What is the course about?
This course explores the foundations of human society and social identity, looking at the ways different cultures think about and create group identity and belonging through a range of practices, including kinship, ritual and gift-giving. To this end, the course also looks at the question of what it means to be human, and how – if at all – this relates to behavioural differences between humans and other species. These issues are explored from an anthropological perspective, which involves examining the varied forms of human sociality (and what it means to be a part of a social group) from a cross-cultural and evolutionary perspective. To this end, the course also investigates some of the ways that different cultures construct ideas regarding sameness and difference, and thus touches upon issues relating to race, ethnicity and nationalism as some of the contemporary ways that people think about social inclusion and exclusion.
What will we cover?
The course will explore the following three topics in detail:
- What Does It Mean to be Human?
- ‘Insiders’ and ‘Outsiders’: Social Boundaries, Personhood and Group Belonging.
- Kinship and the Family
- Exchange, Gifting-Giving and Social Alliances
- Religion, Ritual and Social Solidarity.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of how contemporary anthropologists investigate ideas about group
- Evaluate key anthropological and evolutionary theories regarding human culture and the foundations of human
- Demonstrate knowledge about a wide range of cultural beliefs, understandings and practices concerning kinship,
gift-exchange, personhood and ritual
- Apply a critical awareness to some of the problematic assumptions people often hold in relation to cultures
different from their own, and demonstrate an understanding of the value of ways of life other than your own as well as
an awareness of the importance of cross-cultural communication.
- Apply a critical awareness of some of the social and psychological processes that underpin contemporary
problems such as racism and other forms of social exclusion
- Clarify your own ideas and values through participation in group discussion.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is both a continuation of HA003 and a course for beginners with no experience or prior knowledge of anthropology. Your enjoyment and benefit from this course will be enhanced if you approach this course with an open and critical mind as well as an enthusiasm for learning. On joining the class you should be able to read and comment upon articles and extracts from anthropological texts and journals. You should also be prepared to discuss this reading in class. The topics covered will address some complex theories regarding human culture and society, and students should expect to discuss these ideas critically. As anthropology also seeks to facilitate a better understanding of cultural difference, you should also be willing to re-evaluate some of your own assumptions about what is meant by ‘human nature’, as well as your assumptions regarding the beliefs and value systems of varied human cultures, including your own.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The sessions will include lectures as well as ample time for discussion and the exchange of ideas. Videos and articles by leading anthropologists will be used to illustrate the themes. You should be prepared to try and read one recommended article each week outside of the class, and be prepared to contribute to small and large-group discussions and good natured debate.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No additional costs. Please bring pen and paper (or electronic equivalent).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
HA005 Anthropology of art.
General information and advice on courses at Build is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details