[skip to content]

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Introduction to Social Anthropology

Course Code:
151801001
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

The first term introduces students to anthropology through a number of significant analytical oppositions. These include society and the individual, status and contract, mind and body, culture and nature, self and other, etc. In addition, particular themes in anthropology, such as modes of classification, ritual and meaning, exchange relations, explanations of witchcraft, and so forth, will be discussed. The aim is to emphasize that only through detailed ethnographic knowledge can theoretical ideas be grasped and assessed.

The second term covers the history of anthropology as an academic discipline in Britain and the United States between roughly 1900 and 1970. The purpose of this term is threefold. First, it evaluates the classical canon of mainstream social and cultural anthropology using seven leading figures and their research as our examples. Second, it introduces a critical framework for understanding the production of anthropological theory/knowledge in relation to changing biographical, social, political, economic, and ethnographic circumstances. Third, it helps students develop the skills necessary for a close and critical reading of ethnographies.

In general, lectures will deal with the theoretical problems of a particular theme, while tutorial classes will examine ethnographic case studies in greater detail.

Prerequisites

May also be taken as a floater by students in other departments.

Note that this course is mandatory prior to taking any Ethnography courses in second and final years of study.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At completion of the course students:

  • will be familiar with some of the major themes (e.g. kinship, gift exchange, categorisation) in the history of the discipline of anthropology, and with the lives, ethnographic work, and thought of those who introduced and explored these themes;
  • they will have knowledge of a range of debates from the beginnings of anthropology to the contemporary scene and will be able to assess these debates and place them in their own socio-historical context;
  • will have an appreciation of the impact of history and social change upon the discipline, via study of phenomena such as the World Wars, colonialism, and the emergence ‘native anthropology’;
  • will have explored issues of disciplinarity and will have a good sense of ways in which anthropology has allied itself at various moments and places with hard science, social science, literature, humanities and film.

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 70%. Two pieces of coursework will count for 30% (15% each) towards the final mark.

Suggested reading

  • Delaney, Carol, An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology, Blackwell, 2004.
  • Eriksen, Thomas H., Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, Pluto Press, 1995.
  • Geertz, Clifford, Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author, Polity Press, 1998.
  • Herzfeld, Michael, Anthropology, Theoretical Practice in Culture and Society, Blackwell, 2001.
  • Kuklick, Henrika, A New History of Anthropology, Blackwell, 2008.
  • Kuper, Adam, Anthropology and Anthropologists, Routledge, 1996.
  • Monaghan, John, and Peter Just, Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Moore, Henrietta L. (ed.), Anthropological Theory Today, Polity Press, 1999.
  • Stocking, George (ed.), Observers Observed: Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork, University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.