Archaeology and Anthropology (LV64): Selected Module Descriptions Year 1

First Year

Compulsory modules 

Project A (10 credits)

Students taking this project meet weekly in small groups with their Personal Tutor to cover a topic of their tutor’s choice. This will typically be related to the overall goals of their degree programme. Group sizes will typically not exceed twelve; students will be expected to prepare material ahead of classes, either individually or in groups, and to take active part in discussion in class. Sessions are led by the tutor in the first instance, but may include student-led elements.

The module is particularly intended to ensure that all students gain a firm understanding of the workings of university life; what skills and qualities are expected of them, and what resources are available to help them develop these. In particular, time will be dedicated to the following areas:

  1. Identification and use of primary sources
  2. Secondary sources; importance of peer review;
  3. Library skills (ideally to include a library visit and bibliographical task);
  4. Standard reference and online resources; evaluating online material;
  5. Essay conventions, especially referencing; how to avoid plagiarism;
  6. Academic etiquette, including email conventions.

Project B (10 credits)

Students taking this project meet weekly in small groups to cover a topic prescribed by the instructor. This may be more or less closely related to the individual student’s degree programme; where options are oversubscribed, priority will be given to students on the most relevant programmes. Group sizes will typically not exceed twelve; students will be expected to prepare material ahead of classes, either individually or in groups, and to take active part in discussion in class. Sessions are led by the tutor in the first instance, but will include student-led elements.

The module is intended to reinforce and build on the skills and understanding of university life covered in Tutorial Project A. In addition, students will be required to give group presentations on prepared topics. Instructors are encouraged also to organize an out-of-classroom activity, such as a visit to the Barber Institute, Eton Myers collection, Rare Books, or similar.

Understanding Archaeology (20 credits)

The module will introduce students to the evidence, themes and interpretative issues pursued in archaeological study.  Themes include the history of the discipline, human origins and development, subsistence and agriculture, biological and environmental archaeology, the development of settlement, technology and exchange, and an understanding of how past lives and society can be reconstructed using a range of archaeological evidence.

This module will also normally include two field trips. One will introduce students to a range of archaeological sites and landscapes. The second will be to a number of museum collections. This introduces the students to the range and diversity of material culture and its interpretation.

Practice of Archaeology (20 credits)

This module provides an introduction to the methodological and practical constitution of Archaeology, focussing on the unique set of field data collection techniques and related analytical and interpretative methods at the heart of the discipline. The module includes: a brief overview of the history of archaeological method; lectures on key fieldwork methods, analytical techniques; dating methods and chronology, practical classes on the identification, analysis and interpretation of material and environmental evidence; and an Archaeology Field School in which students gain core practical skills, first-hand knowledge of archaeological fieldwork methodology and an understanding of reflexive on-site interpretation.

Studying Societies: Social Anthropology (10 credits)

This module delivers core study skills for students reading African Studies as a means to help them transition from secondary to higher education. The module provides a basic orientation in the field of African Studies and allows students to familiarise themselves with the key skills necessary for success at university, such as note-taking, essay writing, academic integrity, oral presentation, and the ability to use library resources.

Around the World with Anthropology (10 credits)

This module develops students’ knowledge of social anthropology by exploring the diversity of the discipline through a focus on a range of ethnographic regions. Students consider some of the key thematic and theoretical developments that have emerged from the study of particular regions of the world. Alongside this world-tour of anthropological research, students continue to develop the study skills necessary to succeed at university level, building on the work they have done above.

Thinking Anthropologically (20 credits)

The module is a broad introduction to anthropological approaches to society and culture. It asks questions about social life to which the answers appear obvious, and examines them in comparative perspective. Examples may include: What is a gift? What is dirt? What is in a name? How universal are experiences of emotions? In the process, students are shown the point of anthropology – to see life through the eyes of other people, and to question one’s own assumptions. It focuses on ethnography, the practice of 'doing anthropology' both in Africa and elsewhere. We use written texts and film to open up and discuss central ideas and debates in anthropology.

Optional modules may include: 

Writing Worlds: Ethnography as Craft (20 credits)

This module is built around full-length ethnographic monographs. Students are required to read the books in full over the course of the module. Lectures and seminars help to situate and contextualise the texts in relation, for example, to the identity and career of the anthropologists who wrote them; the development of the discipline of anthropology over time; the various scholarly debates with which they engage; and their reception (contemporary and subsequent). Strong emphasis is placed on the craft of ethnographic writing. Students examine ethnographic writing as a genre and consider different ways in which descriptive and analytical writing are woven together to build an argument. This requires thinking carefully about the nature of ethnographic evidence, the methodological underpinnings of anthropological research, the authors’ positionality and related ethical considerations, and the ways in which other forms of evidence are drawn upon to support ethnographic observation. Students engage with broad anthropological concerns, such as the relationship between the particular and the general, and the ethics and politics of representation, through close engagement with the texts.

Urban Encounters: Anthropology in Birmingham (20 credits)

This module takes key anthropological concepts and themes in the study of urban environments and asks how we might apply them in order to gain a deeper understanding of the city of Birmingham. Through lectures and seminar readings, students will be introduced to anthropological approaches to topics such as immigration, religious belief, consumption practices, street art, popular culture, inequality, multiculturalism, or food, and will be encouraged to apply an anthropological lens to such topics in the city in which they are studying.