Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: The Invention of History (SCAN10010)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is about how we may understand our relationship with the past. Engaging with a growing body of anthropological work, and research done in related disciplines, which has emphasised the collective nature of memory, and the social construction of the past, it looks at how the past is understood, experienced, remembered and represented in different ethnographic contexts in the present.
Course description Outline Content
1. Inventing histories - The first session will tackle the proposition that history, our stories of the past, are "invented" and that this processes of invention is bound-up with the politics of identity and, in particular, is indivisible from modern articulations of national identities.
2. The past in the present - In this session we will consider the anthropology of time and the problem of the relationship between the past and the present and explore the seeming contradictions inherent in the notion of the "invention of history."
3. Collective memory - In this session we will discuss the problem of the presence of the past with particular reference to "memory" and especially collective, or social, memory with an emphasis on the ways that our memories of past events are socially constituted in the present.
4. Landscapes and ruins - This session focuses on the temporality of landscape and the ways in which the past inhabits, or is said to inhabit, the material fabric of the world around us. We will particularly focus on ruins.
5. Ghosts and the return of the repressed - This session will consider the proposition that ghosts are an affective experience of the unbidden return of a past, often, traumatic and violent, that has been repressed, or "forgotten", within normative narrations of a shared history.
6. Exhuming bodies and bones - This session will consider the exhumation of bodies and bones and the ways in which the process of exhumation is enfolded into contemporary politics of memory and forgetting, particularly in situations where people are living with the legacy of state-sponsored violence.
7. Museums, Anthropology, Empires - In this session we will consider the historical and contemporary practice of material culture within both the museum and the discipline of anthropology, with a particular emphasis on how legacies of empire should be represented and negotiated within the contemporary space of the museum.
8. Intangible Cultural Heritage - The lecture will focus on complexities and contestations surrounding Intangible Cultural Heritage, as nation-states compete to have cultural expressions recognised as unique, valuable and worthy of protection.
9. Visiting the past - This session is about the lengths we will go and the money we will spend to experience the past. We discuss heritage tourism, the commodification of history and the possibility of visiting the past.
10. Dark tourism and cosmopolitan memory - To conclude the course, and following on from the discussion of heritage tourism, the final session will explore the phenomena of "dark tourism" in order to discuss the future of the study of the invention of history and collective memory in the context of globalisation and cosmopolitanism.

Student Learning Experience
This is hands on and intensive course in which students will learn through a mixture of lectures, "homework" exercises and in-class discussions. There will be a weekly two hour lecture, and this will be supported by a weekly one hour small group seminar, beginning in week 2. Beyond the classroom learning experience the course organiser warmly encourages one to one discussions about issues relating to the course content and the students own academic interests.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The final assessment will consist of a short essay of 1500 words (30% of the overall) to be submitted in week 6 and a long essay of 3000 words (70% of the overall) to be submitted after the conclusion of the course but before the commencement of spring examination period. The short essay will invite students to consider the theoretical issues raised by the first five weeks of the course in reference to small bits of "fieldwork" that the students are invited to undertake in conjunction with the lectures in weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Feedback Written feedback will be provided for both the formative (short essay) and summative assessed components of this course. This feedback will be supplemented by an invitation to discuss areas of improvement with the course organiser in a 1-2-1 meeting. Additionally, student will be encourage to think towards designing their own essay titles for the summative assessment (long essay) and, again, this will be done in consultation with the course organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Gain an understanding of how the past is imagined, constructed and contested through the processes of history, memory and commemoration.
  2. Recognise the role that ideas and knowledge of the past play in the complex politics of identity and state-making, in colonial, postcolonial and nationalist context.
  3. Gain an understanding of how place & space, landscape, objects, bodies and things (in discursive and material ways), can enable and limit the imagination of the past.
  4. Gain an appreciation of the ways in which notions of the past inform, enable, and limit the means through which landscape, objects and heritage are understood, engaged with, and managed; and the way in which struggles over place and the past are both inscribed in and produce or constitute space/place, landscape, ritual and artefacts.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr John Harries
Tel: (0131 6)50 4051
Course secretaryMs Agata Lebiedzinska
Tel: (01316) 515197
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information