BA Linguistics and Social Anthropology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Key Ideas in Social Anthropology

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOAN10321
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Key Ideas in Social Anthropology introduces first year students to the contemporary discipline of social anthropology. It does this by explaining how the discipline builds on, and transforms earlier theoretical approaches, in the social sciences, to the study of human culture and society. The course also addresses how an anthropological commitment to ethnographic fieldwork, as a research method, and as the foundation for cross-cultural comparison, shapes contemporary approaches to the study of human social and cultural life. Students are introduced to the history and politics of the emergence of social anthropology as a discipline and the broad approaches that have been used in the past and that are used now to understand human society and culture.



Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Intro to Ethnographic Reading SOAN10322 Co-Requisite Compulsory
SOAN10321 Co-Req


The aim of this course is to give students an introduction to a history of some of the key ideas, guiding debates and underlying theoretical and methodological approaches that ground Social Anthropology as a field of enquiry. We will explore the history and politics of how anthropology as a discipline has emerged; the broad approaches it has used to understand human culture and society; and the way these have changed over time. The course has three inter-related aims:

--to give students an understanding of the historical development of the discipline of Social Anthropology

--to introduce students to some of the key ideas that have shaped anthropological thought and analysis

--to foster students’ capacities to reason anthropologically about a variety of contemporary debates by understanding how theories and concepts are mobilised.



Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, successful students will have acquired:


 •  A critical understanding of the context of enquiry into human social life in which anthropology first emerged as a field of study

 •  A critical grasp of some of the key approaches and influences in anthropology, including functionalism, structuralism, Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism and post-modernism

 •  An understanding of the changing meanings of “culture” and “society” in these approaches

•  An ability to assess the relevance of all these approaches to anthropology today



Assessment methods

Final essay - 1200 words (worth 100%)

Feedback methods

There are 3 key ways to get feedback for this course: the most important is the tutorial, which is intended as the place to try out your ideas, raise your questions regarding the text and work through any areas that are unclear. You can also get feedback on your learning from your Teaching Assistant at their dedicated office hours and from the course leader and lecturer at their dedicated office hours indicated on the front of this syllabus.



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 5
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sonja Dobroski Unit coordinator

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