Skip to main content

Unit information: Contemporary Theory in Social Anthropology in 2014/15

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Contemporary Theory in Social Anthropology
Unit code ANTH20001
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Winkler Reid
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to acquaint students with contemporary themes in anthropological theory. Emphasis is placed upon the role of theory in contemporary anthropology and the academic, political and social context within which anthropological theories have developed. The unit reviews the history of theoretical developments in anthropology and provides the necessary analytical frameworks within which students can understand contemporary trends in anthropological theory. The unit will provide students with the skills to effectively read, understand and assess current anthropological literature on the basis of its theoretical stance.


  • To provide students with an overview of the historical development of anthropological theory from the 1960s.
  • To provide students with an understanding of contemporary theoretical movements in anthropology.
  • To enable students to assess the relative importance and usefulness of competing explanative frameworks.
  • To provide students with a theoretical foundation to effectively read and understand current anthropological literature.
  • To enable students to apply different theoretical frameworks to ethnographic case studies.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

1) Discuss the broad philosophical and historical development of contemporary anthropological theory.

2) Critically assess competing explanative frameworks and evaluate their strengths and weakness.

3) Evaluate critically and deconstruct anthropological texts on the basis of their theoretical underpinnings.

4) Explain and analyse anthropological data from multiple theoretical standpoints.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour lecture / seminar

Assessment Information

One essay of 2500 words (50%). Assesses ILOs 1-4.

One two-hour exam (50%). Assesses ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Astuti, R., Parry, J., & Stafford, C. (Eds.). (2007). Questions of anthropology (Vol. 76). Berg.

Borgatti, SP, M.G. Everet & J.C. Johnson (2013) Analyzing Social Networks. London: Sage.

Carsten, J. (2004). After kinship: New departures in anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni.

Kuklick, H., ed. (2008) A New History of Anthropology. Blackwell.

Moberg, M. (2012). Engaging anthropological theory: a social and political history. Routledge.

Moore, H. & T. Sanders, eds. (2006) Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology. Blackwell.

Ortner, S. B. (1984). "Theory in anthropology since the sixties". Comparative studies in society and history, 26(1), 126-166.

Rapport, N. & J. Overing (2007) Social and Cultural Anthropology: The Key Concepts. Routledge.