SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology in and of the World: An Introduction

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year
What is anthropology about and what do anthropologists do?

This module gives an introduction to social anthropology as both an academic discipline and a practice.

The first term introduces students to anthropology through a number of particular themes, such as modes of production and livelihood, exchange relations, explanations of witchcraft, power relations, kinship and marriage, class, gender, and race. In addition, we will pay attention to study skills, including essay writing. The aim in Term 1 is to emphasize that only through detailed ethnographic knowledge can theoretical ideas be grasped and assessed.

While the focus in Term 1 is on classic themes in anthropology, Term 2 shifts the attention to contemporary issues. How can we apply anthropological knowledge to present-day social problems? Together we will read two book-length contemporary ethnographies. These books give us a better sense of what anthropologists do. Anthropology alumni will be invited to talk about their jobs and we will peer review the work of a number of UG students. The purpose of this term is twofold. First, it introduces a critical framework for understanding the production of anthropological theory/knowledge in relation to changing social, political, economic, and ethnographic circumstances. Second, 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 discuss the readings and examine ethnographic case studies in greater detail.


This module is required of all Year 1 BA Social Anthropology students. It may also be taken as an Open Option by students in other departments.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At completion of the module students:

  • will be familiar with some of the major themes (e.g. kinship, gift exchange, witchcraft, class, gender, race) in the history of the discipline of anthropology, and with the ethnographic work of those who introduced and explored these themes;
  • will have knowledge of a range of debates within anthropology and will be able to assess these debates and place them in their socio-historical context;
  • 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;
  • will be able to relate anthropological analysis to contemporary social and political issues;
  • will have developed their skills in analytical reading and writing;
  • will be able to coordinate and cooperate with team members in developing a class presentation.

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.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules