Introduction to Social Anthropology

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Catherine Allerton OLD 6.13 and Prof Katherine Gardner OLD 6.12


This course is compulsory on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available on the BA in Geography and BSc in Environment and Development. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides a general introduction to Social Anthropology as the comparative study of human societies and cultures. Students will be introduced to key themes and debates in the history of the discipline. Ethnographic case studies will be drawn from work on a variety of societies, including hunter-gatherers, farmers, industrial labourers, and urban city-dwellers.

The Michaelmas Term will explore the relationship between nature and culture, drawing on classic and contemporary debates about human difference and similarity. The term is divided into three blocks: 1) Fieldwork, History and Culture; 2) Bodies and Difference; 3) Rites of passage.

The Lent term will address institutions and concepts that shape society in various contexts. The term is also divided into three blocks: 1) Family and Love; 2) Economic Life; 3) Power and Politics.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of both the MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in the classes and are required to write assessment essays. Anthropology students taking this course will have an opportunity to submit one tutorial essay for this course to their academic mentor in the MT and one in the LT. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher in the MT and in the LT.

Indicative reading

M Engelke, Think Like an Anthropologist (2017)

R Astuti et al (eds.), Questions of Anthropology (2007)

M Bloch, Prey into Hunter (1996)

M Carrithers, Why Humans Have Cultures (1992)

T Eriksen, Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (2001)

J Carsten, The Heat of the Hearth (1997)

P Bourgois, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (2003)



Essay (50%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Essay (50%, 2500 words) in the ST.

Teachers' comment

In interpreting the Course Survey results, bear in mind that over the period covered by the survey this course has been taught by a number of different teachers (who might not be teaching you in the next session). In addition, the course material may have changed quite considerably.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2017/18: 79

Average class size 2017/18: 12

Capped 2017/18: No

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 44%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)