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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH40030: Key Issues in Sociocultural Theory

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop the student's knowledge of how the main sub-fields of sociocultural anthropology have developed throughout the history of the discipline.
  • To develop the student's ability to comment critically on theories and perspectives within sociocultural anthropology.
  • To develop the student's awareness of current issues and challenges within the main sub-field of sociocultural anthropology.
  • To be taught in Michaelmas term to provide students with important introductory material


  • Major theoretical perspectives, movements and authors within sociocultural anthropology are covered. Developments within the discipline are placed in historical and social as well as intellectural contexts. Students are encouraged to reflect upon the meanings and applicability of such terms as 'culture', 'society', 'system', 'function', 'theory', and 'field'. The introductory seminars of the module provide overviews of continuities and transformations in the methodologies, aims and roles of sociocultural anthropology. The main part of the module is then following sub-fields: economics, kinship, language, politics and religion. Connections and contraditctions between classic texts and more recent works are debated. The module is completed with a consideration of dilemmas and opportunities facing contemporary researchers. Theoretical perspectives to be covered include functionalism, structural functionalism, structuralism, Marxism, post-modernism, and social versus cultural anthropology. While the development of the discipline discusses the alternative perspectives provided by sociocultural anthropologists working in other institutional contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To develop the student’s knowledge of how the main sub-fields of socio-cultural anthropology have developed throughout the history of the discipline.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To develop the student’s ability to comment critically on theories and perspectives within socio-cultural anthropology.
  • To develop the student’s awareness of current issues and challenges within the main sub-fields of socio-cultural anthropology.
Key Skills:
  • Communication: students will be taught how to communicate clearly (both orally and in writing) their understanding of the material they have read.
  • Improving own learning and performance: students will learn to use a variety of web tools for searching the primary and secondary literature.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Through a systematic course of directed reading, covering the main themes and major figures.
  • Through seminars providing critical overviews of key sub-fields.
  • Through the provision of regular opportunities to summarise and debate key issues and themes in the context of seminars.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 weekly 2 hours 20
Lectures 2 1 hour 2
Preparation and Reading 278
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Essay Plan 1000 words

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University