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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

The Anthropology of Space, Place and Architecture

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2
The course introduces various approaches to studying space, place and architecture, and provides a framework for critically assessing the historical, cultural and social significance of these concepts.

The principal aim is to challenge notions of ‘space’ as a reified entity which is conceptualised and inhabited in a universal manner, and to cultivate a more complex understanding of the processes of human agency which manipulate, produce and re-produce space as perhaps the most significant and crucial component of any material culture.


The theory presented in this course builds on the students’ theoretical background acquired in the second-year Theory in Anthropology course, and it will compliment many of the theoretical issues covered in the third-year Contemporary Trends course.

The ethnographic examples of space, place and architecture discussed in the lectures and tutorials cover a wide number of regions including the Near and Middle East, Asia and Africa, and thus the course also builds upon the students’ second-year ethnographic studies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Students will study various anthropological and social theories applied to the study of space, place and architecture in a variety of cultural and social settings (including London and the SOAS regions).

Students will learn how to:
  • critically assess data from texts, various forms of visual media, and
    digital sources (including documentary film, and web and electronic data sources); 
  • solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations; 
  • locate materials and use search sources (including research library catalogues) and other relevant sources; 
  • and conduct a small component of fieldwork.
Intellectual (thinking) Skills
  • Capacity to discuss anthropological issues concerning space, place and architecture in an articulate, informed and impartial manner.
  • Ability to frame and present an argument.
  • Ability to absorb, process and distinguish descriptive and interpretative material.
  • Capacity to think both critically and creatively about anthropological issues and topics.
Transferable Skills

The programme will encourage students to:

  • Write concisely and with clarity.
  • Communicate ideas both orally and with the aid of visual material.
  • Engage critically with debates on social and cultural issues, to pose relevant questions, and to formulate and orally communicate ideas with clarity and precision.
  • Explore a variety of sources for research materials.
  • Develop research methods and elementary fieldwork skills.
  • Possess basic computer skills and ability to use basic software packages.
  • Work to deadlines and standards.
  • Develop self-reflexiveness.
  • Develop awareness of the relativity of diverse social structures, cultural values, beliefs and attitudes.
  • Assess the validity and cogency of arguments.
  • Make judgments involving complex factors.

Method of assessment

Coursework 1 (10%), Coursework 2 (80%), Oral presentation (10%).