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

Undergraduate Course: Collaborative Anthropology (SCAN10095)

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
SummaryBoth in research and in the classroom, questions of what we can (or should) do to make a positive impact in the world are at the forefront of 21st century anthropology. This course explores the conceptual, practical and ethical dimensions of collaboration through the diverse engagements in which anthropologists are involved - both within and outside universities. It encourages students to think critically and creatively about the possibilities and limits of these collaborations, and ultimately to design their own proposal for a collaborative project based on their engagement with the course.
Course description This course explores the diverse forms of collaboration in which anthropologists are involved. Whether in working across academic disciplines, with Amazonian people to document an indigenous language, co-authoring ethnographic texts with local research assistants, or working with government officials to design public health policies, collaboration has become an ethical imperative that underscores the potential benefits and challenges of contemporary anthropology. While the mantra of 'participant observation' has always implied a degree of collaboration between anthropologists and their 'informants', ethnographic fieldwork today demands recognition of the increasingly varied stakes and expectations of research in the communities where we work. In this way, ideas of collaboration have emerged as an important theme in re-conceptualizing the practice and purpose of anthropology. The course involves thinking creatively about new possibilities for collaborative practice in anthropology. It also invites critical thinking about how, whether in academia, international development, artistic practice or the business world, 'collaboration' has become a seemingly ubiquitous regime of value in the contemporary world.

Rather than confining questions of collaboration to conventional fieldwork or 'applied anthropology' designed to address pre-determined problems, this course explores more broadly how anthropologists have made collaboration central to the planning and design of research projects, participation and dialogue within them, and the texts they write. Students will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexities of the world in which anthropology engages and the exciting new ways they might collaborate with people in it. The course will encourage students to think critically about the possibilities and limits of collaboration as a path toward decolonizing anthropology. Specifically, it asks them to think about the ethics, politics and practical implications of an 'engaged anthropology' fit for the 21st century. The course will combine a series of lectures addressing questions of how and why anthropological approaches to collaboration have changed over time, followed by guest lectures by colleagues who present case studies highlighting how collaboration figures in their own work.

The course will address key questions about collaboration and anthropological engagement, such as:

1) Why has collaboration become such a prominent value expressed in diverse contexts in the contemporary world? And what are the consequences?

2) What does 'collaborative anthropology' mean and how is it distinct from other anthropological approaches?

3) How have ideas of collaboration in anthropology changed over the past century?

4) In what ways have the stakes and ethics of ethnographic fieldwork changed in recent decades?

5) To what extent can new concepts and practices of collaboration contribute to decolonizing research?

6) What are the potential benefits of collaboration, and for whom?

7) What makes a particular collaboration 'anthropological'?

8) What are the political and ethical risks and limits of collaborative work?

Course Delivery

The course consists of a weekly 2-hour lecture session with time for group discussion, along with weekly tutorials with small group discussions and activities. Given the theme of the course, role-plays with diverse and challenging stakeholders will encourage students to think practically about what anthropological collaboration might mean to different people and institutions. Introducing emerging social and political topics for discussion will also help get students actively involved in thinking about how anthropologists can engage collaboratively in a range of activities.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Introduction to Social Anthropology (SCAN08015) OR Social Anthropology 1B: Anthropology Matters (SCAN08012) OR Social Anthropology 2: Key Concepts (SCAN08011) OR Ethnography: Theory and Practice (SCAN08005)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesLike other students, visiting students must have taken at least one anthropology course previously. 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, 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) The course will have two forms of assessment, including a short essay and a longer, with the later asking students to draw ideas from the course to formulate (and argue for) their own proposed anthropological collaboration. The weighting of the assessments will be: 30% for the short essay (1500 words) and 70% for the long essay (3000 words).
Feedback Feedback on all assessed work shall normally be returned within three weeks of submission. Where this is not possible, students shall be given clear expectations regarding the timing and methods of feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the conceptual, practical and ethical dimensions of collaboration in anthropology
  2. Understand how anthropological approaches to collaboration have changed over the past century and why they continue to do so
  3. Distinguish and critically analyze diverse forms of collaborative work with reference to anthropological theory, methodology and ethics
  4. Design and present a collaborative project that addresses key debates from the course and anticipates potential challenges based on the specific context
  5. Write essays and participate in class discussions that address examples from the course readings
Reading List
The course will use primarily use article and book chapters, but these are indicative readings:

Boyer, Dominic and George E. Marcus, eds. 2021. Collaborative Anthropology Today: A Collection of Exceptions. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Heffernan, Emma, Fiona Murray and Joel Skinner, eds. 2020. Collaborations: Anthropology in a Neoliberal Age. Routledge.

Kirsch. 2018. Engaged Anthropology: Politics Beyond the Text. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lassiter, Erica Luke. 2005. The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. 2012. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research and Enquiry:
This course will develop students' skills to critically analyze and engage in complex research methods, including the ethical dimensions of research.

Personal Effectiveness:
This course will explicitly encourage students to think about how to use their knowledge of anthropology to address problems in their community and the world at large.

Students will develop skills to communicate their ideas both in written essays and in small group work in tutorials.

Personal an Intellectual Autonomy:
The course will require that students to more than simply write standard essays or accept existing methods. They will develop their own personalized proposals for collaborative research, demonstrating a higher degree of autonomy than in most courses.

Above all, this course is about students learning and thinking creatively about how to use social anthropology in their work after graduating.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Casey High
Course secretaryMiss Anna Hallam
Tel: (0131 6)51 1337
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