Social Anthropology Modules

First year

Studying Societies: Social Anthropology (10 credits)

This module delivers core study skills for students reading Anthropology as a means to help them transition from secondary to higher education. Taught in small groups, the module provides a basic orientation in the field of Anthropology 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 the develop the study skills necessary to succeed at university level, building on the work they have done in Studying Societies: Social Anthropology.

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.

Anthropology of Africa (20 credits)

Anthropology of Africa introduces a variety of diverse societies across sub-Saharan Africa, enabling students to understand the fundamental aspects of social life in Africa. Engaging with key anthropological texts, from the colonial birth of the discipline to contemporary writings, the module encourages students to reflect critically on the different ways in which anthropologists represent African societies. Topics include how African societies conceptualise personhood, marriage and gendered relations; how power is linked to religion and witchcraft beliefs; how historical memory is performed; and how political state failure is experienced in everyday life, not least for young people on the continent. Ethnographic texts are used throughout the module to familiarise students with African societies and anthropological methodology, and ethnographic videos are used to support the readings.

Ethnographic Film (10 credits)

This module will introduce students to visual anthropology via ethnographic film. We will view and discuss films representing a range of approaches to ethnographic film making and covering a range of anthropological themes. Key readings will help to situate the films in relation to the genre of ethnographic film, the field of visual anthropology, and the wider debates the films engage.

Anthropologists at Work (10 credits)

This module focuses on the application of anthropological knowledge and training to professional fields beyond the academy. Taking seriously the idea of applied or engaged anthropology, and thinking carefully about distinctions between academic and non-academic anthropology, the module considers a range of examples of trained anthropologists who work in other fields. These may include, for example, journalism, law, the charity sector, marketing, communications, and public or global health. Students will consider specific real-world case studies and reflect on how a background in anthropology informed their subsequent careers. Students will be encouraged to think about what anthropology can contribute beyond academia by means of transferable skills, including the development of particular sensibilities and distinctive approaches to knowledge and enquiry. 

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.