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BASS Philosophy and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Anthropology of Britain

Unit code SOAN30382
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Anthropology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module explores the particular intellectual interventions and traditions that have emerged in the anthropology in and of Britain over the last 50 years. It sets out to identify and interrogate the essential and distinctive themes that have emerged from anthropological scholarship on British societies and which have contributed to ethnographic, theoretical and methodological insights to substantive issues and philosophical concerns that are central to the wider discipline of social anthropology.

This module raises and addresses the questions of, what have been the distinctive and essential themes in the anthropology in and of Britain? What are the theoretical frameworks by which anthropological insights in/of British social and cultural lives have built upon earlier scholarship in cross-cultural contexts? What have anthropologists in/of Britain done for anthropology? Crucial to asking these questions is an exploration of the ways in which the ethnographic study of Britain has contributed to substantive issues and theoretical concerns that are central not only to anthropology but to the wider social and human sciences. What value has it added to the work of other humane sciences on Britain and beyond? What have anthropologists in/of Britain done for Britain?


Upon completion of this module, students will have gained advanced knowledge of a special region of anthropology, the core themes as they have emerged from the region, as well as of the wider discipline. Students will be asked to complete set readings and to complete weekly seminar tasks for formative feedback each week in seminars. Formative feedback on their seminar tasks will be provided in written and oral form in weekly seminars. Formal assessment will include one 4,000 word essay and one 1,000 word annotated bibliography. Students will be required to prepare an annotated bibliography of their readings over the course and to submit their annotated bibliographies for formal assessment. Weekly readings and any additional readings they do in preparation for their essays or their seminar tasks should be included. The aim of these forms of assessment is to: a.) deepen an understanding of the core ideas of this module and develop them over the weeks in preparation for final assessment; b.) to direct seminar readings and motivate seminar discussion and analysis of the readings; and c.) to achieve learning outcomes at this level, including analysis and critical evaluation of readings they have done as well as the presentation of well-structured argumentation in essays and debate. d.) An annotated bibliography will undoubtedly equip students with a record of readings for recall, allowing students to feel more confident in speaking and writing about anthropological ideas, critiquing and debating taken-for-granted preconceptions in our discipline as well as make analytical connections between theory and everyday life.

Learning outcomes

As a transferable skill, students should be able to identify and critically evaluate different forms of argumentation and perspective in familiar or assumed contexts.

Contribute to interdisciplinary discussions of social, political and economic life in Britain, thereby putting into sharp focus anthropological insight and its utility amongst social scientific disciplines.

Critically evaluate comparative research and identify forms of cross-cultural analysis

Discuss and write about ethnographic and anthropological texts in a critical fashion.

Students will be able to create an annotated bibliography.


Brief Overview of the Syllabus and Topics

  1. Methodologies and Ethnomethodologies: Intellectual Interventions and Contributions from an Anthropology in/of Britain

  1. On “Community”, Identities and Boundary Symbolisms: Pushing academic traditions and boundaries

  1. Cosmopolitanisms and Questions Human Commonality

  1. Policy: Navigating the Interstices of the British State

  1. Welfare, Poverty and Development: (In)equalities and (un)fairness in everyday lives


  1. New Productions of Histories in Britain: Social Class, Nationalism and Stereotypes

  1. Performances of Tradition: The Making and Re-making of Art Forms in Britain


  1. Value Added: The Utility of Ethnography in Britain and Making Scholarly Contributions Beyond Anthropology

  1. Accountability and the Representation of Fieldwork: When They Read What We Write

  2. Symbolic Interactions: Legacies and the Future of an Anthropology in/of Britain

Teaching and learning methods

10 two-hour lectures

10 one-hour seminars


1000 word annotated bibliography (15%)

4000 word essay (85%)

Knowledge and understanding

Students will understand anthropological studies in/of Britain as embodying an appreciation for the relationship between society and the individual in particular ways.

Will develop a sensitive appreciation of multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Britain, and the lived concerns of people in Britain from an anthropological perspective.

Contribute to their dissertation research, using their annotated bibliographies.

Intellectual skills

Students will learn how to create an annotated bibliography.

Speak to the theoretical, methodological and substantive issues of central concern to anthropology and the social sciences more broadly, using insights from a British context.

Write a critically engaged and self-reflexive essay.

Practical skills

Create an annotated bibliography

- Apprehend policy language and rhetoric in Britain at a basic level

- Use the library’s extensive databases for articles and books

- Group work and leading open discussion in seminars

Transferable skills and personal qualities

-Group and collaborative work

-Critical anthropological analysis of policy

-Identification of different forms of argumentation and rationale in a familiar context.

-Use of Blackboard

-Use of databases and keywords, Boolean operators and other database search skills.

Assessment methods

1 x 4000 word final essay

Optional practice midterm essay

Feedback methods

Comments on Blackboard

Recommended reading

Arensberg, C. & Kimball, S. (1965). Culture and Community. Harcourt Publications.

Baumann, G. (1996). Contesting Culture: Discourses of Identity in multi-ethnic London. Cambridge University Press.

Benson, M. and E. Jackson (2013). Place-making and Place Maintenance: Practices of Place and Belonging among the Middle Classes”,  Sociology, 47(4), pp. 793-809.

Chevalier, S., J. Edwards and S. Macdonald (2007). “Anthropology   at   Home   in   Britain:  from   the   margins   to   the   centre”,  Ethnologie Franc¿aise, 2.

Coffey, A. (1999). The ethnographic self: fieldwork and the representation of identity. London: Sage.

Cohen, A. (ed.) (1982). Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Cohen, A.P. (ed.) (1982). Symbolising Boundaries: Identity and Diversity in British Cultures. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Cohen, A.P. (1985). The Symbolic Construction of Community. New York: Routledge.

Cohen, A.P. (ed.) (2000). ‘Peripheral vision: nationalism, national identity and the objective correlative in Scotland’ in Signifying Identities: Anthropological perspectives on boundaries and contested values. London; New York: Routledge. Pp. 145 – 169.

Degnen, C. (2005.)  “Relationality,  place,  and  absence:  a  three- dimensional  perspective  on  social  memory”,  The Sociological Review 53(4), pp. 729–744.

Degnen, C., (2012). Ageing Selves and Everyday Life in the North of England: Years in the Making, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Di Leonardo, M., (1998), Exotics at Home: Anthropologies, Others, American Modernity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Edwards,  J.  (1998).  ‘The   need   for   a   'bit   of   history':   place   and   past   in   English   identity’,   in   N. Lovell (Ed.) Locality and Belonging. London: Routledge, pp. 145–167.

Edwards, J. (2000). Born and Bred: Idioms of Kinship and New Reproductive Technologies in England. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Edwards, J., G.  Evans  and  K.  Smith  (2012).  ‘Introduction:  the  middle   class-ification   of   Britain’,   Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 62, pp. 3–16.

Evans, G. (2006). Educational Failure and Working-class White Children in Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Eriksen, T.H. (1991). ‘A Community of European Social Anthropologists’ in Current Anthropology. Vol.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 9
Independent study hours
Independent study 171

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katherine Smith Unit coordinator

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