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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: Anthropological Theory (SCAN10022)

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 aims to give a broad outline of how anthropologists use theory in their work, and how we can apply theory for ourselves to gain a better understanding of society and culture.

The disciplinary basis on which anthropology was founded - the study of primitive peoples - began to disappear once we realized that societies did not simply evolve from simpler to more complex states, and 'modernity' was not an endpoint for all peoples. So what is anthropology now? The study of society? Of culture? Of human difference? What are we actually spending our degrees studying?
Course description This course takes a broad view of the development of modern anthropological theory through some simple foundational questions: What actually is a society? What is a culture? And how have our conceptions of what it is to be human changed over time? The course takes the approach that theory need not be conceptually abstract or esoteric, but has direct and regular application to daily experience. An overview will be given of anthropological theory from the mid 19th century to the present, with special focus on major thinkers and ideas. The course will include both an intellectual history of anthropology, and a critical assessment of theories: their logical consistency, political importance, and the impact of gender, sexuality, colonialism, and race on anthropological thought. As a whole the course aims to leave students with a strong sense of anthropology as a coherent, vibrant discipline with major contributions to make on contemporary issues.

The course will cover major theorists such as Marx, Weber, Latour, Lévi-Strauss, and Foucault, and theoretical movements such as feminism and post-structuralism, as well as introducing students to some of the more exciting aspects of contemporary anthropological theory: the changing relationship between nature and culture, the meaning of value in the post-crash era, and the role of technology in society. Lecture topics will include Evolutionism, Post-structuralism and postcolonialism, Marxist anthropology, the Social Life of Strangers, the Nature-Culture divide, Technology and Culture, Feminism, and Culture and Globalization.

Student Learning Experience
Lectures will introduce the core questions of anthropological theory in a cumulative fashion, each week building on the last to produce a fuller appreciation of theory as a process of development. Content will be delivered in lecture sessions involving some participatory activities. These will be supported by hour-long tutorial sessions for each week. Students are expected to actively discuss readings in class, and to participate in classroom activities and discussions during lecture time.
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:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 9, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 167 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One short essay due in mid-term (1500 words, 30%), followed by two end-of-term essays of 1500 words each (70%).
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on all essays, and group feedback on first essay will be given during lecture time.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. By the end of the course, students will have a confident grasp of the main trends in anthropological theory that are influential today.
  2. They will have read a number of original writings by a range of theorists, and be capable of providing a critical account of anthropological theorists and the intellectual context in which they worked.
  3. They will be able to relate the application of those theories in existing ethnographic writing and be able to draw upon them in thinking about future ethnographic research.
Reading List
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 50 minutes per week for 9 week(s).
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Laurie Denyer Willis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3878
Course secretaryMiss Karen Leung
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