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

Undergraduate Course: Contemporary Issues in Social Anthropology (SCAN10080)

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
SummaryThe course engages with both established and developing contemporary scholarship and debates concerning anthropological approaches to design.

The course aims to enrich and supplement broader disciplinary studies across anthropology, as well as scholarship concerned with material culture.
Course description Below is the course description for the 2019-20 accademic session.

Design is entangled in and around contemporary debates, academic scholarship and current affairs. But what is design and what can the anthropology of design tell us about culture, politics, power and social change. From questions around the design of everyday technologies and materials, to design as a solution to poverty, inequality and injustice, this course will explore how design practice and design thinking has become a solution to the key challenges of our time.

This course links together emerging scholarship in the anthropology of design with discussions about design practices and cultures in everyday life. The course will touch upon core epistemological debates in social and political theory, addressing the relationship of design to modernity, capitalism and environmental crisis. These core issues will be embedded in established and contemporary debates which have surrounded design as an object and subject constituting and constituted by broader social phenomena. We will discuss, for example, design as culture; design in our everyday lives with things; design in contemporary and historical political, economic, and creative movements; design and power; design as innovation and improvisation; design as repair and maintenance; design in contexts of global poverty and international development and design in the Anthropocene.

Indicative topics:

Design as Culture
- What is the relationship between design and what anthropologists call culture?
- What does it mean to speak of cultures of design?

Our Lives with Things
- What can we learn about design by interrogating the world around us?
- How do studies of design overlap with classic anthropological approaches to the study of material culture?

The Power of Design
- What kinds of ideological and discursive power relationships do designers build into material things?
- How can we use approaches to design to see or reveal power in new ways?

Innovation and improvisation
- Is design the creation of ┬┐prefigured┬┐ solutions to problems or our capacity to respond with flexibility to our environments?

Repair, Fixing, Maintenance
- How does the failure and breakdown of consumer goods reveal the limits of design in our contemporary world.

Development by Design
- How have attempts to improve the lives of distant others become centred on the design of technologies, devices, and products?

The Anthropocene by Design
- How does the anthropology of design help us to understand the Anthropocene?
- How does the anthropology of design help us to engage with climate change and our responses to it?

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 2 social science courses (such as Sociology, Politics, Social Policy, Social Anthropology etc) at grade B and above. We will only consider University/College level courses
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of some of the main terminologies and theories in social anthropology
  2. Apply this knowledge by applying theoretical skills and ethnography to make sense of the issue addressed by the course
  3. Critically identify, define, conceptualise and analyse complex anthropological problems and issues
  4. Convey information about contemporary issues in anthropology to informed audiences
  5. Show in depth knowledge of the topic
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students should have strengthened their skills in:
- analysing evidence and using this to develop and support a line of argument,
- bringing anthropological approaches to bear on an issue of contemporary significance

KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jamie Cross
Course secretaryMr Ewen Miller
Tel: (0131 6)50 3925
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