Undergraduate Course: Social Anthropology 1A: The Life Course (SCAN08013)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course is intended as an introduction to social anthropology - taking as its central theme and organising structure the life course from birth to death, conceived in very broad terms. As well as encompassing life crisis moments and rituals of birth, marriage, and death, the course includes such themes as gender, personhood, work and making a living, the house, consumption and exchange, health, and the body. It begins with a brief consideration of what anthropologists do ¿ thinking about participant observation and fieldwork; and it ends with a brief discussion of how anthropological subjects are placed - and place themselves - in history.
Social Anthropology is the comparative study of human conduct and thought in their social context. Societies around the world vary enormously in their social, cultural and political forms, and their individual members display an initially overwhelming diversity of ideas and behaviours. The study of these variations, and the common humanity that renders them intelligible to sympathetic outsiders, lies at the heart of Social Anthropology. Anthropologists acquire their information through a distinctive method termed participant observation. This means that they spend many months or even years living among the people with whom they are researching, sharing their experiences as far as possible, and hence attempting to gain a well -rounded understanding of that society and of the activities and opinions of its members.
This course is intended as an introduction to social anthropology - taking as its central theme and organising structure the life course from birth to death, conceived in very broad terms. As well as encompassing life crisis moments and rituals of birth, marriage, and death, the course includes such themes as gender, personhood, work and making a living, the house, consumption and exchange, health, and the body. It begins with a brief consideration of what anthropologists do, especially participant observation and fieldwork; and it ends with a brief discussion of how anthropological subjects are placed--and place themselves--in history.
Indicative themes: Conception, birth, childhood, initiation, personhood, the body, wellbeing and health, witchcraft & illness, women & men, marriage, making a home, consumption, exchange & gifts, work, hospitality & friendship, aging & memory, death and funerary rituals, descent & history
Sample readings: Eller, Jack David. 2009. Cultural Anthropology: Global Forces, Local Lives. New York: Routledge; Eriksen, T. H. 2001 Small Place, Large Issues. London: Pluto Press.
Benedict, Ruth. 2005/1934. The Science of Custom. In Patterns of Culture. Boston: Mariner Books, pp. 1-20.
Moran-Thomas, Amy. 2013. A Salvage Ethnography of the Guinea Worm: Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic in a Disease Eradication Program. In When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health. João Biehl and Adriana Petryna, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp.207-239.
Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1986. Chapter 7: Modesty and the Poetry of Love. In Veiled Sentiments: Honour and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Oakland: University of California Press, pp. 208-232. Shelfmark: DT72.B4 Abu.
Conklin, Beth. 1995. "'Thus our Bodies, thus our Custom': Mortuary Cannibalism in an Amazonian society.' American Ethnologist, 22(1): 75-101.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 20,
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 9,
Summative Assessment Hours 2,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Learning Journal 40%
Final Essay 60%
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Through an appreciation of the cultural diversity underlying the life course across the world, students will gain a broad appreciation of both the difficulties and possibilities inherent in the comparative study of different societies and cultures.
- They will be able to draw out contrasts and similarities in life course processes and events between their own and other societies, recognising the particularities of these societies and engaging reflectively with the value of their own cultural and social context.
- They will be aware of key anthropological concepts and concerns in the study of birth, initiation, marriage, and death, and will be in a position to appreciate the significance of these concerns in a way that contributes to a critical and informed understanding of the contemporary world.
- They will be well prepared for further study in Social Anthropology and related disciplines.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Jessica Cooper
Tel: (0131 6)51 1732
|Course secretary||Miss Katarzyna Pietrzak
Tel: (0131 6)51 3162