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Unit information: Human Challenges in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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 Human Challenges
Unit code ARCH30034
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lawson
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores how a four-field anthropological perspective can enhance our understanding of some of the key global challenges faced by humanity today, including climate change and sustainable development, migration, population and resources, inequality, urbanisation, health, minority rights, conflict and slavery. These topics will be addressed from different disciplinary perspectives, including sciences, allowing students to examine the origins and history of contemporary crises and to consider the contrasting ways in which anthropologists and archaeologists understand and confront these problems.

This unit aims to provide students with:

  • An understanding of different anthropological approaches to contemporary problems such as disease and gender inequality
  • An awareness of the history of global challenges and how lessons from the past can be used to tackle the present and manage the future
  • An understanding of the potential contribution of anthropology to national and transnational policy-making
  • Insight into the impact and interaction of social, biological, historical and environmental factors on current global challenges

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, a successful student should be able to:

1) Compare and contrast different anthropological perspectives on key issues.

2) Demonstrate a critical awareness of the origins and history of contemporary challenges and the variety of ways in which human populations have responded to these in both the present and the past.

3) Conceptualise and articulate these challenges with reference to the past, current, and future practise of the disciplines and their contribution to policy-making.

4) Assess the impact of biological, cultural, historical and environmental factors

5) Critically evaluate the evidence on which influential explanations and models have been based.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2hr session of lecture and discussion.

Weekly 1 hour seminar

Assessment Information

One 3000 word essay (50%). Assesses ILOs 1-5

One 2 hour written examination (50%). Assesses ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

Abel GL & Sander N 2014. Quantifying Global International Migration Flows. Science 343, no. 6178, pp. 1520-1522. DOI: 10.1126/science.1248676

Crate SA. 2011. Climate and culture: Anthropology in the era of contemporary climate change. Annual Rev Anthropol 40: 175-194.

Firth R. 1981. Engagement and detachment: Reflections on applying social anthropology to social affairs. Hum Org 40: 193-201.

Rasmussen S. et al. (2015). Early Divergent Strains of Yersinia Pestis in Eurasia 5,000 Years Ago. Cell 163, 571-182.

Smart A, Smart J. 2003. Urbanization and the global perspective. Annu Rev Anthropol 32: 263-285.

Wutich A, Brewis A. 2014. Food, water and scarcity: Toward a broader view of resource insecurity. Curr Anthropology, 55: 444-468.