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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

ANTH45515: Cultural Evolution for MARM

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to L6K307 Research Methods (Anthropology)


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The aim of this module is to provide students with a theoretical understanding of cultural evolution as it is studied at a range of scales, from individual social learning to cultural transmission in complex societies among human and non-human animals.


  • Social learning mechanisms
  • ‘Culture’ in non-human animals
  • Evolution of social learning & transmission biases
  • Niche construction & gene-culture co-evolution
  • Ethnographic studies of cultural evolution
  • Evolution of cultural diversity
  • Cultural evolution in modern society
  • Cumulative cultural evolution
  • Evolution of religion
  • A variety of applied topics in cultural evolution (eg. animal conservation and human health)

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Sufficient theoretical training to enable, with the appropriate support and facilities, continuation to PhD level research on cultural evolution or the conducting of applied cultural evolution research in a variety of contexts
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to, independently synthesise, critically evaluate and present complex material, including data, evolutionary models and theoretical arguments.
  • An ability to think creatively and rigorously about how current theory and empirical findings could be strengthened
Key Skills:
  • Communication: Students should be able to write clearly and concisely on cultural evolutionary topics, and explain why particular issues are important and/or controversial both in writing and verbally.

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

  • Research seminars & individualised advanced tutorials.
  • Formative of abstract / plan of summative essay
  • Summative essay, entirely of own choice in consultation with tutors
  • Students will be provided with feedback on their formative and summative assignments
  • Feedback during tutorials will provide students with immediate feedback on their progress and provide the opportunity for individual interaction with tutor

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Research seminars 8 fortnightly in Michaelmas and Epiphany 1 hour 8
Tutorials 4 two per term in Michaelmas and Epiphany 1 hour 4
Preparation & Reading 138
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100% yes

Formative Assessment:

• In class feedback during tutorials on advanced and applied topics in cultural evolution. • Feedback on an abstract / plan of the summative essay.

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