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Cultural and Social Anthropology: Applied Anthropology (track)

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For students who wish to conduct research that has an applied character aimed at solving problems or contributing understanding where this is directly needed, we offer the possibility to specialize in Applied Anthropology.

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About the programme

In this kind of research, the methods and theories of anthropological research are used to provide insights and suggestions to practical problems with which non-anthropological parties such as governments, companies, NGOs or other organizations are confronted. Students carry out research in collaboration with such organizations. As part of answering their research questions students study the problem as well as the organization: an in-depth understanding of the organization’s interests, culture and morals is needed to understand how its members perceive the problem they want solved. Please note that the specialization Applied Anthropology is only offered starting in September.

This specialization offers students a hands-on experience in arguing and displaying the value of their skills to a non-anthropologist and often non-academic audience. Students also learn how to present themselves as anthropological professionals to the world outside academia, and to employ creative ways to bring their anthropological ideas across to uninformed people. Apart from this focus on actual problem solving, a student specializing in Applied Anthropology does what all anthropology students in the Master’s programme do: conducting a well prepared qualitative fieldwork in a wide range of regional, thematic and theoretical specializations that leads to an ethnographically rich and theoretically informed thesis. Students who graduate with the specialization Applied Anthropology, combine the writing of the thesis with work intended to report their findings to the commissioning organization.


As we have learned from experience, students prefer to choose their own research topics. That is why students who wish to participate in this specialization need to start thinking of the research project and the organization they wish to work with prior to the start of the programme. It can  be very useful to already contact an organization before your start in the MSc programme Cultural and Social Anthropology.

What is Applied Anthropology?
Dr Laurens Bakker explains Applied Anthropology in this video.

Why study Cultural and Social Anthropology in Amsterdam?

The Master’s in Cultural and Social Anthropology is a broad, research-oriented programme which equips you with the necessary skills and competences for a future career in research or in the field. The Graduate School of Social Sciences (GSSS) of Amsterdam provides a vibrant and international academic community. The GSSS values diversity in both research and academic content, academic staff and the student population.

Student profile

The academic standards of this Master’s programme are rigorous and you are expected to demonstrate a high level of commitment, independence and resilience. You need to have strong interest in anthropology and a desire to learn how to write thorough analytical texts. You should also be able to demonstrate an anthropological orientation and have the ability to empathise with the perspective, emotions and ideas of other people. A high level of flexibility and self-reliance is essential for the successful completion of fieldwork.

Students in Applied Anthropology also need to have the following skills and characteristics:

  • Independent attitude
  • Intellectual flexibility and eagerness to combine anthropological insights with the views of the people of the collaborating organization
  • The capability to combine theory and practice in intelligent and innovative ways
  • Lots of creativity, motivation & perseverance


In a world of increasing globalisation, the Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology equips you with highly relevant skills, such as knowledge of qualitative research methods, including participant observation and interviewing, and the ability to:

  • independently deviseing, implementing, evaluateing and reporting on a large-scale project
  • being able to translate (both in written and verbal form) complex aAnthropological knowledge to a non-academic public
  • Aapply anthropological skills and knowledge to solve real-life problems outside of academia
  • gain experience in developing networks and using them to accomplish your own ends
  • knowledge of qualitative research methods, including participant observation and interviewing
  • the ability to write well and argue cohesively
  • the ability to present your own work and ideas effectively
  • sensitivity attune to the complexity and diversity of the anthropological discipline
  • the ability to obtain in-depth knowledge on a given topic in a short period of time

Examples of research projects

Students participating in the specialisation Applied Anthropology carried out research into a variety of topics, such as:

  • The causes of frictions between different departments of a large construction firm.
  • The position, wishes and legal requirements of transgenders to participate in competition sports for the Dutch Olympic Committee-Dutch Sports Federation.
  • The reasons to engage in corporate responsibility programs for employees of a global accountancy firm.
  • The transition of government-provided care to informal care policies in a Dutch city.
  • The cultural, religious and culinary understanding of Surinamese cooking in the Bijlmer for a Muslim community.

Studying at a city campus

The programme is based at the Roeterseiland Campus, in the safe but lively and central Plantage neighbourhood of Amsterdam. This is a purpose-built, state of the art facility. It is easily reached by public transport, and features a number of spaces for social and cultural activities, such as the CREA student cafe and theatre. For more information, see our contact page.

Other specialisation track and general Master's

Next to this track in Cultural and Social Anthropology, there is another English-language specialisation track and the regular Master’s in Cultural and Social Anthropology:​

Facts & Figures
Degree programme MSc MSc Cultural and Social Anthropology
Mode Full-time
Credits 60 ECTS, 12 months
Language of instruction English
Starts in September
CROHO code 66614