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Social Anthropology (Online) (20 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

By exploring what it means to be human through a cross-cultural study of key anthropological themes – such as gender, kinship, exchange and ritual – students will learn how to think anthropologically and to look at the world that surrounds them from a different perspective.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students will need to be able to confidentially use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker and an internet connection.

Content of Course

The course begins with a brief consideration of what anthropologists do, exploring the central concerns of the discipline and its distinctive ethnographic methodology (including fieldwork and participant observation). The remainder of the course is organised in two parts. The first part focuses on the life course. Students will explore the cross-cultural significance of key events and phases of human life, including birth, childhood, initiation, aging and death. The second part of the course examines key concerns in anthropology, such as personhood, ritual, gender, kinship, food, ethnicity, healing, the body, and witchcraft. Throughout the course, students will explore what it means to be human though the comparative study of cultures and societies. The wide range of topics discussed will allow students to reflect on the ways in which different domains of social life are deeply interconnected and mutually formative, thereby encouraging a holistic view of society and culture.

Teaching method(s)

This course will be delivered online. Students will be encouraged to critically engage with the course material and to reflect on the literature’s contemporary relevance through the lenses of their own experience. Practical tasks and group discussions will enable students to expand and refine their understanding of key concepts. Feedback provided during class will enhance students’ ability to draw comparisons and contrasts between their own and other societies. Formative assessments will strengthen students’ analytical and critical skills, preparing them for the assessed components of their coursework.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of key anthropological concepts and debates;

  • Employ critical, analytical and reflective skills in understanding one’s own culture and that of other societies;

  • Demonstrate an awareness of how an anthropological approach can be beneficial in developing an informed and critical understanding of the contemporary world;

  • Critically assess ethnographic evidence;

  • Convey ideas in a well-structured and coherent form.


Core Readings


  • Eriksen, T. H. 2001. Small Places, Large Issues. London: Pluto Press.


  • Boylston, Tom. 2018. The Stranger at the Feast: Prohibition and Mediation in an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Community. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Carrithers, M. 1992. Why Humans Have Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Eller, J. D. 2009. Cultural Anthropology: Global Forces, Local Lives. New York: Routledge.

  • Carsten, J. 2004. After Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Cassidy, R. 2002. The Sport of Kings: Kinship, Class and Thoroughbred Breeding in Newmarket. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Descola, P. 1996 The Spears of Twilight: Life and Death in the Amazon Jungle. London: Harper Collins.

  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1976. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  • Mauss, M. 1990 [1950]. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. London: Routledge.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.