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Unit information: Social Theories in 2020/21

Unit name Social Theories
Unit code ARCH20057
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Hodos
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to acquaint students with contemporary theories within anthropology and archaeology. Emphasis is placed upon the role of theory in these fields and the academic, political and social contexts within which various theoretical approaches have developed. The unit reviews the history of theoretical developments of anthropology and archaeology and provides the necessary analytical frameworks within which students can understand contemporary theoretical trends within these fields. The unit will provide students with the skills to effectively read, understand and assess current anthropological and archaeological literature on the basis of its theoretical stance.


  • To provide students with an overview of the historical development of anthropological and archaeological theory from the 1960s.
  • To provide students with an understanding of contemporary theoretical movements in anthropology and archaeology.
  • To enable students to assess the relative importance and usefulness of competing explanative frameworks.
  • To provide students with a theoretical foundation to effectively read and understand current anthropological and archaeological literature.
  • To enable students to apply different theoretical frameworks to anthropological and archaeological case studies.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to

1) Discuss the broad philosophical and historical development of contemporary anthropological and archaeological theory.

2) Critically assess competing explanative frameworks and evaluate their strengths and weakness.

3) Evaluate critically and deconstruct anthropological and archaeological texts on the basis of their theoretical underpinnings.

4) Explain and evaluate anthropological and archaeological data from multiple theoretical standpoints.

5) Evaluate the relationship between theory and ethnography.

Teaching details

Weekly lectures, and bfive one-hour seminars, supported by self-directed activities. There will be a half day field trip (self guided) subject to University policy.

Assessment Details

Critical review of an ethnography (2500 words, 50%). Assesses ILOs 2, 3, 5

One open book exam (50%). Assesses ILOs 1-4

Reading and References

  • Astuti, R., J. Parry, and C. Stafford (eds) 2007. Questions of Anthropology. Oxford: Berg.
  • Bentley, R.A., H.D.G. Maschner and C. Chippendale (eds) 2008. Handbook of Archaeological Theories. Lanham: AltaMira Press.
  • Gosden, C. 1999. Anthropology & Archaeology: a changing relationship. London: Routledge.
  • Hodder, I. (ed) 2012. Archaeological Theory Today. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Kuklick, H. (ed) 2008. A New History of Anthropology. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Moberg, M. 2012. Engaging anthropological theory: a social and political history. London: Routledge.
  • Moore, H. and T. Sanders (eds) 2006. Anthropology in Theory: issues in epistemology. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Rapport, N. and J. Overing. 2007. Social and Cultural Anthropology: the key concepts. London: Routledge.
  • Thomas, J. (ed) 2000. Interpretive Archaeology, a reader. London: Leicester University Press.
  • Trigger, B. 1989. A History of Archaeological Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.