Introduction to Social Anthropology

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Catherine Allerton OLD 6.13

Prof Katy Gardner OLD 5.07


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 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. 

The Michaelmas Term will explore the relationship between nature and culture, drawing on classic and contemporary debates about human difference and similarity. For example: How do people understand birth and death? How are humans different to other animals, and what is the significance of language?

The Lent term will address institutions and concepts that shape society in various contexts including: love and kinship, space, place and belonging, ethnicity and migration and different forms of inequality and hiearchy. 


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 a tutorial essay for this course to their personal tutors. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher.

Indicative reading

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)



Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (15%, 2500 words) in the MT.
Essay (15%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2016/17: 101

Average class size 2016/17: 15

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information