AR3HCP-The Anthropology of Heritage and Cultural Property

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2022/3

Module Convenor: Dr Alanna Cant

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module focuses on the concepts, institutions, politics, and legal claims of heritage and cultural property in the contemporary world. You will learn about the historical development of these concepts and the national and global institutions, such as English Heritage and UNESCO, through which they are promoted. You will develop a critical understanding of the political, economic, social and environmental effects of these processes. You will also develop your understanding of how heritage has become an important global industry premised on economies of tourism and heritage site conservation. By looking at different cases of heritage and cultural property, you will investigate such questions as: What is the relationship between heritage, identity and the nation-state? What happens when culture becomes a resource? Can the concept of cultural property afford the protections that indigenous and minority groups seek? What are the consequences of natural and human made threats to heritage sites? Course materials will primarily be academic texts and documentary films about specific cases from all over the world. The module will be delivered through a series of lectures, seminar sessions (small groups and general discussions), and documentary films. It will also include presentations by guest speakers who work in the heritage industries.


  • To introduce students to the history and contemporary features of heritage and cultural property.

  • To introduce students to important terminology in the heritage industries, such as “intangible heritage,” “cultural appropriation,” and “repatriation.”

  • To help students develop a critical understanding of the political, economic and legal issues that emerge in particular contexts of heritage and cultural property.

  • To provide students with concrete examples of career paths and employment in the UK heritage sector, and to enable them to find further employment information and resources.   

  • To encourage students to reflect on the relationships between the concepts of heritage, identity, property and ownership, and the implications of these in today’s world.

Assessable learning outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the concepts, terminology and institutions used by the heritage and cultural property industries.

  • Identify the conceptual and legal tensions between different aspects of heritage and cultural property.

  • Identify and explain social, political, environmental and economic effects or issues that can arise around heritage and cultural property.

Use concrete examples to effectively illustrate or provide evidence for the points above.

Additional outcomes:

  • To develop students’ research, writing and argumentation skills.

  • To develop students’ collaborative/group work skills.

  • To allow students to focus on an in-depth case study, enhancing their knowledge about a particular place and set of problems.

Outline content:

The course will begin with two sessions focusing on the history, concepts and institutions of heritage and cultural property before turning to specific conceptual themes, which are addressed in one session each. Topics may include: heritage and nationalism; economies of heritage; heritage of indigenous and minority groups; repatriation; negative and difficult heritage; cultural appropriation and heritage at risk. The range of topics covered is enhanced by guest lectures from professionals working in the UK heritage sector.

Background Reading List:

Geismar, Haidy. 2015. ‘Anthropology and Heritage Regimes.’ Annual Review of Anthropology 44: 71-85.

Meskell, Lynn. 2015. Introduction: Globalizing Heritage. In Global Heritage: A Reader, Lynn Meskell, ed. London: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 1-21.

Geismar, Haidy and Jane Anderson. 2016. Introduction. In The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property, Jane Anderson and Haidy Geismar, eds. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 1-32.

Coombe, Rosemary. 1998. The Cultural Life of Intellectual Property. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 5: ‘The Properties of Culture and the Politics of Possessing Identity,’ pp. 208-247.

Global context:

Evidence and examples are drawn from cases across the world, as well as global institutions. Students may select their own case study for their group project from any location in the world, provided there is sufficient literature and resources.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, documentary film screenings, and directed reading. Prepared participation by all students in the seminar is expected.

As a 20-credit module, the module should involve 200 hours of study time: attending lectures and seminars; reading and preparing for seminars; and reading for and preparing your coursework. You should therefore expect the following sort of workload:

  • 30 hours: Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (lectures, seminars, screencasts, and film screenings);

  • 100 hours: Weekly reading (general background reading, note taking from key texts etc.) (i.e. 10 hours/week)

  • 70 hours: Reading and writing of coursework assignments (individual essay and group project).

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (directed) 60
    Preparation for seminars 40
    Group study tasks 30
    Essay preparation 40
Total hours by term 200 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Report 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One individual essay of up to 3000 words (60%). Essay titles will be given at the start of the module from a range of topics covered throughout the course.

One group case study project (40%). This assignment includes an Individual Portfolio, worth 25% of assessment mark (10% of the final grade).

Formative assessment methods:

Formative feedback on general seminar contributions will be provided during the discussion seminars. Formative feedback on the group case study project will be provided via the ‘Group Project Planning Worksheet and Contract’ and the ‘Group Project Interim Worksheet.’

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:

  • Essay: Reassessment in August, on the same essay topic as originally attempted.

  • Group Project: Reassessment in August: in lieu of the group project, the reassessment will be a 2000-word essay covering the substantive content of the student’s group’s project. Please contact the module convenor for more information.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books:  

2) Specialist equipment or materials:  

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:  

4) Printing and binding:  

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:  

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:  

Last updated: 22 September 2022


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