Department of Anthropological Sciences
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Malta has moved from being a site of anthropological fieldwork to a location from where anthropological teaching and research is vigorously conducted. In the late 1950’s, the island’s political and religious culture was studied intensively by Jeremy Boissevain who proceeded to give occasional courses in anthropology in the late 1970’s. In 1992, under the aegis of the Mediterranean Institute, the University instituted a full Honours Programme in the subject, expanded to post-graduate study facilities up to the PhD. In 2012, the Anthropology Division moved from the Mediterranean Institute to the Faculty of Arts as the “Department of Anthropological Sciences”, to reflect the broad-based, holistic, character of contemporary Anthropology. Apart from Socio-Cultural Anthropology, the Department is expanding into Biological, Evolutionary, and Medical Anthropology in both teaching and research. It still retains close links with the Mediterranean Institute however through joint events and the Journal of Mediterranean Studies (est.1991), founded by Anthropology, and continuously edited by members of the Department.
Since its inception in 1992, the Department has hosted a steady stream of eminent academic visitors who have given courses and presented research papers. These have included: Prof Sir J.R.Goody FBA (Cambridge), Prof J. Boissevain (Amsterdam), Prof Keith Hart (Cambridge), Prof R.H.Layton, Prof Michael Carrithers, Prof Alan Bilsborough, Dr Steve Lyon, Dr S.Bell (all Durham University), Prof M. Herzfeld (Harvard) , Prof Peter Loizos (LSE), Prof J.Okely (Oxford), Dr Colette Piault (Nanterre), Dr Cesare Poppi, Janet Lloyd (eminent translator of French anthropologists, (e.g. Philippe Descola) and classicists (J.P. Vernant, etc), Prof Charles Saumarez Smith CBE (Director: National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, London), Dr D. Napier (UCL), Dr C. Ifeka (ANU).
The undergraduate programme exposes students to the major theoretical approaches of British, French and American anthropology. The course is intellectually demanding and by the end of their course students are expected to have a solid theoretical grounding in the four main areas of socio-cultural anthropology (politics, kinship, belief systems, economics), as well as a facility in contemporary social theory and in historical, feminist, legal, visual, evolutionary and medical anthropology among others. Anthropology staff (incl, in other Departments) have conducted fieldwork in Cyprus, Greece, Nigeria, Tunisia, Australia, Libya, southern France, India, and Korea apart from Malta. Staff are members of various international anthropology associations (EASA, ASA, RAI, AAS etc). Their current research interests are reflected in the courses offered.
The Department benefits from an extensive library, that contains two excellent collections: the Jeremy Boissevain Collection (acquired 1993) and the Jack Goody Collection (acquired 2011), both housed in the ‘Jack Goody Library’, Valletta Campus. In honour of Jack Goody’s pioneering work and his close connection with Malta Anthropology, the Department hosts an Annual Goody Lecture in History, Society and Culture. Speakers have included Prof Alan Macfarlane FBA (Cambridge), and Sir GER Lloyd FBA (Cambridge).
The anthropologists at the University form a cohesive, research-active, group; some also teach in Sociology, Law, Tourism Studies and the Medical School. The demanding Honours course is popular with those attracted by intellectual challenges, as well as visiting and overseas students. Most graduates have gone on to pursue interesting careers in Planning, Cultural Project management, Museology, Diplomacy, as well as post-graduate anthropological research both in the Department and overseas. Undergraduate and post-graduate students can take advantage of ERASMUS exchanges to spend a semester or a year at various European and US universities. Students are encouraged to attend the advanced Work in Progress Seminars, and the Departmental Senior Research Seminar (Friday evenings) where visiting academics, staff, and research students present their latest research.