AR1SOC-Contemporary world cultures: an introduction to social anthropology

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: double coded as GV1SOC
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2021/2

Module Convenor: Dr Alanna Cant

Module Co-convenor: Dr Thomas Grisaffi

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module provides a general introduction to social anthropology, the study of human societies and cultures. It will introduce you to major themes in the discipline of anthropology through real-world case studies from different cultures and regions around the globe. Topics may include: gender and sexuality, the roles of religion, ritual and witchcraft in modern life, the concepts of ethnicity and race, and the place of hunter-gatherer societies in the contemporary period. The module will also consider how anthropology can help us understand key issues in today’s world, such as globalisation, economics, consumption, violence, and human rights. It is taught by a team of social anthropologists who draw on their own research and experience in their teaching.


  • To introduce you to anthropological theory and ethnographic texts.

  • To examine different cultures and societies, including a range of political, economic, social, and religious systems found in different places.

  • To familiarize you with a range of questions that anthropologists have investigated in societies around the world. focused on via their research in societies around the world.

  • To examine a range of political, economic, family, and religious systems found among different peoples.

  • To familiarize you with anthropological perspectives that can help you to understand contemporary global events, issues, and processes. To provide you with an understanding of the applicability of anthropological theories and concepts to contemporary global events, issues and processes.

  • To explore connections between anthropology, geography and archaeology.

  • To encourage you to think critically about what is variable and what is universal in human culture and society.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of one or more key anthropological theories, supported by one or more contemporary case studies;

  • Demonstrate an ability to apply anthropological theories and/or concepts to contemporary issues, in an appropriate, selective and informed way;

  • Assemble and synthesise anthropological theories, concepts and case studies in structured writing.

Additional outcomes:

By the end of this module, you will have greater confidence in your ability to apply your learning to a range of issues and current events, and you will have been introduced to some themes and issues that are relevant to related courses in human geography, archaeology and the social sciences and humanities more broadly. You will develop your abilities for critical reading and writing, as well as working with others in small groups.  

Outline content:

Students on this module will learn about social anthropology by engaging with research about different cultures and societies from around the world. The lectures, readings and assignments may focus on case studies from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, Asia, and Europe.  Through these case studies, students will encounter a wide range of topics ranging from family life to economic processes. 

Specific themes will vary but may includ e: kinship, gender and sexuality; the human body and the senses; religion and ritual; witchcraft; contemporary hunter-gather societies; exchange and economics; violence; ethnicity and race; and human rights. 

A key emphasis of the module is how anthropological theories and perspectives can help us to understand contemporary issues in today’s world, such as modernity, globalisation, consumption, exchange and violence. The module will also explore relevant connection s between anthropology, archaeology and human geography, as well as themes in the social sciences and humanities more broadly.   

Global context:

Social anthropology is inherently global, as anthropological research is typically conducted by people who are not from the places that they study. This module encourages students to learn about different peoples and places from around the world in order to consider how our cultural differences and similarities make us human.   

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module is divided into ten blocks of two lectures, led by a member of the teaching team, supported by fortnightly seminar sessions. The module is taught by social anthropologists from across SAGES, who will draw on their own research experiences.

As a 20-credit module, An Introduction to Social Anthropology should involve 200 hours of study time: attending lectures and seminars, general background reading, reading for your essay and shorter assignment, essay writing, and completing the short assignment. You should therefore expect the following sort of workload:

  • 25 hours: Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (lectures & seminars);

  • 80 hours: General background reading and note-taking from key texts for each week’s lecture topic(s) - i.e. 8 hours per week;

  • 25 hours: General background reading and note-taking from key texts for each of the seminar topic(s) - i.e. 5 hours every two w eeks;

  • 50 hours: Reading for, preparation of, and writing your essay;

  • 20 hours: Reading for, and completion of, the shorter assignment

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 5
Guided independent study: 175
Total hours by term 200
Total hours for module

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 70
Set exercise 30

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

  • One Reading Journal: 8 entries of 300 - 400 words each, worth 30% of the final grade.

  • One Individual Essay of 2,500 words, worth 70% of the final grade.

Formative assessment methods:

Oral feedback will also be given during the discussion seminars.

Penalties for late submission:

The Support Centres will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A mark of 40% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-assessment in August.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books:  None

2) Specialist equipment or materials:  None

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:  None

4) Printing and binding:  None

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:  None

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:  None

Last updated: 24 June 2021


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