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Undergraduate Modules

In 2021, the Department of Anthropology begins teaching a brand-new undergraduate curriculum, redesigned to respond to new developments in the discipline and the need to substantiate decolonial, anti-racist, anti-patriarchal training at the university. We want our undergraduate students to be unafraid of thinking, writing and reading about the world and their places in it; to develop a curiosity about how different people and also non-humans live in the world; and how all of us could live together in ways that sustain us all, rather than divide us and make us unequal. Our major in Anthropology at the BA level trains students to think critically and with empathy about the world, to write and read well, and to develop their intellectual and career interests. Below are descriptions of the various undergraduate modules we teach.

ANT131 – On Being Human 

This introductory course familiarises students with the anthropological approach: how do anthropologists think and what do they do? By developing an ‘anthropological thinking’, the student learns the main features of the discipline. Students will understand the discipline through its core problematic, the question of human difference that has prompted the creation of the discipline at the beginning of the 20th century, developing an anthropological outlook into our contemporary world. Students will develop an understanding of the question of the human, discussing the ways in which difference has been understood at different times in history and examining the key intervention of anthropology within such debates. The newest research in anthropology is interrogating the worth of the ‘human’ as a mode of inquiry. We situate students in these debates by introducing them to key ideas and themes on the question of what it means to be human.

ANT132 – Writing Difference 

This module introduces students to ethnography as one of the core anthropological principles and practice. Students will develop an understanding of how anthropologists approach research, and they will also learn about the key dilemmas in the representation of difference. Students will be able to understand positionality in a narrative, experiment with writing beyond direct experience Fieldworks and Methods Research Ethics Narratives of Difference. The module also discusses basic ethics in research and writing. 

ANT231 - Environmental Anthropology

Presently, the world has increasingly been characterised by anxieties that are best thought of as existential crises. Climate change and all the associated effects such as natural disasters, shifts in weather that impact food production, warming of the planet bring into focus the frailty of the society we have built as humans globally. In search of solutions, some have turned their gaze to the indigenous and the world of the ‘other’ since the blame for the current crisis is laid firmly at the door of Global Capital. In this course we give attention to that other world that has for millennia lived in concert with nature and we distil lessons for the present crisis from these European elsewheres. The module introduces students to anthropological ways of knowing nature and contributions toward studies of the environment through an interdisciplinary focus.

Students will situate themselves within this larger debate and action linked to the environment by firstly engaging with key concepts in environmental anthropology that can help shift perspectives and challenge accepted ‘ways of doing things’. The course introduces unique debates in environmental anthropology that challenge the sovereignty of science. It moves on to situate these debates within contexts to highlight to students that there are radically different ways of seeing and living within our global (human and other) environments. Students will explore conceptual frameworks alongside practical demonstrations of environmental anthropology research methods. 

Therefore, the course also highlights the continued value of ethnography as a tool that documents, among other things, the texture of human and other lives. Further, we promote a new ethnography that does not merely take account of a human—that is an anthropocentric world- but a world where the ethnographic illuminates all connected worlds, the world of plants, animals, things and matter and even spirit. In this opening up of ethnographic potential, we hope to impart to students a critical perspective that allows them to see the world and its current ‘crisis’ as a problem that has the implied solutions already present in the world shown to us through ethnographies of the European elsewhere. 

ANT232 - Popular Culture in the Contemporary World

Popular culture and communication and information networks are key dimensions of everyday life and the cultural, social, and political dynamics of contemporary Africa and the wider world. They provide a crucial understanding of anthropology’s core: people’s lived experience and the ways they make sense of the world they live in. Therefore, this module will be formative in the intermediate undergraduate training. Students will be able to explain the concepts of popular culture, communication, and information networks, and cultural globalisation and social change. They will be able to discuss how anthropologists analyse phenomena of popular culture and examine the dynamics of popular culture and communication and information networks in contemporary Africa and the wider world.

ANT222 - Gender and Kinship 

This course introduces students to the concepts of gender, kinship and family, as well as Transgender Studies. The forms of the South African ‘family’ historically and in the present (nuclear family, migration, domestic work, adoption, reproduction, and new technologies). Ethnographies: different case studies on kinship across the continent and from South Africa. Students will be able to question and denaturalise notions of gender, kinship, and family as a pivotal focus of our social life. They will recognise, discuss, explain, and express key concepts - gender binary, heteronormativity, transgender/cisgender, gender identity, and gender expression. Students will be able to understand the cross-cultural variation of these forms of social relations, and relate concepts and the knowledge acquired in class to their daily life and experiences to analyse, question and debate their social realities critically. 

ANT331 - History and Theory of Anthropology

This course’s content is in line with the recent developments in the discipline, which emphasise the teaching of anthropology less as a closed self-referential discipline but as a field of study connected to the worldly historical conditions in which its knowledge is generated. This reframing addresses the question of the decolonisation of knowledge practice, and a reflection on colonial epistemic violence. The reading component and theoretical work of the course increases substantially, and more hours are thus needed for this increased work. 

ANT332 - Medical Anthropology 

This module is an introduction to medical anthropology as one of the core research areas of specialisation in the Department. The module specifically adopts a decolonial approach which foregrounds the perspectives, writings, and experiences from the Global South. While most of the devastating health issues are felt in the Global South, and mostly among the black population, most theories and explanatory frameworks are developed within Global North academic contexts. 

This module positions the Global South not only as a place where ethnographic research on health takes place, but also where new perspectives and theories might emerge. Students are introduced to key concepts, theories, and paradigm in medical anthropology, as well as basic ethnographic approaches to cross-cultural studies of health and illnesses. At the same time, they are encouraged to go beyond the western canon by locating anthropological analysis of health in their lived experiences and cultural contexts. Students will be able to apply anthropological knowledge to critical analysis of health issues, critique the existing theories and paradigms, and recognise the value of medical anthropology in African settings. 

ANT333 - Cultures of Capitalism 

What is the ‘culture’ of capitalism? The course traces some of the consequences of the global history of capitalism that affect our daily lives and experiences. It unpacks what a ‘commodity’ is and how it shapes our lives from the smallest purchase of bread to the largest inequality in land and inheritance. It looks at how the colonial history of capitalism produced damaging forms of consumption of, for example, alcohol and sugar. It considers how newer inventions of capitalism such as increasing forms of debt, online dating and Big Tech are changing our subjectivities and relationships. It also considers cultures of resistance to capitalism such as experiments in labour organising, direct action and alternative economies.

Postgraduate Studies  

The Department offers a range of areas of specialisation from which students can choose depending on their career aspirations and passions in life. Therefore, while providing general and well-rounded training in anthropology, postgraduate students can build specialisations in the following areas which are consistent with the research interests and specialisations of the Department: Medical Anthropology; Political and Legal Anthropology; Human Animal Studies (HAS); Visual Anthropology and Popular Culture; Religion Studies; Sociology of Technology, and Gender and Sexuality.

Possession of higher degrees opens the door for engagement in a range of careers, including research, media, development, government, academia, and education.

For further enquiries, contact either the Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Office or

Kelly Gillespie
Departmental Postgraduate Coordinator

Email: kgillespie@uwc.ac.za

BA Honours in Anthropology

This degree introduces students to the process of independent qualitative research. Students learn how to put together their research questions and proposals, understand how to construct a literature review as the basis for a good, theoretically-informed research, train in how to conduct ethnographic research, and how to write up that research into an essay form. Our honours programme teaches students critical thinking and the beginnings of qualitative research skills, as well as how to run their projects. 
 

ANT701 – Research Essay

In term one, the course focuses on research methods, analysis, the literature review, and ethical consideration. In term two, students work on their research proposal, and in term three, they conduct their fieldwork and lastly write-up their essay in the fourth term.

ANT731 - Anthropological Theory

This course develops perspectives in anthropology as a discipline that is both critical and practical for real-life challenges. Students are encouraged to examine anthropological thinking on central concepts such as culture or society, and the value anthropology attaches to them. 

ANT732 - Anthropological Methods

The course offers an in-depth exploration of the methodologies employed in anthropology. It aims at providing a critical reflection on fieldwork and anthropological practice. It shows how simple choices, such as the selection of a location or a procedure, or the decision to interview a specific person, may have profound theoretical underpinnings that are crucial for the research itself. It teaches students that in anthropology theory and methodology stand as two sides of the same coin.

ANT733 - Selected Themes in Contemporary Anthropology A (Gender)

The course provides students with knowledge of the value and meaning of different theoretical perspectives in Gender Studies to be able to consider or incorporate gender and differences into research. The course also enables students to analyse gendered identities and theories.

ANT734 - Selected Themes in Contemporary Anthropology B (Anthropology and Visual Culture)

This course enables students to develop a critical anthropological perspective on visual culture, analyse comparatively visual forms and senses and their significance in different social and cultural contexts. 

ANT742 - Health and Medical Anthropology

This course introduces students to key concepts and theories in medical anthropology. It explores aspects such as health care systems, medical technologies, epidemics, biomedicine, indigenous healing systems, health inequalities, sexuality, gender and health, and various other health issues. The course draws mainly from ethnographic research conducted in the Global South to explore these issues and develop more grounded theoretical perspectives. It combines literature from anthropology, public health, history, sociology, and other related disciplines. 

ANT744 - Multiculturalism and Diversity

This course encourages students to develop a critical anthropological perspective on multiculturalism and diversity. Students are equipped with the skill to analyse comparatively discourses of culture, autochthony and indigeneity in different social, historical and geographical contexts. Students learn to compare different anthropological approaches to multiculturalism, diversity, indigeneity, and autochthony, and are challenged to apply theoretical perspectives to multiculturalism and diversity to a range of empirical case studies.

Postgraduate Studies

The department offers a range of areas of specialisation from which students can choose depending on their career aspirations and passions in life. Therefore, while providing general and well-rounded training in anthropology, postgraduate students are offered to build specializations in the following areas which are consistent with the research interests and specializations of the department—medical anthropology; political and legal anthropology; human animal studies (HAS); visual anthropology and popular culture; religion studies; sociology of technology; gender and sexuality. Possession of higher degrees opens the door for engagement in a range of careers, including research, media, development, government, academia, and education. For further enquiries contact either the Faculty of Arts Post Graduate Office or the Departmental Postgraduate Coordinator: Kelly Gillespie kgillespie@uwc.ac.za

BA Honours in Anthropology

This degree introduces students to the process of independent qualitative research. Students learn how to put together their own research questions and proposals; understand how to construct a literature review as the basis for asking a good, theoretically-informed research; train in how to conduct ethnographic research; and how to write up that research into an Essay form. Our Honours programme teaches students critical thinking and the beginnings of qualitative research skills, as well as how to run their own projects.

 

ANT 701 – Research Essay

In term one the course focuses on research methods, analysis, the literature review and ethical consideration. In term two students work on their research proposal and in term three they conduct their fieldwork and lastly write-up their long essay in the fourth term.

ANT731 Anthropological Theory

This course develops perspectives in Anthropology as a discipline that is both critical and practical and “real life” challenges. Students are encouraged to examine anthropological thinking on central concepts such as culture or society, and the value anthropology attaches to them.

ANT 732-Anthropological Methods:

The course offers an in-depth exploration of the methodologies employed in anthropology. It aims at providing a critical reflection on fieldwork and anthropological practice. It shows how simple choices-such as the selection of a location or a procedure, or the decision to interview a specific person, may have profound theoretical underpinnings that are crucial for the research itself. It teaches students that in anthropology theory and methodology stand as the two sides of the same coin.

ANT 733- Selected Themes in Contemporary Anthropology A (Gender):

The course provides students with knowledge on the value and meaning of different theoretical perspectives in gender studies, to be able to consider or incorporate gender and differences into research. The course also enables students to analyze gendered identities and theories.

ANT 734- Selected Themes in Contemporary Anthropology B (Anthropology and Visual Culture)

This course enables students to develop a critical anthropological perspective on visual culture, analyse comparatively visual forms and senses and their significance in different social and cultural contexts.

ANT 742- Health and Medical Anthropology:

This course introduces students to key concepts and theories in medical anthropology. It explores aspects such as health care systems; medical technologies; epidemics; biomedicine; indigenous healing systems; health inequalities; sexuality, gender and health; and various other health issues. The course draws mainly from ethnographic research conducted in the global South to explore these issues and also develop more grounded theoretical perspectives. It combines literature from anthropology, public health, history, sociology and other related disciplines.

ANT 744- Multiculturalism and Diversity:

This course encourages students to develop a critical anthropological perspective on multiculturalism and diversity. Students are equipped with the skill to analyse comparatively discourses of culture, autochthony and indigeneity in different social, historical and geographical contexts. Students are able to compare different anthropological approaches to multiculturalism, diversity, indigeneity and autochthony. Students are challenged to apply theoretical perspectives to multiculturalism and diversity to a range of empirical case studies.
 

Master’s in Anthropology

Our MA degree has three course modules that deepen theoretical and methodological understanding of qualitative research and writing. A mini-thesis builds on the honours-level training in independent research to develop a longer, more conceptually rigorous and substantial research and writing project. To be admitted into the MA programme in Anthropology, students must (1) have an Honours degree in Anthropology and related fields/disciplines with a minimum score of 65% in the Honours Research Essay; (2) Submit a 2–3-page concept note outlining the research topic, research question(s), some relevant literature, the basic/rudimentary knowledge of key theories in the chosen field, and (3) Submit a detailed CV.

Students can choose to enter the MA taught programme, which involves coursework in the first year and the completion of a minor thesis in the second year or enrol for a full thesis programme, which does not require any coursework. However, it is an advanced endeavour that implies that the student can organise and plan well for the workload. In any case, the MA degree requires postgraduate students to undertake independent research based on their chosen research topic. Students will be required to develop research proposals outlining their research topic, objective, literature, theory, and the methodology by the end of the first year of registration. Once ready, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities examines the proposal. 

In the coursework MA, first-year students will be deepening their knowledge in the discipline and field of their research. The courses of the first semester in theory (advanced theory classes) and methodology aim at strengthening students’ mastery of concepts, familiarity with different approaches, and the ability to converse with theory. In the second semester, students will be completing their research proposal and choose one elective module that relates best with the topics of their research.
 

PhD Degree in Anthropology

The PhD degree in Anthropology allows students to specialise in a research area of their choice, developing sophisticated qualitative research and writing skills, and producing original and independent research. Working closely with supervisors, PhD students specialise as researchers and become experts in their chosen fields.

To be admitted into the PhD programme in Anthropology, students must: 
  1. Have a Master’s in Anthropology and related fields/disciplines with a minimum score of 70% in the Master’s Thesis Essay 
  2. Submit a 2–3-page concept note outlining the research topic, research question(s), relevant literature, advanced knowledge of key theories in the chosen field, and
  3. Submit a detailed CV