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Unit information: Kinship and Anthropology in 2015/16

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Unit name Kinship and Anthropology
Unit code ARCH14010
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Morelli
Open unit status Not open

ANTH10001 - Introducition to Social Anthropology



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


This unit provides an introduction to key issues and debates in Social Anthropology concerned with the cross-cultural study of kinship. Kinship, once at the core of Social Anthropology, has been also one of the most debated, yet rich, branch of the discipline. The course introduces the history of kinship in relation to the development of Social Anthropology. It explores

  1. the 'invention' of kinship as a comparative problem in relation to the rise of professional ethnographic fieldwork,
  2. major theoretical paradigms,
  3. critical debates which led to the demise of kinship from the 1970s to the 1990s and
  4. the new flourishing of kinship studies in the context of reproductive medicine. Kinship was classically the most technical branch of Anthropology, however this unit privileges a lively and straightforward approach based on the epistemological assumption that we all know about kinship through our personal experiences.


The aim of the course is to introduce students to the study of kinship and its place in the history of Social Anthropology and Anthropological theory. Students with very little or no knowledge about the discipline will find this course a useful introduction to key aspects of Social Anthropology learned through the perspective of one of its more sophisticated and historically important branches. Students will also appreciate the relevance of contemporary Social Anthropology as based on fieldwork now conducted everywhere and tackling a variety of topics from other cultures kinship systems to the social implications of new reproductive medicine in Euro-American societies.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. decribe key debates in the Anthropology of kinship
  2. recall the history of the discipline and its categories.
  3. summarise comparative ethnographic material about western and non-western societies
  4. discuss current UK debates on society and reproductive medicine.
  5. employ the skills of applying ethnographic data to theory.

Teaching details

One 2hr lecture per week (=20hrs).

Assessment Details

All the assessment is summative:

Two 1500-2000 word essays (50% each). Assesses ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

1) Carsten J. 2004. After Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2) Edwards et al. 1993. Technologies of Procreation: kinship in the age of assisted conception. Manchester University Press.

3) Holy, L. 1996. Anthropological perspectives on kinship, London: Pluto Press.

4) Parkin, R. 1997. Kinship. An Introduction to the basic concepts, Oxford: Blackwell

5) Rapport, N. and J. Overing, Social and Cultural Anthropology. The Key Concepts. London: Routledge.