MA The Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas

"The interdisciplinary nature of the graduate programme in the School is unparalleled."

In their words

Lisa Binder, Associate Curator, Museum for African Art, New York

Key facts

(Research Excellence Framework 2014)

Study the historical and contemporary arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas on this unique programme, offered by the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. You will benefit from teaching that emphasises museum anthropology and material culture, and your studies will make use of the renowned Sainsbury Collection displayed in Norman Foster’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Our department is one of the leading centres in the world for the study of art and material culture and the only centre in the UK concerned with the study of art worldwide. We bring together academics, researchers and students from the disciplines of art history, archaeology, anthropology, and museum and gallery studies. The impact of our research was rated second-highest in the UK for Art History (REF2014).

Places on the course are restricted to a maximum of eight, allowing an unusually high degree of regular individual supervision and small-group tuition.


The one-year course will provide you with detailed knowledge of the visual arts, contemporary and historical, of three geographical areas: Africa, Oceania and the Americas. It also highlights the methodological and theoretical issues involved in the analysis and display of these works of art, both in their original contexts and in the contexts of museums and exhibitions.

You will examine this material at the intersection of anthropology, art history, archaeology and museology. This MA is therefore essentially cross-disciplinary, aiming to frame regional developments and important shared themes across these fields; for example, traditions in art and architecture, making, ritual, social and power relations, colonialism, and contemporary arts. Throughout the programme we place a strong emphasis on current theoretical approaches.

This flexible programme offers a range of possible essay and dissertation topics; there is also the possibility to take a research tutorial option, allowing the course to be tailored to your interests. Whether you wish to focus, for example, on the anthropology of art, on archaeology or on Oceania, you can weight your course in that direction by selecting essay subjects in that area. Working closely with academic staff, the dissertation also allows you to study a topic of your choice intensively, possibly as a precursor to PhD research.

Find out more about SRU

Course structure

This course provides in-depth coverage of the three regions (Africa, Oceania and the Americas, taught in three separate units) as well as general theoretical and methodological issues, including museum anthropology. Themes addressed on the course might include ceremonial practices; representations of power and legitimacy; architecture and cosmology; valuables, exchange and the market for artefacts; and ethnographic museums and display. You will also write a dissertation on a topic of your choice, supervised by a member of faculty.

Over the autumn and spring terms you will attend a series of weekly lecture-discussions, giving you an understanding of each region’s visual arts. These sessions also introduce the main methodological and theoretical issues raised in the area’s literature, and develop your intellectual skills. You will also receive practical instruction in presentation and teaching techniques, so that you become experienced in presenting written and visual material to an academic audience.

In addition to the three regional units, special seminars also cover museological topics, including the anthropology of art; the issue of style; value systems; looting and cultural property; the history and display of anthropological collections; and the Sainsbury Collection. Teaching is enhanced by guided visits to museums (for example, in London, Paris, Cambridge, Oxford) and, where feasible, to temporary displays and auctions of ethnographic materials. These sessions culminate with a timed essay assessment but they are also designed to help you as you develop your other written work.

Skills and experience

We encourage you to attend the public lectures and seminars offered by Art History and World Art Studies, the Sainsbury Research Unit and the Sainsbury Centre. As a postgraduate student you can participate in our postgraduate research seminar – a chance to share your work and receive feedback. You will be based in  the Sainsbury Centre, where you will have access to a dedicated area for postgraduate students, with computers and other IT facilities. You will also have access to the Robert Sainsbury Library, which contains a large collection of books and journals related to the topics studied on this course. This is an ideal and welcoming environment in which to develop your expertise, specialist skills and research projects.


The programme consists of three taught regional units (30 credits each), seminar sessions leading up to a museology timed essay (10 credits) and a dissertation (80 credits). If you wish to conduct advanced, pre-PhD study, you can substitute one of the regional units with a research tutorial option (30 credits) on a specific theme, with the approval of staff.

Course tutors and research interests

Staff research interests include: the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas; archaeology of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Andes; museum and heritage studies; visual anthropology; art history and anthropological history.

Where next?

Many of our graduates take up posts in universities, museums, and the cultural and heritage sector across the world. You could also go on to work in art publishing and journalism; the media and photographic research; auction houses and private galleries; and the travel industry. For more information visit

Course Modules 2018/9

Students must study the following modules for 180 credits:

Name Code Credits


This section of the Sainsbury Research Unit MA course provides you with detailed knowledge of the visual arts of Africa - both contemporary and historical, while also focusing on the methodological and theoretical issues involved in their analysis and display, both in their original contexts and in the contexts of museums and exhibitions.




This section of the Sainsbury Research Unit MA provides you with detailed knowledge of the visual arts of the Americas, ancient and historical, while also focusing on the methodological and theoretical issues involved in their analysis and display, both in their original contexts and in the contexts of museums and exhibitions.




This section of the Sainsbury Research Unit MA course 'Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas' provides you with detailed knowledge of the visual arts of the Pacific/Oceania, contemporary and historical, while also focusing on the methodological and theoretical issues involved in their analysis and display, both in their original contexts and in the contexts of museums and exhibitions.




A dissertation on a topic relevant to the practice and theory of your degree programme. You'll choose your own topic, subject to the approval of the Course Director. You'll research and write your dissertation independently, with the support of a supervisory team.




This assessment, based on a timed written essay, reflects on course content (e.g., seminars, core sessions, field trips, readings) on museum anthropology, exhibitions, and curatorial practices.




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

Further Reading

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  • At A Crossroads

    Since 2011, researchers from UEA’s Sainsbury Research Unit have been conducting yearly archaeological field trips to the banks of the Niger River in northern Benin, West Africa, as part of the Crossroads of Empires research project.

    Read it At A Crossroads
  • Medieval Parish Churches of Norwich

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  • Spirits of Clay

    Dogu – the enigmatic, beautifully-sculpted clay figurines found abundantly throughout Japan – have fascinated archaeologists for over a century.

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  • Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

    The Sainsbury Centre is one of the most prominent university art galleries in Britain, and a major national centre for the study and presentation of art.

    Read it Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
  • The Mummy: what our obsession with ancient Egypt reveals 

    Tut-mania reigned in the 1920s – and keeps returning to haunt us.

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    Your University questions, answered

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    Whether you want to diversify or specialise – explore your options.


Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject Humanities or Social Sciences
  • Degree Classification UK BA (Hons) 2.1 or equivalent

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
  • PTE (Pearson): 62 (minimum 55 in all components)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact


Interviews are required for students applying to the MA in The Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. If you are living overseas, these may be undertaken by telephone/Skype at a mutually convenient time.  Please note that applicants who have not yet met the English Language requirement will still be expected to conduct an interview in English.


This course's annual intake is in September of each year.


All applications for postgraduate study are processed through the Admissions Office and then forwarded to the relevant School of Study for consideration. If you are currently completing your first degree or have not yet taken a required English language test, any offer of a place will be conditional upon you achieving this before you arrive.

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees for the academic year 2018/19 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,550 (full time)
  • International Students: £15,800 (full time)

We estimate living expenses at £1,015 per month.

Scholarships and Awards:

There are a variety of scholarships, studentships and other awards available to those applying for places on our taught postgraduate degrees.

Click on the link below to see what is currently available.

Funding for Masters Degrees and Diplomas

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online, or by downloading the application form.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515