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Unit information: Big Ideas in Anthropology in 2021/22

Unit name Big Ideas in Anthropology
Unit code ARCH10012
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Tantam
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The course addresses key “big ideas” which have shaped and defined the discipline of Anthropology. Taking a topic-based approach, we trace the conceptual development of Anthropology from its early days to contemporary thinking, attending to key approaches, methods, and debates. Engaging directly with the original texts that have shaped anthropology, we trace how the discipline’s founding mothers and fathers and subsequent prominent thinkers have devised, developed, and questioned anthropological theories and practices.

Course aims:

  • To introduce students to key ideas, theories, and debates that have shaped the discipline
  • To develop an understanding of the history and development of anthropology
  • To introduce students to the discipline’s founding mothers and fathers and subsequent prominent thinkers
  • To engage critically with classic anthropology texts
  • To relate historical debates and ideas to contemporary anthropological thinking and writing
  • To provide students with a toolkit of methods and theories for anthropological thinking

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe central theoretical issues in the development of anthropology and in the history of the discipline.
  2. Describe the different fields of anthropology and their main methodological approaches, with reference to key ethnographic or empirical studies.
  3. List key figures and explain their contributions to the history of, and modern, anthropology.
  4. Explain what it means to think anthropologically, and apply to this to a range of anthropological topics.
  5. Explain the value of anthropological ideas and apply these to current debates and topics in the discipline.

Teaching Information

Weekly lectures, fortnightly seminars, and weekly asynchronous activities

Assessment Information

  • Formative: A critical reflexive review of an anthropology film (600 words), ILOs 1-5
  • Summative: reflexive critique/review of film. (1500 words; 100% of final grade), ILO's 1-5


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ARCH10012).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.