Social anthropologists research the human experience by observing and participating in people’s daily lives. The Anthropology MA programme enables you to specialise in Social Anthropology and learn more about the human experience from a comparative perspective. The programme provides a stimulating research environment where you can develop your own research project through a range of fieldwork-based practises that examines the relativity of world-views, the commonalities of social practices, and relate them to a broader global context.
You are a great fit for this programme, if you
- are curious about people;
- are looking for creative ways to engage with the human experience;
- are looking for novel solutions to society’s common problems;
- are open-minded.
The Anthropology programme at Tallinn University offers two MA pathways conducted in English language. In one pathway, MA students produce a 40,000 word dissertation that is based on eight weeks of ethnographic fieldwork.
MA students can also opt to follow the Audiovisual Ethnography Module, where they produce audiovisual materials as part of their final projects. The next admission for this pathway will be opened in 2022.
Graduates from our programme have continued their careers in the following fields: academic research, business, cultural organisations, non-governmental organisations, development and international aid, government, health, media and publishing, education, tourism, etc.
For a more comprehensive review of career opportunities in Social Anthropology click here
Why study with us?
- We are constantly looking for ways to make new connections between disciplines, vocabularies, and concepts that will allow us to render a sophisticated understanding of the faculties of contemporary social life.
- Our courses address issues like the cultures of capitalism, environmental anthropology, audiovisual ethnography, and anthropology of perception. We develop these strands of research through the detailed analysis of ethnographic texts, anthropological films, and open ended discussions in a seminar setting.
- The academic staff of the Anthropology programme have conducted fieldwork in Central Asia, India, North America, Europe, and the Caribbean.
- All MA students carry out their own anthropological study in close collaboration with a supervisor and their peers. For example, anthropology student Deborah Onorati did her fieldwork with Cape Verdeans in Lisbon, Portugal. Read about it here.
- Our international scope is complemented through the Erasmus programme, where students are offered the opportunity to study up to one year in another European university. We also work on including universities outside of Europe through the Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility programme.
- Our graduates have found employment in the public and private sector or continued on to postgraduate studies.
- Students can apply for study fee reduction based on their study results.
Due to the relatively small size of our unit, an important aspect of our programme is the personal rapport which students develop with their peers and supervisors. This lends itself to spirited and stimulating discussions which often carry on in informal contexts.
The nominal time to complete the MA programme in Anthropology is 2 years (4 semesters).
- During the first year, the MA student is expected to actively participate in seminars, attend the School’s courses and contribute to university events. Throughout the first 2 semesters, the candidate attends numerous courses and seminars with the goal of fine-tuning the theme that will be developed in the MA dissertation.
- At the end of the 2nd semester, MA researchers are required to submit a research proposal to the curriculum staff. This proposal is developed in close collaboration with the MA researcher's supervisor. The proposal will describe the research question, its relevance to the discipline, the methodology, and the ethical issues foreseen in carrying out the project. The researcher will get a final round of feedback from a member of staff that is not the supervisor before they embark on their fieldwork experience.
After the successful submission of the proposal, MA researchers embark on the fieldwork phase of their projects. It is expected that the participant observation phase of the project will last eight weeks. After fieldwork, one academic year is allotted to writing up. Attendance and participation in seminars at this stage are crucial.
Previous MA projects have researched:
- Migration from children's perspective
- Variety of religious experiences: Estonia, India
- Identity Politics in a Transnational Context: Finland, Baltics, and Scandinavia
- The tourist experience: Scotland, Spain, Peru, Estonia.
- The Corporeal Experience and Embodied Knowledge: Sweden, Germany, India, and at sea.
- Pastoral life in Mongolia
- National Parks in Costa Rica
- Activism in Greece
You can find a selection of our completed MA dissertations here
NB! Audiovisual Ethnographies are listed as "AVE".
Core course components
The course work is directed to offer MA researchers a comprehensive review in theoretical and methodological contributions of Social Anthropology to understand the human experience.
MA researchers also take courses in other study programmes and contribute to university-wide interdisciplinary courses like ELU.
Our courses address issues like anthropology of capitalism, environmental anthropology, anthropology of perception, and audiovisual ethnography.
General Debates in Anthropological Theory
This course examines dilemmas and debates that have characterised the development of anthropological thought and practise since the late 19th century to the early 21st century. The course is formatted as an interactive seminar that resembles a debate.
Political Economy of Culture
This course examines the different approaches that anthropologists have developed to understand the political and economic process. The course content rotates annually and, depending on the year, it covers:
Political Anthropology (state and non-state forms of social organization, postcolonialism, ethnicity and nationalism);
Economic Anthropology (the gift, exchange, money and markets);
Anthropology of Work (gender, age, ethnic and class-based division of labour; work in pre-capitalist, industrial and future societies).
Anthropology of Experience
This course examines ‘the perceptual’ as a social, political, and cultural phenomenon. The course will consider different ways in which anthropologists have studied perception and how this experience shapes relationships between individuals and contributed to the structure of social organisation. The course content rotates annually and, depending on the year, it covers:
History of Anthropological Cinema;
Anthropology of the Senses;
Soundscape: Perception & Design.
The course creates the opportunity for the student to familiarise themselves with core texts of ethnography and creates the preconditions for the development of critical reading and creative writing. The course explores the challenges faced by ethnographic fieldwork and the anthropological theorising that gets disseminated in book format. The course is structured around the reading of anthropological monographs.
Methods of Ethnographic Fieldwork and Project Planning
The course explores practical ethnographic approaches such as participant-observation, interviews and focus groups, as well as conceptual approaches in anthropology. The course explores the politics of diverse forms of ‘participation’ in the fieldwork site. The course also covers issues such as practises of representation in ethnographic writing. The course is formatted as a practical workshop where students conduct practical exercises.
Soundscape: Perception & Design
This course considers the range of discourses and practises that have been used to understand the relationship between the sonic experience and society. It will focus on the different ways in which humans perceive sound and design sonic experiences. The course will also discuss how technologies associated with sound production and reproduction is related to cultural and historical contexts.
Key Concepts in Literary and Cultural Analysis
The seminar explores main concepts and theories of 20th century literary theory and cultural analysis. The aim of the seminar is to develop a coherent context to question the relationships between literature, films, and visual culture.
Multiculturalism in a Global Perspective
This course examines the complex narratives and policies that produce and reproduce multiculturalism. The course approaches multiculturalism from a comparative perspective with a focus on Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
- The Anthropology programme is housed within the School of Humanities and utilises all the facilities made available by Tallinn University. The Audiovisual Ethnography Module is a joint course with the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School, which supplies the basic equipment required to carry out the exercises associated with the curriculum.
- The university campus houses a study library, the main university library situated within easy reach of the city centre. The National Library of Estonia is also in the city centre.
- Before applying to the programme, one can learn more about Tallinn University while participating in Tallinn Summer School. It is a 3-week programme running in July, combining a wide range of courses with a rich, diverse cultural programme and attracting participants from all over the world. More information here.
- Students can apply for study fee reduction based on their study results.
- Anthropology NGO Facebook group
The Estonian Anthropology Association is a student-run NGO founded in 2008 to promote anthropology and anthropological education in Estonia and abroad. The organization closely collaborates with the School of Humanities, Tallinn University.
- Tallinn Anthropology Facebook Page
- Inimkond Seminar Series (Current Issues in Anthropology and Beyond)
This seminar series features speakers from anthropology and related fields, and fosters discussion of their research with a transdisciplinary audience. It aims to contribute to the culture of academic scholarship and debate at Tallinn University. Speakers include both local researchers and guests from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and with various interpretations on anthropological theory and methods. Presentations in the seminar series will be of interest to staff and students in anthropology, cultural theory, sociology, and history, among others.
- European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
- International Society of Ethnology & Folklore (SIEF)
- World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA)
- International Union of Anthropological & Ethnological Sciences (IUAES)
- American Anthropological Association (AAA)
- World Film Festival
- Anthropology NGO Estonia
- Visual Anthropology
- Riga Pasaules Film Festival
Carlo Cubero holds a PhD in Social Anthropology using Visual Media from the University of Manchester, where he specialised in the contemporary Caribbean and Visual Anthropology. He is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at Tallinn University where he lectures and coordinates the graduate programme in Social Anthropology and the Audiovisual Ethnography track in Social Anthropology.
One strand of his research has focused on developing audiovisual and practise-based methods for anthropological research. He has produced and directed numerous documentaries and sound-works, including the award winning documentary "Mangrove Music". His most recent documentary, "Uus Tõus, Vana Mõõn", was produced by ETV. He has curated ethnographic film programmes for the European Association of Social Anthropology, International Society of Ethnology and Folklore, and the Finnish Anthropological Society. He has also curated ethnographic sound programmes at numerous conferences and public events in Europe and the Caribbean. He currently serves as the main curator of the Riga Pasaules Film Festival, an annual documentary film festival held in Riga.
Another strand of his research concerns itself with the complexities of Caribbean island life in a para-colonial and global context. His book Caribbean Island Movements: Culebra's Trans-insularities (Rowman and Littlefield 2017) makes a case for the concept of "transinsularism" as a means to engage productively with the contradictions that characterise Caribbean island identities. The book considers transinsular features of Caribbean island life as it pertains to historical relationships to imperialism, land tenure conflicts in a tourism context, maritime geographies, and music. The monograph is based on a long term relationship with the island of Culebra, located in the north-eastern Caribbean.
Research interests: ethnographic filmmaking methods, sensory ethnography, sonic ethnography, cinema, art, music, post-colonial identities, migration, transnationalism, Caribbean, Western Europe.
Eeva Kesküla is a social anthropologist working as an Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Tallinn University, School of Humanities. She is also leading a research project on Health and Safety regulations in heavy industry. She completed her PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London and her postdoc at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany. She has done fieldwork in Estonia and Kazakhstan.
Her research interests include anthropology of work, industrial health and safety, gender and work, class and post-socialism, economic anthropology. Currently she is working on her book which is comparing the life and labour of Russian-speaking miners in Estonia and Kazakhstan, focusing on how global views of capital transform local class, gender and ethnic relations, how miners work and have fun.
Read more about her research
Marje Ermel is a Lecturer of Anthropology and the coordinator of Anthropology BA programme. She became interested in Social Anthropology while studying in First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan where she researched issues of cultural identity of First Nations People. After her studies in Canada, Marje Ermel travelled extensively in Australia and Asia. She did her graduate research in Social Anthropology at Tallinn University and complemented her studies at the University of Aberdeen. Her current research is on the transnational Hare Krishna community in West Bengal, India. This project focuses on the relationship between sound, listening practices, perception, and well-being amongst Krishna devotees.
Research interests: anthropology of sound, sonic ethnography, place and space, body and senses, anthropology of consciousness, anthropology of experience, religion, pilgrimage, story-telling, North-America, India.
Joonas Plaan is a Lecturer of Anthropology. Currently, he is writing his PhD dissertation, studying how climate change affects inshore fisheries in Newfoundland, Canada. Joonas has done fieldwork among the fishing community in Kihnu Island, Estonia and is an active member in the international research group Too Big To Ignore that focuses on global issues in small-scale fisheries.
Research interests and areas: human-environment interactions, including environmental anthropology, political ecology, environmental history, landscape studies, fisheries, Baltic Sea and North-Atlantic fishing communities.
Jaanika Vider is a research fellow at the Centre for Landscape and Culture at Tallinn University and Associate Researcher at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. She is a historical anthropologist with particular interest in the visual and material collections in archives and museums and the anthropology of the North. She completed her PhD at the University of Oxford where she focused on the career of an early female anthropologist, Maria Czaplicka, the expedition she led to North Central Siberia in 1914, and the museum collections born out of this expedition and their place in the history of anthropology. Her research in Estonia is concerned with the development of cultural tourism in Ida-Virumaa.
Jaanika’s research concerns itself with the relationship between anthropology and collecting. She has a specific interest in histories of collections in museums and in exploring ways in which ethnographic fieldwork, archival and collections-based research, and display practices can be brought together to activate historic collections and to connect museum audiences with broader issues prevalent among contemporary source communities.
Timothy Anderson is a PhD Candidate and Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology. After discovering Anthropology as a student at the University of Edinburgh, Timothy conducted his undergraduate fieldwork along the Russian-Estonian border in Narva. He later pursued a graduate degree in Urban Planning and worked at Nordregio, a Nordic policy research institute based in Stockholm.
Timothy's current PhD research involves time spent among asylum-seekers, settled refugees, and detained migrants in Estonia. Since 2016, Timothy has conducted interviews and participant-observation research with a wide variety of migrants, primarily within Vao Accommodation Center and Harku Detention Center. His goal is to provide an ethnographic analysis of Estonia’s asylum system by relaying and amplifying the voices of migrants within Estonia.
Research interests: Migration, political anthropology, refugee studies, nationalism, populism, borders, segregation, asylum policy, human rights, European Union.
Pinqing is a junior researcher of anthropology. He completed his MA in Social Anthropology at Tallinn University and is working on his Ph.D in Cultural Studies at Tallinn University. His master’s thesis explores the food-way, home-making practice, and individual identity creation of diasporic Chinese in Finland. After living in Estonia for two years, he grew interested in the crafting of wooden houses as well as living in the countryside. Building on that, he is writing up an ethnography about the work, aspiration, and life of young craftsmen in rural Estonia.
Research interests: crafts; making; food practice; individual identity; auto-ethnographic methods.
- Completed Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent
- Proof of English Proficiency
- Please see the complete overview of admission and application requirements for Master's level applicants
- Statement of research interests and/or outline of research project (should be uploaded to online application system DreamApply in pdf format)
- Essay based on assigned literature. The essay is to be written on-site (90 minutes, appr. 5 pages). International Applicants can submit their essays online, following a pre-arranged agreement. The applicants will be required to read two articles relating to one of the five topics listed: Fieldwork, Political Anthropology, Anthropology of the Senses, Economic Anthropology, and Visual and Media Anthropology. Please read more about the essay below.
For the purposes of identity verification at the admission procedure the Admission Committee has the right to take a screenshot during the oral part of the admission exam carried out via video bridge.
Essay is based on assigned literature. The assigned literature can be consulted by clicking here.
The applicants will be required to read two articles relating to one of the topics listed – Fieldwork, Political Anthropology, Anthropology of the Senses, Economic Anthropology, and Visual and Media Anthropology.
The essays are supposed to address the general issues discussed in the articles. The Admissions Committee will be looking out for the applicant's ability to summarise the general issues covered and to present their own informed opinion on these issues. It would be seen as an asset if the applicant also uses other references in their essay.
You must read the chosen texts before writing the essay. You are permitted to refer to the chosen texts and any notes made beforehand during the essay writing, you are also allowed to prepare a detailed essay plan. Do not write the whole essay beforehand! We trust your veracity applying to the programme, since there will be plenty of essay writing during your studies with us, it is very important that we are fully aware of your writing abilities.
Special arrangements will be made with the candidates who have to write their essay online.
Assessment of the candidates
- Letter of Motivation & Statement of Research Interests: 20 points (min. required 14 points)
- Academic Essay: 50 points (min. requirement 35 points)
- Interview - 30 points (minimum required 21 points)
Important! Only applicants receiving the minimum required points for each component will be invited for the next round.
Find more information about the deadlines here.
MA Anthropology (2020)
"My fieldwork experience provided critical context for my work and helped me truly see through the eyes of my research participants, if only for a few hours. This is the power of anthropology, and this is why I chose Tallinn University. My department gave me the guidance, support, and academic freedom to pursue a challenging and deeply important topic. I owe them one of my life’s most intense, meaningful experiences." Read about her fieldwork experience here.
MA Anthropology (2019), Public Relations Specialist at Latvian road maintenance cooperative
"The brightest memory I have of the anthropology studies is doing fieldwork in the USA in summer of 2018. Doing my fieldwork in Latvian youngsters summer high school in America, which turned out very challenging, I became more confident about myself but at the same time more humble and the overall fieldwork experience in my life became a turning point to better understand myself and the world. Currently, I am back in Latvia continuing to work in public relations and in the spare time preparing stories for several Latvian lifestyle magazines and working on my first book about famous Latvian healer.
Even though my daily life is saturated with many events I miss anthropology studies as during the studies every week I had a chance to learn new information about different cultures, why people behave the way they behave and how to become more human."
MA Anthropology (2019), Client Account Coordinator
I graduated from the Social Anthropology program in 2019. After two and a half years in Europe, I moved back to the United States with a very different perspective on both my home country and the world at large. I now work in financial services, with the goal of eventually moving into the research department to do high-level, global research or into the growing sector of socially responsible investing, in order to utilize the knowledge of culture and humanity I gained from my graduate studies and experiences in Estonia.
Now I have a job working in asset management. I have plans to try and get into the research department working on research for ESG investing, a growing field that tries to drive global investments towards environmentally sustainable and socially responsible companies. Tallinn was such a special and unforgettable time for me.
Read Jennifer's blog post here.
MA Anthropology (2019), Verification Specialist at Veriff, Linguistics
In spring 2017, I was looking forward to returning to studies after my post BA gap year. I used to study Linguistics but for MA I decided to change the focus. However, I had so many different interests: from sustainable development and environmental issues to languages, multiculturalism and work organization. It was extremely difficult to choose one direction. When I saw the description of the Anthropology MA program at Tallinn University I was sure that it was what I was looking for: an interdisciplinary approach and an opportunity to do research in multiple fields. For two years of studies, I was able to learn a lot about research methods in Anthropology, particularly participant observation, multicultural problems, how we perceive the world and why. I also had a chance to spend a semester studying at Heidelberg University, the oldest German university, and conduct my own 2-month anthropological fieldwork in a Finnish NGO, which resulted in my MA thesis "Understanding Success: A Case of an Environmental NGO.
Currently, I'm working at a fast-growing Estonian start-up, and I'm sure that I won't be where I'm now without studying Anthropology. The great thing about Anthropology is that there are no limits to research topics. In fact, any of your interests can be developed into an MA thesis or even a life-long study. The knowledge you get from this program is priceless as it is about understanding people and their behavior.
MA Anthropology (2018), Social Anthropologist, Filmmaker,
PhD Researcher in Theatre and Performance Studies, York University.
"While I was studying anthropology at Tallinn University, I began to look deeply into the 'everyday' life. There was no turning back; the ethics of collaboration demanded innovative ways to subvert power relations between, and within, the researcher and the participants. At each moment, I was also strongly aware of my shifting relationship with the camera. It was further challenged, left to drown in the sea, and gradually transformed into a rock by filmmaker Kersti Uibo, who taught me how to listen and see more intensely. Time spent with Kersti on developing my thesis film was similar to my Dhrupad singing classes in India, where I was asked to reach a state of thoughtlessness before riyaz. Carlo Cubero provided me with a solid foundation in Anthropology; his classes unmasked its colonial roots and revealed the workings of power (and resistance) within our discipline..., in a neo-liberal University, in the streets of Tallinn, in post-Soviet Estonia, at the ghats of Kashi, and in the world. He demanded strong ethics while pushing for the collaborative creation of ethnographic knowledge; he wouldn't even accept a single 'zoom' shot in the film assignments for his anthropological filmmaking class. Without Marje Ermel, I wouldn't have been able to deal with my research on dying, death and the politics-of-care in Kashi, India. She especially supported me throughout a lengthy period when my field site was shut down for renovation, and she helped me perceive this time as an opportunity for self-cultivation and to further my knowledge about the topic. The warmest of friends from Tallinn, especially my batchmates Steven Vihalem-glitch-poet and Kadriann Kibus-filmmaker, inspired me immensely to dissolve boundaries between anthropology, art, spirituality and activism. I am very grateful to everyone at Tallinn University, and all my friends in Estonia. I will never forget this experience."
Rajat's current research interests are directed towards verbal performative traditions, everyday acts of resistance and collaborative fiction filmmaking. His research project is hosted at the Theatre and Performance Studies at York University. He is now working as a Co-editor of the Performance Ethnography section at Centre for Imaginative Ethnography, a transnational Research-Creation network.
Ayuk Nyakpo Orock
MA Anthropology (2016), Counsellor at the Finnish Red Cross
“My two years in the MA Anthropology programme of the School of Humanity in Tallinn University taught me that diversity itself - seen in body shapes and sizes, customs, clothing, speech, religion and worldview - provides a frame through which we can understand any single aspect of life in any given society. Anthropology at TLU with its interdisciplinary approach and diverse ways of viewing a wide variety of topical issues enabled me gain skills in anthropological research in understanding, analysing and resolving global problems."
MA Anthropology (2011)
“I graduated 2011 and since then I have worked in Estonian Public Broadcasting as editor in the music archive (2008-2014) and for the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra as orchestral librarian (since 2014) as well as lectured in the Estonian Academy of Theatre and Music. Anthropology gave me an excellent view to another course of humanity. And I was thinking during my studies and still do - anthropology in Tallinn University has a versatile, interesting and inspirational curriculum.”
MA Anthropology (2013), Consultant at Estravel
“I was among the first students that were admitted to study Anthropology in Tallinn University in 2006 and graduated with my Master’s degree in 2013. From the very start of my studies, I became interested in the anthropology of tourism. Hence, both my Bachelor’s and Master’s theses were connected with tourism and the way different people perceive their surroundings while both travelling and working in the tourism industry. From the beginning of my Master’s studies, I have also been working as a travel consultant in the biggest travel agency in the Baltics – Estravel.”
Ma Anthropology (2016)
Social anthropologist, non-fiction filmmaker and social innovator; PhD candidate of Bern University
"I can safely say that anthropology allowed me to slow down a bit, to focus on what I have always wanted to focus on – visual anthropology – and to challenge myself during the production of several film projects. It has been a joy to thrive in the international environment of the university and to engage with a very friendly and dedicated staff of the School of Humanities and the Baltic Film and Media School. Without such an involvement I would hardly be allowed to enter Swiss educational system, or be appointed EASA's Applied Anthropology Network co-convenor."
Graduate career options
Anthropologists make valuable contributions in the following fields:
- Cultural Resource Management (CRM)
- Historic Preservation
- Museum/Curation/Project Design
- Community Development
- Advocacy (Human Rights/Social Justice)
- Computers/Software Development/Information Technology
- Design (products and/or services)
- Ethnography/Cultural AnthropologyHealth
- Environment and Natural Resources
- Management Consulting/Organizational Development/Training
- Humanitarian Efforts
- Theatre and Performance Studies
Further study opportunities
All our graduates have either continued on to postgraduate studies or found employment in the public and private sector.
Researchers interested in pursuing doctoral studies in Anthropology at Tallinn University can do so within the Studies of Cultures programme.
School of Humanities
Engage in a broadly interdisciplinary study of the relationships between literature, visual culture and film in contemporary and historical contexts. Gain cutting-edge theoretical insights into intermedial aesthetics and into the philosophy of literature, art and film. Equip yourself with critical tools for the cultural analysis of contemporary audiovisual, image, and text-based media.
School of Humanities
Estonian Studies is a unique MA programme, teaching Estonian language, culture, history, societal and political topics using English.
Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School
Documentary MA programme is focused on the auteur concept of the creative documentary. During the two year studies the students are guided to find their author’s voice and to develop their factual storytelling skills. Each student creates a short documentary each semester.