Faculty of Arts


Thinking like a Social Anthropologist

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for ANTHRO 203.


The aim of this course is to introduce you to some of the major theoretical perspectives that have shaped social anthropology through the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, reflecting on how theory shapes the ways we know and experience the world, and how anthropologists have used different theoretical approaches to make sense of human behaviour.

The course is structured around two principle themes: firstly, an exploration of different theoretical approaches in anthropology, particularly the way social thinkers since Marx, Durkheim and Malinowski have attempted to make sense of culture, society, power and agency. Secondly, how and why theory is useful and necessary for understanding and critiquing social phenomena, and why we need to use theory to understand twenty-first century life.

Given the vast range of different theoretical perspectives that have been developed in anthropology, we can only consider a limited number of theoretical approaches in any detail. We will examine them in reference to their social and historical contexts, their key ideas, their principle exponents and their implications for anthropology’s explanatory power and methods. As should become apparent, no single theory has a monopoly of wisdom, and none can explain everything one needs to know about the human condition. All social theories should be evaluated in terms of their usefulness or appropriateness for the kinds of data or research questions we aim to analyse.


Coursework only

View the course syllabus

Availability 2020

Semester 1


Lecturer(s)  Pauline Herbst


Coursework only


ANTHRO 203: 15.0 points


ANTHRO 100 or 30 points in Anthropology 

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