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Unit information: Big Ideas in Anthropology in 2021/22

Unit name Big Ideas in Anthropology
Unit code ARCH10012
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Carrier
Open unit status Not open




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


The course addresses key “big ideas” which have shaped and defined the discipline of Anthropology. Taking a topic-based approach, we trace the conceptual development of Anthropology from its early days to contemporary thinking, attending to key approaches, methods, and debates. Engaging directly with the original texts that have shaped anthropology, we trace how the discipline’s founding mothers and fathers and subsequent prominent thinkers have devised, developed, and questioned anthropological theories and practices.

Course aims:

  • To introduce students to key ideas, theories, and debates that have shaped the discipline
  • To develop an understanding of the history and development of anthropology
  • To introduce students to the discipline’s founding mothers and fathers and subsequent prominent thinkers
  • To engage critically with classic anthropology texts
  • To relate historical debates and ideas to contemporary anthropological thinking and writing
  • To provide students with a toolkit of methods and theories for anthropological thinking

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. Describe central theoretical issues in the development of anthropology and in the history of the discipline.
  2. Describe the different fields of anthropology and their main methodological approaches, with reference to key ethnographic or empirical studies.
  3. List key figures and explain their contributions to the history of, and modern, anthropology.
  4. Explain what it means to think anthropologically, and apply to this to a range of anthropological topics.
  5. Explain the value of anthropological ideas and apply these to current debates and topics in the discipline.

Teaching details

Weekly lectures, fortnightly seminars, and weekly asynchronous activities

Assessment Details

  • Formative: A critical reflexive review of an anthropology film (600 words), ILOs 1-5 *Supported by seminar sessions, students will design and undertake a small-scale, reflexive, project where they apply approaches and concepts covered in the unit to their own lives and surroundings, learning to think ‘anthropologically’. (1500 words; 100% of final grade), ILOs 1-5


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