Anthropology is the study of the many societies and cultures of the world and their complex interaction. Anthropology’s global scope is complemented by a local focus, and a unique perspective gained by participation in the daily life and language of the communities studied.
Contemporary social anthropology asks broad and detailed questions about what it means to be human in a globalised world, as well as providing a critical vantage point from which to reflect on ourselves and others.
Subjects you could take in this major
Anthropology explores the different ways people live their lives. In this subject, an introduction to foundational knowledge in the discipline, you will be exposed to a variety of social and cultural forms around the world and the methods and theories developed to understand them as diverse expressions of a shared human condition. Topical issues that will be encountered include how different peoples around the world experience and react to pleasure, suffering and death; use ritual, religion and magic to understand and change their worlds; organise their sexual and family lives and their friendship networks; create and maintain their identities; and maintain and resist the relations of power in which they are all enmeshed. Comparative ethnographic examples will illustrate a range of disciplinary concerns in anthropological research ethics and practice, the dynamic interaction between processes of order and change in social life, and its effects on how people experience the different worlds they inhabit.
This subject is an introduction to the developing world and development studies from the perspectives of Anthropology, Political Science, Economics, Sociology and Geography. Beginning with an examination of the legacies of colonialism, we will ask to what extent they can be argued to have created the current divide between the developed, global North and the developing or under-developed global South. We will then focus on the relationship between rich and poor countries in an increasingly globalised world, identifying the manifestations of global inequality and ways of addressing it. The roles of international organisations and agendas such as the Millennium Development Goals in mediating relations between global North and South will also be studied. Key development issues such as poverty, aid, debt, trade, migration, gender and sustainability will be investigated through use of case studies from Africa, Latin America and Asia.
This subject offers a specifically anthropological perspective to understandings of gender and sexuality, providing an empirical, cross-cultural framework with which to evaluate and examine various theoretical perspectives. Topics covered include the influence of an anthropologist's gendered and sexual identity in shaping ethnography, the meaning of heterosexuality in a cross-cultural context, gender and Islam, gender and kinship, gendered experiences of migration, male and female sex tourism, and experiences of masculinity, femininity and third gender categories and identities in the world today. On completion of the subject students should have gained knowledge of gender-based systems of social classification in a global context and through this develop a critical awareness of the representation of women's and men's lives in ethnography.
This subject examines the development of political theory in the last thirty years. It focuses on the emergence of key theoretical paradigms such as contemporary liberalism, communitarianism, multiculturalism, radical pluralism, post-structuralism and post-modernism and the ways in which these schools of thought have framed key conceptual debates on ideology, power and sovereignty. The subject maps this terrain and analyses it through examples such as immigration, violence, the role of religion in public life, markets and economic rationality, the environment and welfare reform. Contemporary political theory emerges as vibrant and dynamic and the subject demonstrates how theory is integral to a developed understanding of current political events.
This subject introduces students to the fundamental analytic skills that are used in social science research. It provides an introduction to the theoretical and epistemological foundations of social science research, familiarises students with the different methods of inquiry in the social sciences and provides an overview of key historical and contemporary debates and trends. Different theoretical approaches and their associated methods of inquiry will be introduced through practical examples in order to show their strengths and limitations.
How have cultures throughout the world responded to changing economic, political, and environmental transformations? How have new world views emerged from highly charged cross-cultural encounters? And how have communities found innovative ways of resisting or modifying unwanted transformations in their 'ways of life'? In this subject, using theories of cultural change drawn from anthropology and cultural studies, we explore how communities, particularly in the global south, have coped with and creatively re-worked the demands of an often foreign-dominated market economy, with a particular focus on struggles around natural resource extraction and privitization. Paying special attention to what James C. Soctt has called, the 'weapons of the weak', we explore the ways - both overt and subtle - that different societies have used symbolic pracitices, rituals and mythologies to accomodate, transform and mount resistance to the diverse agents and processes of global capitalism over the past 100 years. Case studies will be drawn from Africa, South America, North America, Eastern Europe and Asia.
This subject introduces students to the evolution of multiple paradigms of development, considers the strategies used to pursue development in practice, and identifies the key trends and issues of development in the 21 st century. We examine the theories promulgated about the developing world - of modernization and ‘catch-up’, of structuralism and dependency, of human development, ‘alternative’ and ‘post-development’. Students will be encouraged to understand the diverse trajectories of development by close analysis of specific case studies. We explore the phenomenal developmental success of countries in East and South-East Asia and the BRICs and draw lessons for other developing countries. We also review key issues of relevance to the developing world such as poverty and inequality, health, globalization, industrialization, religion and conflict.
This subject considers the mutually enforcing role of socio-cultural theory and ethnography in understandings of the contemporary human endeavour. Particular emphasis is placed on both classic and modern theories of personhood, social identity and relatedness in social anthropology and their relevance for understanding a range of contemporary social issues relating to kinship, migration, travel and tourism, nationalism, modernity, ageing and the life course and digital technologies. On completion students taking this course should have gained an appreciation of anthropological approaches to the study of the person and their relevance to a range of political, ethical, economic and cultural concerns about fetal rights, child soldiers, migrant workers, backpacking, love marriages, retirement and virtual explorations of the self.
Ethnicity and nationalism are of special concern to anthropologists, especially in instances where anthropology becomes part of nationalist discourse. This subject considers ethnicity and nationalism through the in-depth analysis of a case study from the developing world, but draws on comparative material from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Pacific. Students will examine different theoretical approaches to ethnicity, nationalism and ethnic nationalism, in particular the relationships between the formation of nation states and processes of 'development', 'transition' and 'underdevelopment'; the roles of actors, from political actors to ordinary people, in the construction of national projects; the relationships between historic and contemporary processes in the construction of national projects; how national projects are constructed, enforced and culturally maintained and the relationships between globalisation, migration, transnationalism and ethnic nationalism in the modern world.
Contemporary cultural and political conflicts are increasingly articulated with the body, bodies, gender and sexuality at the heart of their concerns. This subject brings insights from contemporary theory and social research to our understanding of how and why this occurs. The subject begins by examining ways to think about the gendered body. It then moves to a consideration of the links between gender, sex, sexuality, cultural difference, class, popular culture and politics.
This subject introduces a wide range of anthropological interests in the human body from a comparative ethnographic perspective. It considers topics such as body image and eating disorders, gendered bodies, body modifications and decorations, consciousness and the body/mind continuum, commodified bodies, disabled bodies and body healing. We will investigate how the human body is individually and culturally constructed and socially experienced through a critical examination of a range of ethnographic and theoretical literature, as well as through exploratory field research.
This subject examines how social and cultural factors influence language, and the role language plays in structuring and representing social categories across cultures. It examines how culture and language shape each other: how language represents and enables culture, and how cultures influence the form individual languages take. Specific topics to be covered include socially determined variation in language styles and registers. language varieties reflecting social class, gender and ethnic group. factors affecting language choice such as, bi- and multi-lingualism, as well as the relation between language, culture and thought and universalist versus relativist, views of language. Students will also study changes in language status over time.
This subject is primarily concerned with the ideas about society that have anchored the disciplines of sociology and social theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. It critically assesses these ideas through an examination of the works of key social theorists. Students completing this subject should have developed an understanding of the central ideas of key thinkers in the social-theoretical tradition, among them, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel and Freud, and developed an understanding of some central issues and themes about society such as power, culture, structure and self through a critical engagement with the work of these thinkers.
How do sex and gender operate in the world today, and what are their possible futures? Indeed, do these concepts have a future? Can they adequately capture the breadth, range and fluidity of contemporary and global sexed and gendered lives? Key themes explored in this subject include: current theories and experiences of sex and gender in the world today; the increasing instability of the concepts of sex and gender and their transformations; gender fluidity; the persistence of gender inequality; gender as a cultural category versus gender as lived bodily experience; and the uses and abuses of the gender concept. The subject culminates by considering imagined futures of everyday gender practices and of sexualities. These themes will be explored in a global and cross-cultural context.
This subject is an introduction to the study of gender, sex and sexuality exploring the recent histories of feminisms and feminist thinking about gender, difference and the origins of sexual inequality. Key themes include: structures and institutions of sexual inequality including the family, marriage, mothering, sexual divisions of labour, masculinities and femininities, bodies and sexualities, and their relationships to the workings of power, especially the intersections of gender and sexuality with 'race', ethnicity, class and nation. The final section of the course considers 'third world' feminisms and postfeminism in a transnational and global context.
This subject involves the study of theory and empirical research in social and political relations, culture and ideology, and human subjectivity and action. Students who complete this subject should possess an awareness of the ways in which social theory can provide a critical perspective on standard approaches to the study of politics, and knowledge of a repertoire of social theory concepts and approaches which can be drawn upon to analyse political processes.
This subject explores how people come to value things as they do, critically engaging with a range of theoretical and ethnographic literature to ask how value may be created, enhanced and realised in different ways. Students will be introduced to ways that anthropologists analyse and interpret variation in economic behaviour and economic systems, examining the assumptions about human behaviour that inform classical, political and moral approaches to economics, and where these different approaches locate the source of value. Ethnographic examples from systems of different complexity will be used to explore topics such as: division of labour; 'gift' and 'commodity' economies; formal and informal economies; consumption, identity and 'consumer society'; the meaning of 'money' and its effects. Students should become familiar not only with how local economies work, but also with implications of the emerging global economy and the ways it is transforming local and regional economic logics.
Kinship studies has a long, important and contentious history in Anthropology. Drawing on this historical legacy this subject applies both classic and contemporary anthropological theories of family, kinship and social relatedness to a range of ethnographic case studies. The subject addresses three inter-related themes. Firstly, there is an anthropological focus on the links that exist between kinship and the nation-state in terms of national identity, ethnicity, migration and state policy. Secondly, the subject considers yet complicates imaginings of blood ties and biogenetic substance by examining the influences of black magic, ghost marriages, Skype, spiritual conception, milk, guns, deities, surrogate mothers and medical practitioners in the shaping of kin ties today. Finally, there is a focus on continuity and social change and the ways in which the meaning of family, kinship and social relationships are transformed or otherwise by new reproductive and genetic technologies, polygamy, same-sex relationships, friendships and the influence of internet and mobile-phone based forms of communication.
This subject explores anthropological understandings of nature, from a comparative ethnographic perspective. Engaging with a range of ethnographic and theoretical literature, it examines the diverse ways that humans come to know and think about the natural world, understand their place in relation to that world, and define what they mean by Nature, including human nature. Through a consideration of topics such as Traditional Ecological Knowledge, patterns of land tenure and management, the power of anthropomorphism and the naturalising of social differences and inequalities, students will develop an understanding of recent approaches to a key issue in anthropology the relationship between Nature and Culture and implications for the ways people interpret their roles and responsibilities in relation to other beings in the world.
Biomedicine (or ‘Western’ medicine) is ever expanding its reach across the globe, reshaping human life from the embryo to the grave. Despite claims to objectivity based in the scientific method, biomedicine is thoroughly enmeshed within cultures, social structures, and political systems. This subject will introduce a wide range of scholarship from medical anthropology, medical sociology and cognate disciplines that examines the intersection of biomedicine with other systems of healing and analyses its impact on the experience of health, illness and personhood. Beginning with classic texts in the anthropology and sociology of biomedicine, the course will explore a range of topics including the global expansion of pharmaceutical markets; outsourcing medical research to developing countries; transnational surrogacy; organ, blood and egg donation and markets; ‘ethnic’ drugs; and genomics and race. Theories considered will include medical pluralism, the medicalisation of life and the globalisation of biomedicine, normality and standardization, risk, bioeconomies, biosociality and biological citizenship.
The subject examines major approaches and debates within contemporary sociological theory, and the different research directions that emerge from these approaches. Beginning with an overview of the classical foundations of sociological theory, the subject explores contemporary sociological theories which engage with questions of power, social order, and conflict. The subject also examines contemporary sociological approaches to critical issues including globalization, individualization, and identity. As the subject proceeds, we will examine how researchers construct, evaluate and modify theory to respond to transformations in social relations and practices. In this way, it will become evident that sociological theory is in a constant process of interaction with everyday social structures, relations and experiences. Students will complete the subject with knowledge of key approaches and debates in contemporary sociological theory, and with the capacity to use sociological theory to construct social research questions.
While ethnography as method is the most distinguishing feature of anthropology, ethnographic practice has always taken place in continual conversation with theory. Just as theoretical and philosophical considerations sometimes guide and generate particular ethnographic orientations and issues, sometimes ethnographic practices generate theoretical developments that have had repercussions well beyond anthropology. This subject explores various important moments in the ethnographic generation of theory that has occurred throughout the history of anthropology. It examines in some details the ethnographic texts where the theories were first developed.
The aim of this subject is to introduce students to and critically examine the major debates in contemporary critical theories from Western Marxism to postmodernism. These critical theories include the German Frankfurt School, French poststructuralism, the Budapest School, post-Marxism and feminism, all of which are set against the background of the Enlightenment and the Romantic and Heidegerrean responses to it. On completion of the subject, students should have developed an understanding of the central issues and ideas of the critical theorists covered in this course and be able to convey this understanding through a critical engagement with the issues and theories in the written assessment of the course.
This subject explores the ideologies and actions associated with contemporary social movements that operate on a global scale and have attracted international attention, such as anti-globalisation, indigenous, labour, women's rights, green, human rights, radical Islam and anti-war movements. It examines the conflicts in which these movements are engaged and interrogates the extent to which their grievances are caused or inspired by globalisation. It analyses the impact of globalisation on transnational social movement strategies and tactics, and assesses the role of global social movements in transforming politics and society.
This subject offers an examination of the relationships between indigenous people and the major systems of social control such as the criminal justice system, education, welfare and health. It explores the experiences and outcomes of Indigenous exposure to selected agencies within those systems. It considers different theoretical perspectives on the processes of Indigenous marginalisation, criminalisation and victimisation, and examines specific issues such as exclusion, racism, differential policing, over-representation and access to justice. It explores and evaluates institutional reforms designed in partnerships with relevant communities to redress Indigenous disadvantage.
This subject considers anthropological approaches to Popular Culture: the music, literature, images, artefacts and objects consumed by “ordinary people.” At one level it addresses the distinctiveness of the Anthropology of Popular Culture, demonstrating how anthropological approaches capture often overlooked qualities of Popular Culture, such as its often subaltern relationship to “high” and “official” cultures and its oxymoronically “global”, “local” and “Western” qualities. And at another level, it addresses the challenges of Popular Culture for anthropological Theory, in particular how Popular Culture’s fundamentally creative dimensions represent a challenge for a traditional disciplinary conceptualisation of culture as integrative and normative. These issues are explored through a range of ethnographic case studies from around the world. Indicative examples include, the consumption of high street fashions, lifestyle makeover television and “World music”, mall cultures, football fandom and celebrity watching.
What sorts of inequalities are intensifying in the contemporary world? What dynamics are producing those intensifications? And how have anthropologists historically conceptualized the inequalities with which they gain firsthand experience through long-term fieldwork? Growing numbers of political and economic anthropologists are committed to exploring the ideological and material means by which systems of inequality are created, sustained, misrecognized, and challenged. Drawing principally on Marxist anthropology, post-structuralism and post-colonialism, this subject looks cross-culturally to explore the interrelationships between diverse forms and sources of power, the roles of colonialism and corporate globalization in configuring and sustaining local relations of inequality, and the rise of resistance movements that explicitly challenge exclusions based on class, gender, and ethnicity. Special attention will be paid to the effects of multinational corporations on local power relations and patterns of inequality throughout the world via brand marketing, legal reform, and corporate social responsibility. Case studies will be drawn from Latin America, North America, Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
Psychoanalysis has informed and influenced contemporary social theory in manifold ways. Psychoanalysis has been central to theorising the decentred subject, it has radically affected conceptualisations of ideology, thrown reason under radical suspicion and has contributed to a better understanding of identities. including identities of nation, race, gender and ethnicity. This subject investigates these issues in the context of a consideration of texts by Freud, Klein, Lacan, Kristeva, Adorno, Fromm, Habermas, Zizek, Mitchell, Giddens and Althusser. Students who complete this subject should gain a sound knowledge of some major traditions in psychoanalytic theory, particularly Freudian, Kleinian and Lacanian, and should come to possess an awareness of why social theory has been drawn to psychoanalysis in order to analyse subjectivities, group processes, intergroup relations, ideological formations, and forms of reason.
What is religion? What purpose does it serve? How does it vary across cultures? Why is it growing rapidly in many parts of the world despite predictions of its inevitable decline? And how does it relate to politics in a diversity of social systems? In this subject, we explore the symbolic systems and ritual practices that people throughout the world have used to make sense of their place in the social world, the political order, the environment, and the cosmos. Students learn core anthropological approaches to the study of religion by exploring images of mythic order and social transgression; the divergent functions of trance and shamanic practice; the roles of messianic religion in movements for social change; the meanings and functions of contemporary pilgrimage; the relationships between occult movements and the rise of shadow economies; and the uses of religious conceptions in contemporary debates about large-scale mining and climate change. Special attention will be paid throughout to the relationship between religion and politics.
Focusing on contemporary issues (such as relatedness, identity, modernity and embodiment) that have been encountered through the course of the Anthropology and Social Theory major, this capstone subject examines in depth the relationship between substantive research, including ethnography, and social and cultural theory. Its foci are simultaneously theoretical and practical. It aims to provide students with experience in the application and development of theory.