The aims and objectives of this module, and its sister module AN71089A Anthropological Research Methods, are to introduce students to the theories and methods of modern anthropology. This module provides an introduction to the main concepts of social anthropology. It begins with an examination of the roots of anthropological theory in the 19th century, and traces the development of various different trajectories, ending with the central questions of anthropological theory in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Our aim is to situate intellectual history of social and cultural anthropology within wider contexts, and to show how particular ideas and approaches arise at specific points in history, and reflect general concerns about inequality, war, racism, feminism etc. What holds anthropology together as a discipline, more than a narrative of scientific progress, or the construction of a specific scientific niche, is a recurrent interest in a set of questions that constitute the anthropological tradition. This module introduces students to this tradition, and encourages them to think critically and analytically about these themes.
Anthropology is one of the social sciences, but it also has considerable affinity with the humanities. Starting out as a branch of humanist philosophy in the Enlightenment and then as evolutionary world history in the age of western imperialism, the discipline became closely associated in the twentieth century with the method of fieldwork based ethnography. Anthropology's object, theory and method are likely to evolve further in the present century. Accordingly, in the first term, the module will examine the premises of British social anthropology as it emerged between the wars and then how it has developed over the last half-century, when French structuralism and, more important, American cultural anthropology were major influences. At the same time, some anthropologists have remained open to Marxist and other critical approaches concerned with the history of development. In a world in which inequality, cultural difference, social fragmentation, and rapid social and economic change are all matters of major concern, the scope of anthropology is enormous. In the complementary module AN71089A Anthropological Research Methods, which runs in the Spring Term, each lecture will focus on a particular area of anthropological research. The material covered will enable you to see how different anthropologists approach a number of central issues, both classical and contemporary.
The topics chosen will focus upon some of the theoretical developments and methodological strategies pursued in response to profound and widespread social transformations. Each lecture will cover a major theory or debate, and examine this in relation to particular ethnographic examples. The principal lecturer and guest speakers will also draw heavily on their own research interests and writings for illustrative material. In a field as vast as anthropology, it is important to maintain a selective focus on areas of personal interest and we encourage students to build on the knowledge they bring from elsewhere to this module. In some cases, it will be possible to present particular theories in relation to specific ethnographies. Good ethnographies, like good novels, create worlds of their own in which it is possible to see the complex interactions of human existence more fully. But intellectual history cannot always be squeezed into ethnographic boxes, and this part of the module encourages you to think critically about the relation between methods (particularly the ethnographic method) and theory.