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Postgraduate Courses 2014-15

  • The following course options are for all Masters students, with the exception of those doing the MSc in Human Evolution and Behaviour.
  • The content of the course may vary each year.
  • Masters students must obtain permission from their individual Masters tutors to attend a particular optional course.
  • Optional courses for Masters students are run through 11/2 hour/2 hour specialist seminars but students are advised to attend the lectures associated with the options they choose, which are open to both postgraduate and undergraduate students.
  • Masters seminars will normally assume knowledge of the material presented in these open lectures, and deal with the issues raised at a more advanced level.
  • One extended essay is normally required for each option you take. Please check with your tutor for the requirements of your specific Masters programme.
  • Times of seminars can be by arrangement and as such will be confirmed at the first lecture for the course. Always check the online timetable for the time and place of the lectures.

Term 1 Options


ANTHGC10 - Transforming and Creating the World: Anthropological Perspectives on Techniques and Technology

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Ludovic Coupaye

This seminar series will approach two interrelated topics: the first is the question of technology within anthropology and other social sciences. The second will consider objects as “processes-made-things”, that is, objects as the coalescence of what we call “practices”, “techniques”.  Technology is always about more than material production, but can in fact recruit and produce ontologies and meta-physics.  Through this perspective, we hope to investigate how an anthropology of techniques (disentangled from its colonial and determinist past) contributes to our understanding of the relations between material culture, environment and sociality. Our exploration might take us through a series of examples ranging from indigenous gardening systems to modern transport technology, and from carving or cooking to rituals and magical operations, as well as digital technology. Complementing contemporary approaches of material culture, and issues of heritage, environment, development and technical innovation, these anthropological analyses of techniques show how to link body, mind and materiality through the course of choices, strategies, and actions on materials.

ANTHGC26 - From Analog to Digital: Anthropological Knowledge in the Museum

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Haidy Geismar

This course surveys the ways in which anthropological knowledge has been collected, stored, produced and organized in museums, with a special focus on the problems and issues that are currently emergent with the increasing place of digital technologies in museums practices of archiving, exhibition and education. The class will trace the theory and practice of museums as encoders of knowledge into the so-called digital age. Students will be given a background into the museum history of anthropology and the dynamic field of museum anthropology and will have the opportunity to work hands on with UCL collections and to collaboratively develop a novel digital resource for the organization of knowledge about specific objects and collections.

ANTHGC27 - Material and Visual Cultures of South Asia

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Prof Chris Pinney

The course will introduce students to South Asia (predominantly India but with readings also on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka). It frames detailed sessions on South Asian visual culture in terms of classic anthropological debates about the nature of the Indic tradition, approaching material and visual practices as both reflections of everyday life and active agents determining future lifeworlds.

ANTHGD12 - Medical Anthropology

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Joe Calabrese

This course provides a framework by topic on which to construct an analysis of medicine and human wellbeing as practiced in any one system of healing--cosmopolitan, traditional, or hybrid. Examples and readings are drawn from a range of contemporary cultures as well as from ‘classic’ ethnographic texts, addressing in particular how diverse forms of embodiment challenge the anthropologist as participant observer. The course focuses on the ‘therapeutic triangle’ of patient, healer, and community, as well as the manner in which each of these components functions in the construction of illness and wellbeing. In addition, the course examines the cognitive construction of illness and medical expertise, the epistemologies of healing and healing systems, and the ways in which risk and efficacy are understood and managed in therapeutic encounters by individuals and groups.

ANTHGD22 - Anthropology of Ethics and Morality

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Joanna Cook

This course will critically engage with recent medical anthropological work addressing the role of ethics and morality in anthropological practice and ethnographic endeavor. In this course we will unpack the problematics of medical anthropology’s engagement with ethics and morality, examining the questions surrounding morality and ethics as a result of developing an academically rigorous and socially engaged discipline, and the effects of taking concerns for well-being and the good life seriously as the focus of ethnographic enquiry.

ANTHGE02 - Ecology of Human Groups

PG Seminar – Timetable

Prof Katherine Homewood

This course introduces the ecology of four different types of rural production system in less developed countries: Gathering/hunting societies, farmers, pastoralists and fishers. The course combines social and natural sciences approaches to the study of rural populations in developing countries. Starting with rather separate bodies of knowledge the course aims to integrate insights and perspectives from the different disciplines as the course goes along. You may find the following journals useful general browsing: Human Ecology, Development and Change.

Meetings commonly involve an hour of staff talks outlining general principles behind the topic, and an hour of student presentations and discussion - these are backed up by several hours directed reading each week. 

ANTHGH07 - Anthropological and Archaeological Genetics

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Andrea Migliano

The development of molecular techniques for the analysis of DNA has proved to be rapid over the last 30 years, especially over the last 5 to 10 years, and many of these new methods are now finding applications in the fields of Anthropology and Archaeology. These applications include the study of inherited diseases, determination of kinship patterns within and between populations, the reconstruction of past population movements and the study of infectious diseases in past populations. In addition, patterns of genetic variation have enabled researchers to address questions relating to the origins of modern humans and the relationship between humans and other primates. This course will cover the nature of genetic material, genetic variation, mutation, molecular methodologies (including ancient DNA techniques) and some of the demographic questions being tackled using those molecular techniques.

ANTHGH15 - Primate Socioecology

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Prof Volker Sommer

The course focuses on current Darwinian theories about the evolution of primate societies. About 250 species including humans belong to this mammalian order. Like all animals, they are faced with the problems of how to survive, breed and rear offspring. Some animals do better in this regard than others - they have a higher reproductive success and their genetic information is more frequently represented in future generations. The social behaviour of primates is particularly complex and can be viewed as reflecting attempts to maximise genetic fitness. The course asks how primates organise their social and reproductive strategies to adapt to specific environmental conditions and how these challenges are reflected in their cognitive abilities. The course also creates awareness for the plight of our closest living relatives as their existence on this planet is increasingly endangered.

ANTHGH16 - Palaeoanthropology

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Anna Barros

This course introduces the fossil evidence for human evolution and its interpretation. Beginning with an introduction to techniques of species recognition and phylogenetic reconstruction, the weekly seminar will address the precursors to hominins in Miocene, the earliest members of the hominin lineage, australopithecines, the origins of the genus Homo, the spread of Homo out of Africa, the appearance of Neanderthals, and the origins of our own species, Homo sapiens.The laboratory sessions aim to familiarize you with (1) the relevant comparative anatomy, (2) the casts of the relevant fossils, and (3) the methodology and techniques necessary to interpret the fossil material.

ANTHGS03 - Risk, Power and Uncertainty

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Allen Abramson

This course sets out to explore risk, power and uncertainty. Why so? Because, increasingly, late modern settings come to be specified and evaluated in terms of the hazards, risks and uncertainties they appear to generate: more so, perhaps, than the inequities, oppressions and alienations that formerly characterised the social analysis of modern malaise. The extent of this shift; the reasons for it; the place of power in its operation; its socio-cultural (and indeed, cosmological) implications are all matters of controversy that need to be rigorously examined. The course begins with a brief survey of pre-modern notions of fate, destiny and magical protection; moves onto consider key contributions in the anthropology of risk (Douglas); assesses the applicability of the concept of 'chaos' in socio-cultural anthropology; and concludes with a critical examination of the sociology of 'the risk society' (Beck) and associated ideas. The second part of the course tackles a series of special issues chosen from areas of science, environment, medicine, politics, marginality, material culture, art, finance, gambling and extreme play. It is intended that the course will link together social, biological and material cultural trends in contemporary anthropology.

ANTHGS16 - Anthropology of Nationalism, Ethnicity and Race

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic

This course focuses on theories and practices of ethnicity, race and nationalism. The reading material is divided between theoretical work on these issues and a variety of ethnographic examples. Though most of the readings are contemporary, historical sources will be used as well. The course will combine lectures, seminar discussion, student presentations, and a few relevant films. Attendance at all sessions is a requirement.

ANTHGS17 - Documentary Film and the Anthropological Eye

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Mark Le Fanu

Through the presentation of a range of ethnographic, documentary, fiction and ‘current affairs/news’ films (including historic material) we will explore the ways in which film can frame and convey ethnographic investigation. We will look at the basic possibilities and limitations of film for going beyond traditional written ethnography to communicate the significance, style and substance of other modes of life as well as considering film as a distinct means to explore social interaction through what you might describe as its ‘call to performance.’

Against the grain of current trends, rather than read films ‘intertextually,’ or as part of a closed world of ‘discourse’ we will endeavour, together, to discover the historical and social contexts in which filmic ethics and aesthetics have developed. It has become fashionable to lament a past when ethnographers were ‘orientalists.’ One of the dangers of such interpretive strategies is that they tend to glorify ourselves in a distorted mirror of ‘post modern otherness’. This course will encourage you to question such naïve (and patronising) approaches.

ANTHGS20 - Practical Ethnographic and Documentary Filmmaking

PG Lecture - Timetable

Vikram Jayanti & Richard Curling

The course will train students in the practical and creative skills of video and digital technology to represent and document social and ethnographic research to a broadcast standard. Each student will be assessed on the quality of a 10-15 minute short documentary to be devised, shot and edited during the course by each student. This course will entail a lab fee for UCL students of £1,025 on top of any fee for a Masters degree to cover the staff costs of putting on this course. Students will have full access to the UCL Anthropology Audio Visual lab with 11 Final Cut Pro enabled Macs as well as cameras for the duration of the course. Students and others from outside UCL may take this course, for an unsubsidised rate of £1,500. Students who bring their own cameras will be reimbursed £180. 

If you wish to take part in this module, either as a part of your Masters degree at UCL or otherwise, you will need to make a £500 deposit to secure your place. The deposit is strictly non-refundable, so please only make the payment if you are fully committed to taking the module. To make the deposit please contact Paul Carter-Bowman (p.carter-bowman@ucl.ac.uk).


Term 2 Options


ANTHGC12 - Anthropology of the Built Environment

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Victor Buchli

Buildings are good to think. This course will explore anthropological approaches to the study of architectural forms. It will focus primarily on the significance of domestic space and public private boundaries, gender and body, the materiality of architectural form and materials and the study of architectural representations. The course will be structured chronologically beginning with early anthropological encounters with built forms and the philosophical, historical and social context of these approaches up to the present day within anthropology.

ANTHGC13 - Anthropology of Art and Design

PG Seminar - Timetable

Prof Susanne Kuechler

The course is aimed at those who wish to deepen their understanding of the material in visual culture. It provides an overview of 19th century theory of style and reveals the long shadow it cast on contemporary art. Both theoretically and materially, the course will focus on 'assemblage' art, tracing phenomena such as the 'scrap-book', collage, and recyclia in western culture as well as contemporary 'non-western' examples as found mainly in the culture of Voodoo, and in the cultures of Oceania.

ANTHGC21 - Social Construction of Landscape

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Prof Chris Tilley

Landscapes are never inert: people engage with them, re-work them, appropriate them and contest them. They are part of the way in which identities are created and disputed. Criss-crossing between history and politics, social relations and cultural perceptions, landscape is a ‘concept of high tension’. It is also an area of study that blows apart from conventional boundaries between disciplines. This course looks at the number of theoretical approaches to the Western Gaze; colonial, indigenous and prehistoric landscapes; contested landscapes; and questions of heritage and ‘wilderness’.

ANTHGD10 - Anthropologies of Science, Society and Biomedicine

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Sahra Gibbon

This course will critically engage with recent anthropological research and theory addressing the social and cultural context of novel developments in the field of genetics, biotechnology and the life/medical sciences.  These shape shifting arenas of science and technology and their actual or predicted implications for questions of disease risk, collective/individual identity and the politics and ethics of health care has been the focus of much recent research within medical anthropology, STS (Science and Technology Studies) and the anthropology of science.  The course incorporates emerging research in different national contexts that include the ‘global south’ drawing on ethnographic work in Asia and South America to provide a critical comparative perspective on these transnational developments. 

ANTHGD11 - Anthropology and Psychiatry

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Prof Roland Littlewood

Through a series of seminars involving personal reading and presentation, the course examines (a) popular understandings of psychology, self-hood and abnormal experience in different societies, and how they may be organised into a body of knowledge; (b) the relationship between popular and professional notions of "mental illness" and their roots in the wider social, economic and ideological aspects of particular societies, with particular respect to women and minority groups; (c) the contribution of academic psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis to social anthropology.The subjects include the development of colonial psychiatry and of ethno psychiatry; the experience and classification of sickness and dysphoria; is therapy universal?; the cultural specificity of abnormal experience and social response; psychoactive substance use; the self, its body and its emotional states; gender and mental illness; racism and mental illness-symbolic embodiments; psychoanalysis and anthropology.

ANTHGD21 - Ritual Healing and Therapeutic Emplotment

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Joe Calabrese

This course covers ritual healing practices and "emplotment" in therapeutic narratives in small scale societies and in modern biomedical settings. It will include discussions of ritual, symbolism, narrative, clinical care, postcolonial revitalization movements, spirit possession, and the social production and ethnographic description of healing experiences in sociopolitical context. The course will combine the perspectives of medical anthropology, psychological anthropology and the social anthropology of religion and ritual.

ANTHGE06 - Anthropology of Development

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Marc Brightman

The course will cover major topics in the anthropology of development. The course will look at debates about the aims and purpose of development and consider questions about what makes a good society and what is ‘good change’.  This will be contrasted with the actual workings of the development industry in the context of greater processes of international political economy and globalization. The course will explore anthropological critiques of development from a wide range of angles and variety of scales (international, national, local, project). It will use a broad range of ethnographic material to look at both the workings of the development industry and its impacts on the people it seeks to benefit.

ANTHGH02 - Advanced Human Evolution – Evolution of Social Behaviour using Comparative Methods

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Kit Opie

Comparison is fundamental to evolutionary anthropology. This course will explore the use of comparative methods to investigate the evolution of social behaviour in primates, hominins and modern humans. In particular we will focus on the use of the latest phylogenetics methods (using family trees of the relationships between species or cultures) to test evolutionary hypotheses about the origin and drivers of change in social systems. ‘Tree thinking’ is one of the new approaches currently gaining ground in evolutionary anthropology, and these methods have already been used to study many aspects of social behaviour including: the evolution of primate mating and social systems, hominin dietary adaptation and brain evolution, and the evolution of political and kinship systems. There will be a practical session to learn the basics of the new phylogenetic techniques.

The course will be assessed by a 3,000-word essay.

ANTHGH04 - Statistics2

PG Lecture - Timetable

Dr Lucio Vinicius

This module is being created specifically for students in the MSc Human Evolution and Behaviour. It is an optional module designed as an optional course complementary to the compulsory Statistics 1 offered in Term 1.

The module builds on the basic material introduced in Tem 1 and introduces students to more advanced statistical technique such as analysis of covariance, multivariate statistics (PCA, determinant and cluster analysis), logistic regression, survival analysis, non-linear regression, phylogenetic regressions and others.

ANTHGH14 - Human Behavioural Ecology

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Andrea Migliano

This course is about the evolution of behaviour in humans. It examines how much of the variation in human behaviour can be understood in terms of maximizing reproductive success in different ecological and social circumstances. There is increasing recognition that Darwinian approaches can contribute to our understanding of human demography, health, psychology and culture, in hunter-gatherer, traditional and modern agricultural and post-industrial societies. The course will cover those aspects of our behaviour and life history that have parallels in numerous species, and also those that are uniquely human (such as menopause and the demographic transition), including how cultural evolution has influenced our behaviour.

ANTHGH17 - Primate Evolution

UG Lecture; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Christophe Soligo

The course will focus on key events/phases of primate evolution, from the origin of the order through to the modern day.  Specific topics will be chosen each year following the latest developments in the field, but will tend to focus on central issues, in particular the environmental and chronological context of major clade diversifications and the ways in which environmental variability has shaped aspects of primate evolution.  As such, the module will aim to communicate knowledge of issues of key current interest including the natural patterns of environmental change and past biotic responses to such change in primate evolution.

ANTHGS13 - Cosmos, Society and the Political Imagination

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Allen Abramson, Dr Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic, with guest seminars by Prof Bruce Kapferer

How do people’s varied ways of imagining the cosmos and their position within it frame the ways in which they live? And what difference do these ‘cosmologies’ make to the way anthropologists might imagine different social realms, such as economic arrangements, political ideologies, or religious practices? Exploring the significance of cosmological thinking in a variety of social settings, this course addresses such themes as mythology, ritual, and cinema as prime sites for imagining the horizons of life and the cosmos; the roles of science and secularism in contemporary society and their relationship with religious discourses; the role of cosmological ideas in political activism and discourse; the cosmological horizons of modernity, capitalism, and neoliberal economies. The course is co-taught by Allen Abramson and Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic, and will involve guest lectures by Bruce Kapferer, one of the leading anthropologists of cosmology of his generation. Solid background knowledge of social anthropology will be assumed.

ANTHGS21 - Statistics and Causal Analysis for Qualitative Social Scientists

PG Lecture - Timetable

Dr Lucio Vinicius

This course introduces statistics and the R language from their very basics. The course assumes no background knowledge of either statistics or statistical software. Topics covered in the first module (Term 1) include an introduction to statistics in R, distributions, hypothesis testing (t-tests, proportion tests, ANOVA), correlation, linear regression, multivariate statistics (multiple regression, PCA, discriminant analysis) and logistic regression. The second, more advanced module (Term 2) introduces survival analysis, Poisson regression, non-linear curve fitting, phylogenetic methods, mixed effects models, and multilevel analysis. It is expected that at the end of the two modules students will be familiar with the quantitative methods most frequently used in Anthropological research.

ANTHGS23 - Temporality, Consciousness and Everyday Life

PG Seminar - Timetable

Prof Charles Stewart

This course examines the different social modes and states of consciousness through which knowledge of the past may be gained in world societies, while recognizing that views of the past are necessarily conditioned by present experiences and intimations of the future. In the West, rational research into documents and artifacts is generally accepted as the authoritative means of knowing the past. Yet even within Western societies people may contest official history with alternative accounts of the past deriving from personal revelations sometimes received in altered states of consciousness. In various societies from the Pacific to the Arctic the elders possess exclusive authority to pronounce upon what happened in the past. Amongst the First Nations of Canada, in the absence of written sources documenting the ownership of land, a shaman may be called upon to dream the truth of the past.

ANTHGS25 - Practical Documentary Filmmaking (Lab-based)

PG Lecture - Timetable

Sandhya Suri

The course will train students in the practical and creative skills of video and digital technology to represent and document social and ethnographic research to a broadcast standard. Each student will be assessed on the quality of a 10-15 minute short documentary to be devised, shot and edited during the course by each student. This course will entail a lab fee for UCL students of £1,025 on top of any fee for a Masters degree to cover the staff costs of putting on this course. Students will have full access to the UCL Anthropology Audio Visual lab with 11 Final Cut Pro enabled Macs as well as cameras for the duration of the course. Students and others from outside UCL may take this course, for an unsubsidised rate of £1,500. Students who bring their own cameras will be reimbursed £180. 

If you wish to take part in this module, either as a part of your Masters degree at UCL or otherwise, you will need to make a £500 deposit to secure your place. The deposit is strictly non-refundable, so please only make the payment if you are fully committed to taking the module. To make the deposit please contact Paul Carter-Bowman (p.carter-bowman@ucl.ac.uk).

ANTHGS28 - Anthropology of China

UG Lectire; PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Kimberly Chong

China has been in transition from the long rule of Mao Zedong since 1978 when policies of ‘reform and opening-up’ were introduced. In this course the reform era will be analysed through a variety of themes, including education, social stratification, urbanisation, economic transformations and modernity. Throughout we will pay particular attention to the impact of top-down policies – such as the creation of special economic zones, the continued imposition of the household registration system, and family planning rules (the “one-child policy”) – on the everyday lives of Chinese people.

ANTHGM03 - The Anthropology of Social Media

PG Lecture and Seminar - Timetable

Dr Elisabetta Costa

This course presents the results of a nine site comparative study of Social Media called the Global Social Media Impact Study. It uses this material to consider the nature, use and impact of social media, the potential of comparative anthropology, the dissemination of anthropological research and conclusions, and the implications for general anthropological questions about the nature of humanity and technology.

ANTHGT03 - Mass Consumption and Design

PG Seminar - Timetable

Dr Adam Drazin

The course examines the key historical literature on mass consumption and critical approaches to the theory of culture as a form of objectification. We then evaluate the ways in which the paradigm of design as a cultural field continues or replaces the paradigm of consumption in social relationships and identities. The course covers ethnographic studies of the role of goods in everyday life, as well as examinations of the role of corporations and multinationals and goods as mediators of their presence in social life. (The course replaces, and partly continues, the older option in media and mass consumption)



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