cities like Exeter are alive with international culture and discourse. As an anthropology student, I find places like the RAMM fascinating, not only for its historical ethnographic information but for its involvement with current cultures today. The repatriation of Crowfoot’s regalia is but one example of how anthropology can be used practically to aid in the sustainability of heritage in a modern world. This goes to show that anthropology is so much more than an academic discipline. Studying anthropology at Exeter has given me so much more insight into its applications in ways I never would have considered: anthropological theory does not need to be restricted to academic writing but has many uses for a range of topical cultural and political issues.


Eccles, T. 2015: RAMM Meets Blackfoot Representatives, RAMM: World Cultures. [online] Accessed at on 18/02/2016.

Dempster, A. 2014: Chief Crowfoot’s Regalia to Return Home to Alberta, CBC News. [online] Accessed at on 18/02/2016.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Crowfoot: Blackfoot Chief, Encyclopaedia Britannica. [image] Accessed at on 19/02/2016.

Social Science Events

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Events and conferences are valuable ways to learn more about current research and debates. They can provide an opportunity to network and provide some wonderful new ideas for PhD research. Many conferences are open to students and are not restricted to doctorate-level academics, but some may be restricted which should be looked out for. Below are some examples of upcoming social science conferences in 2016 that may peak your interest!

The Royal Institute of Philosophy is conducting their annual conference on July 7th-8th 2016 at our very own University of Exeter! The topic will be moral enhancement and the possibility to morally enhance individuals by manipulating their genomes or brain chemistry. This conference will bring together moral philosophers, philosophers of biology, philosophers of technology, and neuropsychologists. For more information visit

You can sign up to the following event by visiting

18 February 2016
First Annual Emotion and Criminal Justice Conference 2016
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Social Anthropology
The Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) is conducting their annual conference on July 4th-7th 2016 at the University of Durham. The topic of this year’s conference is ‘Footprints and Futures: the Time of Anthropology’. Discussions will focus on the direction the discipline of anthropology will take in the future by examining debates on economics and politics, development and energy, health and well-being, cultural evolution, and the different modalities and experiences of fieldwork. This conference expects to attract over 500 social anthropologists and other social scientists. You can read more about this conference and sign up by visiting

Biological Anthropology
The British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO) is conducting their annual conference on September 9th-11th 2016 at the University of Kent. Speakers will be coming from across world, including Canada and the US. For more information on BABAO the 2016 conference, visit

Sociology & Social Anthropology
The following are a few examples of sociology and social anthropology conferences taking place in the UK this year. For a full list of events, go to

16 March 2016
BSA Early Career Forum Regional Event 2016: Demystifying the ‘insider/outsider’, ‘involvement/detachment’ debate – Locating the Researcher in Qualitative Methodologies
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

19 February 2016
Environment and Human Health – Social Perspectives: One-Day Workshop (BSA Climate Change, Environment & Health and London Medical Sociology Study Groups)
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

6-8 April 2016
BSA Annual Conference – Global Societies: Fragmenting and Connecting
Aston University, UK

Social Inequality
19 May 2016
Under Control. Childhood and 20th Century Dictatorships (1917-1991)
University of Warwick, UK

26 February 2016
BSA Ageing, Body and Society Study Group 7th Annual Conference: Ageing and Culture – Programme
University of Manchester, UK

22 February 2016
Re-imagining loneliness: the contribution of the arts and literature
University of Kent, UK

Digital Age
20-21 June 2016
Science/Technology/Security: Challenges to global governance?
University College London

Climate Change
5-6 May 2016
BSA Climate Change Study Group: Re-Configuring Everyday Practices for a Post-carbon World
University of Surrey, UK

Interview with a Combined Honours Student


Many students at the university choose to take a Combined Honours degree encompassing two or three courses. In this way, students have the option of studying multiple disciplines they enjoy. Is this option manageable? Jess Wiemer interviewed Jack Powys Maurice, a second year BA Archaeology and Anthropology student, to uncover his opinions on his Combined Honours degree.

Do you find balancing two courses difficult?
Yes. The writing style for both subjects is different. Though the referencing style is the same, there is a philosophical methodology in anthropological writing that’s not in archaeology. It’s difficult to switch from one to another, especially when writing two essays in either subject at the same time. It’s hard to switch between two different mindsets.

Do you find one course easier than another?
I find anthropology easier than archaeology. I feel like I’m more attuned to anthropology and the philosophical mindset.

Why did you decide on Combined Honours?
I was interested in both subjects and liked the opportunity to study both equally. I also didn’t want my degree to be narrowed down. I liked the idea that my degree would be broader and be relevant to more career prospects.

Are you happy with your decision?
Yes, I couldn’t be happier.

What advice would you give to new students thinking of doing Anthropology and Archaeology?
Anthropology has a reading list on each module and archaeology doesn’t. I’ve found that I put a lot less effort into outside reading in archaeology because of this, which is potentially why I’m better at anthropology. I’d suggest putting more effort into outside reading in archaeology despite its lack of reading lists. I don’t put equal value on the courses but suggest to new students that they should. It doesn’t matter if your interest in the courses is unbalanced because they are each worth 50% of your degree. I also suggest to consider your whole degree when picking modules. For example, you can pick anthropology modules that relate to archaeology. This can integrate your degree more effectively.

At least for Jack, Combined Honours at the University of Exeter has been a rewarding investment overall. Despite difficulties in managing varied academic writing expectations, it seems to be a great option for the multi-disciplinary mind.

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s New Year’s Day and with a new year comes a fresh start. Yes, we all know what New Year’s Day means – New Year’s resolutions. But what to make your new resolve? You’ve already tried that no chocolate thing; that never lasts long. Studies say cocoa is good for the heart anyway. Maybe, you think to yourself, it’s time to get more involved, to spruce up your CV. If that’s you, here are six ways that you can get more involved in the university related to your degree!

Students As Change Agents
This is a scheme where you get to create your own projects and shape your university experience the way you want. Got an ambitious idea to reshape a course content? Want to work with lecturers to solve a common issue together? Then put it into action! Jason, one of your editors on SPA Undergraduate News, runs a project called Global Exe that deals with conflict resolution and cultural integration through interactive theatre. It’s been running for 2 years now and attracted participants from 4 different continents! Interested to start your own Students As Change Agents project? Then contact: to let them know of your plans!

Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology Twitter Accounts
Twittering for new topics to discuss over the coffee table? Then check out this list of Twitter accounts by organisations around the globe that bring you the latest research findings!
@socwomen (Sociologists for Women in Society [SWS]) – Great place to lookout for news regarding feminist research and activism for women throughout the globe.
@soc_imagination (Socio Imagination) – Discover fun articles on their columnists’ favourite Sociology books; advice for studying sociology; academic life in sociology and much more.
@wileyanthro (Wiley Anthropology) – Keen to discover new books and even exclusive online access to major anthropological publications across the world? Then Wiley’s the place to go!
@anthroworks (Anthropology Works) – The anthropology of life is an everyday phenomenon. @anthroworks brings you stories from around the world and unpacks it from an Anthropological angle.
@philosophynow (Philosophy Now) – International magazine discussing ideas – from the philosophy of gossip to Marxism. Anything you can think of, they’ve got it.
@oupphilosophy (Oxford Philosophy) – This is actually the philosophy team from Oxford University Press, bringing you insights on philosophy through book excerpts, free online articles and even fun news around the globe like the philosophy of Star Wars!

Buddy Scheme
The SPA Buddy Scheme is a programme designed to help new students feel comfortable at the university. Second, third, and fourth year students studying within our department are paired up with first year students to give advice on studying, campus life, and provide links to services such as the Wellbeing Centre and departmental staff. It’s a great way to give back and help students in a new and overwhelming situation. It also looks great on your CV! If this sounds like something you want to get involved with, applications for new mentors will be sent out at the end of term. Get in touch with for more information.

Events held at the university are a great way to gain new information about careers, current research, and your degree. Careers events are specific to your needs and can be chosen among degree-related advice or skills building. Keep tabs on the events that you sign up to, because some may be applicable toward your Exeter Award! To sign up to a careers event, log onto and check out what they have to offer.
Research talks are a great way to understand more about current events and debates, and may help you decide what you want to do for your dissertation or career. Information about these talks are generally circulated via email through departmental office mailing lists. Keep an eye out and take note of anything you might be interested in!
Degree-related talks give specific advice to those studying in certain areas, and are helpful to those who aren’t entirely sure of what they want to do after university. For example, Jess Wiemer is leading a Students As Change Agents project to organise an event for anthropology students who want to get involved in research at the beginning of March. Topics covered will include advice on publishing, fieldwork, and internships. For more information, contact Jess at

The University of Exeter has its own journal geared towards undergraduates, the Undergraduate Exeter. It is an interdisciplinary journal, and is the perfect way to get your writing noticed and boost your CV! If you are feeling exceptionally proud of an essay you have written, or even simply trying to branch out into writing about subject areas you are interested in, the Undergraduate is a great place to start! The journal added in a new Social Sciences section for print just last month, so it is a brand new opportunity for Sociology and Anthropology writers! If you are interested in submitting an article, visit All pieces should be written in Microsoft Word and limited to 3000 words.

Societies are a great way to meet like-minded people and have some fun! Both the Philosophy Society and the Sociology and Anthropology Society run fantastic events and socials throughout the year. If you like the experience, you can even run for a committee position for the following year! Sign up for membership to the societies through the Guild website at