Modules and structure

Level 4

Code Module title Credits
AN51001A Introduction to Social Anthropology 30 credits

This module acquaints you with some of social anthropology and its sub-fields’ (political anthropology, economic anthropology, anthropology of religion and kinship) main theories. Beginning with the discipline of anthropology as a whole, both as it has developed historically, and as it has entered into the 21st century, it shows how examples from different cultures can be usefully compared. Illustrations are drawn from a wide range of sources, from traditional anthropological texts, clips from documentary films, through to some contemporary writings.

Variable Ethnography of a Selected Region I 15 credits

This module introduces you to the role of ethnography – the documenting and analysis of a particular society and culture or socio-cultural area through fieldwork. It focuses on linguistic and cultural groupings of a particular region, which varies from year to year, but will be Africa, Lowland South America, Europe or South Asia.

AN51003A Anthropological Methods 15 credits

This module offers an introduction to the history of anthropological theory and the changes in methodological practice over the last century. Aspects of anthropological methods covered are: data collection techniques and implications of type and quality of data; participant observation and the techniques involved, its evolution and change; analytical approaches to primary data; reanalyses of secondary sources from various theoretical vantage points; restudies of the same area by more than one ethnographer, with relevant samples drawn from the ethnographic literature; the philosophy of science; value free social science; interaction between observer and observed; perception and ‘fact’. 

AN51004A Ethnographic Film 15 credits

This module aims to encourage a critical appreciation of ethnographic film, introducing some of the growing literature on visual anthropology, and raising general issues of representation in anthropology as a whole. 

AN51015A Anthropology Today 15 credits

How is anthropology implicated in the debates that shape the contemporary world? How have anthropologists, past and present, contributed to an understanding of power and difference, locality and global interconnection? This module focuses on how anthropologists continue to adapt their research and writing to tackle a range of contemporary issues, including exploitation and wealth, gender inequality, virtual social networking, and illegal immigration.

AN51016A Anthropology in London 15 credits

How is it possible to begin to understand something as complex as London from an anthropological perspective? Is there really any kind of stable entity or 'thing' we could begin to call 'London', or actually a plurality of 'Londons' – a multitude of different forms, some of which are connected in labyrinthine ways? Does it make any sense to try and make sense of London? What would an anthropology of London need to include? How would it go about collecting the relevant information?

These questions and others will be tackled through a range of field trips, sound walks, and practical documenting exercises, as well as lectures and screenings. This innovative module will take a series of direct experiences of London as the starting points for considering possible anthropological approaches to the city. It will explore the history of London at first-hand, look at its portrayal by artists, writers and filmmakers, and evaluate a range of anthropological ways of tackling its complexity.

Level 5

Code Module title Credits
AN52009A Anthropology of Religion 15 credits

The module focuses on ‘classic’ theories and key anthropological texts on religion, magic, myth, ritual, morality, symbolism and belief. Using ethnographic examples from various parts of the world, it looks at how religious identity is inscribed in the body, spatial and temporal orders, and at the relationship between religion and secularism, mass media and the internet, transnationalism, power and resistance.

AN52008B Anthropology and the Visual 1 15 credits

This module provides a critical introduction to the many ways anthropologists engage with the visual, from their use of visual methodologies and analysis of representations, to their ethnographic study of everyday visual forms. Focusing on a wide range of visual media, from photography, museum exhibitions and popular representations on TV, to dress, body art, architecture and other everyday visual and material forms, the module raises issues about the significance of visibility, the politics of representation, the social life of visual and material forms and the relationship between seeing and other senses.

AN52004B Politics, Economics and Social Change 30 credits

Through ethnographic examples, this module investigates interactions between changing economic and political structures and how people organise their everyday lives in the world today. Throughout the module you use key theorists such as Durkheim, Marx and Weber, who have contributed to anthropological debates on economy and society, as well as contemporary re-evaluations of these classic debates.

Variable Ethnography of a Selected Region II 15 credits

This module explores the ethnography of a specific region, which may change from year to year. Through detailed reading of ethnography, as well as films and other relevant media, major themes of anthropology such as identity, community, local and global politics, inequality and processes of social and economic change are explored.

AN53046A Anthropology and Representation 15 credits

This module focuses on the anthropological concern with representation in both the artistic and political senses of the term. It will cover such concerns as consumption, fetishism, and material culture, use of art and artistic representations and imagination in social movements, as well as in the art world, theories of narrative and their relation to political action, the nature of hierarchy, magic, labour, and the imagination.

AN52005A General Principles in Anthropology 30 credits

This module offers an intellectual history of the discipline of anthropology, focusing on how anthropologists have incorporated the work of key figures in social theory. It explores the writings of authors who endeavoured to theorise or understand ‘The Other’ prior to the establishment of the discipline.

While historical in its approach, however, the module is self-consciously not designed in a purely chronological fashion. Rather, the module allows you to see how disparate traditions developed in parallel and to explore the level of communication (or lack thereof) between sometimes distinct and sometimes interwoven intellectual genealogies.

AN52001A Methodological and Philosophical Issues in Anthropology 15 credits


AN52007A Ethnography of Post Socialism 15 credits

This module introduces major anthropological themes such as politics and the state, formal and informal economy, property, markets, ideology and religion, and kinship, gender and generation through close readings of ethnographies of socialist and post socialist states. Beginning with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the readings and lectures concentrate on the lived worlds or socialism, the effects of turning to a market-based system, and the strategies for basic survival which are graphically documented in ethnographies of post-socialism. 

Level 6

You take either an Individual Project (30 credits) examined by an 8,000-word dissertation or an Extended Individual Project (45 credits) examined by a 12,000-word dissertation. Both of these modules are research projects of your own choosing and design, the topic to be agreed with the member of the department who acts as supervisor.

The balance of Level 6, up to 120 credits, is made up of the following modules:

[Please note: not all these Level 6 option courses are offered every year]

Code Module title Credits
AN53015A Anthropology of Art 15 credits

This module introduces some of the key issues in the anthropology of art. It begins with an examination of the contested concept of 'art' in Western thought and questions its applicability in different cultural contexts.

The module covers such issues as conflicting definitions of art and aesthetics; modes of seeing within and across cultures; creativity, inspiration and the category of the artist; the body as art; issues of gender and ideology; the politics of the ownership and display of non-Western art works; imaging nationality and ethnicity through art; primitivism and the construction of the other.

AN53030A Anthropology of Art II 15 credits

An opportunity to pursue a short piece of original research on an aspect of the anthropology of art. Fieldwork in London is recommended. The module is run on a seminar/workshop model where you select your own topics and present them for discussion. Oral presentations replace essays as module work requirements. 

AN53023A Anthropology of Development 15 credits

This core module will enable you to explore the theoretical concepts underpinning development, the history of development and its institutions – from NGOs to the World Bank and IMF, while considering diverse case studies from around the world. You will also explore the historical role of anthropology’s involvement in development, as official mediators between ‘the West and the rest’ through imperial conquest, colonial administration and a post-war development industry.

As a central component of the module you will critically analyse current trends that have emerged to dominate the field of global political and economic interventions and/or policies – ‘participation and empowerment’, ‘gender awareness’, ’sustainable development’, ‘community development’, ‘NGOs’, and ‘environmental conservation’.

AN53021A Anthropology and the Environment 15 credits

The module examines anthropological understandings of human-environment relations and their bearing on public discourses of environmentalism. It deals with: different ways of encountering biophysical surroundings across societies; European traditions of environmental thought and their impacts; management practices, colonialism, and cultural elaboration of the idea of nature; environmental social movements, identity politics and social justice in environmentalism.

AN53026B Anthropology and Gender Theory 15 credits

This module explores the inter-relationship of gender, sexuality and the body both within western cultures and western social theory, and in a range of  other cultural and historical contexts. Emphasising the ways in which the body and gender have been produced/imagined differently in diverse times and places, it focuses on both classical and current anthropological topics: the status of the body – biological or cultural; decoration, modification and transformation of bodies; distinctions between sex and gender; alternative sex and gender systems; kinship, marriage and chosen families; new reproductive technologies; identity politics and queer theory; theories of performance/practice; violence, resistance and power politics. 

AN53044A Anthropology of Violence 15 credits

This module examines a variety of anthropological approaches to the study of violence, ranging from evolutionary explanations for male aggression to studies of changing American attitudes toward terrorism in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It looks critically at the theoretical, methodological and ethical questions raised in studies of violence through ethnographic case studies from around the world.

The module considers attempts to define violence as a concept in the social sciences and explores the possible causes, meanings, and uses of violent practices from a variety of different cultural contexts and perspectives. It gives particular attention to the political and economic conditions that promote war and other violent behaviour as well as specific cultural expressions within violent practices.

We will also discuss ethnographic descriptions of “peaceful societies” and examine the ways in which peace is made in the aftermath of conflict. In addition to the required and additional readings, the module will also include a number of films that coincide with weekly topics.

AN53042A Anthropology and the Visual 2 15 credits

This module explores the role of visual representation in anthropology in terms of both the history of its use within the discipline, and also the potential it holds for new ways of working. It looks at work in a wide range of media – photography, film/video, performance – and the ways in which they might be used in an anthropological context, and this will involve looking at work from outside anthropology such as photojournalism and contemporary art, as well as the work of visual anthropologists.

AN53040A Anthropology and the Visual: Production Course 15 credits

This is a practice-based module in which you explore the techniques of video-making/photography and produce a short file or photographic project.

AN53039A The Anthropology of Rights 15 credits

This module encourages you to critically engage with the rights discourses that underpin development agendas in the contemporary world. You will consider the historical evolution of rights discourses, the institutions that have been established to uphold rights, the language of Human Rights found in international law, as well as the concept of rights as understood by development organisations, governments and multilaterals (such as the UN).

You will analyse the cross-cutting – and often competing – claims made in the name of, for example, gender and child rights, indigenous rights, intellectual property rights, animal and environmental rights, customary law and bioethics. You will therefore have the opportunity to explore the concept and discourses of rights in relation to numerous contemporary social issues (such as natural disasters, constitutional reform, war crimes tribunals, environmental disputes and gender politics), and consider the purchase of the rights concept (and its limitations) within development discourses and practices, as well as in relation to patterns of governance and social justice.

AN53024B Gender Theory in Practice 15 credits

This module will examine the growing literature on development with special reference to gender issues. We consider the historical effects of various forms of gender bias in the development of three regions: Africa, Latin America and the Indian subcontinent. You will address the legacy of colonialism on gender and examine recent development issues, which have had differential impact on men and women: the green revolution, migration, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, import-substitution, industrialisation and structural adjustment policies.

The module will also look at certain global issues including the structures of development policy, planning and implementation as well as urbanisation, feminisation of poverty, and the new International Division of Labour. The second part of this module consists of group presentations by students.

AN53008A Health, Medicine and Social Power 15 credits

An introduction to key areas of medical anthropology, ranging from ideas about healing to social inequality and the ‘new biology’. The module addresses issues of biomedicine in the UK alongside alternative therapies and explanations of health/illness in different parts of the world, and approaches to the political economy. Specific sessions include the application of medical anthropology, ‘new’ diseases and technologies.

AN53005B History and Anthropology 15 credits

Anthropology has for a long time had a troubled relation with history. Nineteenth century evolutionism was replaced by the insistence of synchronic, site-specific studies. But with time, history became an issue again: the growing interpenetration forced by colonialism, capitalism and the world wars questioned the radical cultural difference on which synchronic studies were based. Inevitably, history and historical change have become the heart of anthropological theory.

A number of questions and dichotomies on historical continuities and changes have emerged, both at a theoretical and at a more empirical level, like the relation of structure and agency, and the place of consciousness and historicity in relation to historical events; but also the formation of a global culture versus the persistence of local cultures and the meaning of ideas such as ‘modernity’, ‘Capitalism’ and the ‘West’.

AN53045A Ideology and the Secular 15 credits

Is Friedrich Nietzsche’s clarion call, ‘God is Dead’, still relevant in an increasingly reflexive cosmopolitan and pluralistic world? Starting with a critique of secularism as a self-evident category, this module seeks out ethnography that enriches our critical understandings of the misplaced distinction made between religious and secular domains.

In tracing the historical formation of the ‘secular’ - as a broad ideology with deep impact on the effects of the state on its subjects’ bodily dispositions, consciousness and desires - we approach anthropological questions of individual and social transformation through examining ethics, morality and the law in a variety of ‘secular’ contexts.

These contexts include, but are not limited to, anthropological considerations of the ideological premises of mass political movements such as Nazism and Bolshevism; the everyday Kemalist state in Turkey; the infrastructural power of fiscal authoritarianism; the family resemblances between multiculturalism, Indirect Rule, and apartheid; and the very idea of the human/Humanism in prescriptive social engineering organised through the state apparatus and executed in the name of freedom and equality. 

AN53072A Indian and Peasant Politics in Amazonia 15 credits

This module looks at Amazonian societies from pre-history to the present – indigenous, peasant, colonial, developmentalist – and includes discussion of modern social movements (Landless Peoples Movement) as well as classic themes of Levi-Strauss's 'world on the wane', human ecology and extractivist economies. 

AN53043A Myth and Ritual 15 credits

There was a time when myth and ritual were seen as products of the childhood of humankind, before Science came along and disenchanted everything, a time when people languished (or gloried, depending on one’s point of view) in a kind of poetic consciousness. Nowadays, anthropologists tend to assume myth and ritual are aspects of all human societies, our own included; what they can’t agree on however is why. What is it that myth and ritual actually do? Are they ways of resolving existential dilemmas? Or reflecting on the fact they can’t be resolved? Are they ways of establishing unquestionable authority? Forms of artistic self-expression? Media for political action? Or some combination of these?

This module will explore some of these questions, by way of (hopefully colourful and interesting) concrete case studies.

AN53013A Urban Anthropology 15 credits

As we enter the third millennium, the percentage of urban dwellers exceeds 50% of the world’s population. The sub-field of urban anthropology was born as ethnographers followed rural migrants to cities; but at the beginning of the 20th century, the emergence of anthropology as a professional discipline was intertwined with a fascination with the urban locus across a wide range of arts and social sciences.

Through historical and ethnographic perspectives this module considers the changing use and valorisation of different urban spaces at different times; how cities are represented; ideas of order and disorder, of public and domestic places, of control and resistance through carnival, informal economies and kinship networks. The module covers both third-world and Euro-American cities, and supplements theoretical discourses and ethnographies with films and novels.

AN53073A Material Culture 15 credits

Beginning with Franz Boas, the study of material culture has formed an integral part of the discipline of anthropology. The study of material culture encompasses everything from consumption practices, art, architecture, cultural heritage, cultural landscapes, dress, memorials and museums. This module will take a critical perspective to investigate how things and people relate and are related to each other, the way in which objects can mediate social relationships and the entanglements of objects and memory. 

Content last modified: 08 Sep 2014

Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK
Telephone: + 44 (0)20 7919 7171

Goldsmiths has charitable status

© 2000- Goldsmiths, University of London. Copyright, Disclaimer and Company information | Statement on the use of cookies by Goldsmiths