An Anthropological Perspective Of Epidemics – Online

Writing in 2015, Yuval Noah Harari said we have managed to rein in plague, alongside famine and war (humanity's three great problems). We have, he said, transformed these problems from 'incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges' (Homo Deus, Vintage 2016). Is he right? How do our reactions to the current pandemic compare to those of people in other cultures and other times to similarly frightening epidemics?

Writing in March 2020, in the middle of Covid-19, Harari acknowledges that humankind is now facing a global crisis. This storm will pass, he says, but the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come (Harari, Financial Times 20/3/20). What are those choices? What are we learning about changes that are needed to make life safer? And what about changes that are wanted to make life happier?

This course will investigate beliefs about and responses to various epidemics across time and space. We will also consider likely and/or desirable changes to our post-Covid-19 way of life.

Who is this course for

The course is for anyone who is interested in finding out what Anthropology can contribute to our understanding and analysis of epidemics, including the current pandemic. You need a computer or tablet or phone that can run Zoom and access online resources. The only other requirement is that you are open-minded and prepared to contribute to discussion.

What does this course cover

By the end of the course you should be able to:
o Explain key features of an anthropological perspective on the current pandemic.
o Compare and contrast beliefs and behavior around various epidemics.
o Evaluate various social changes that could become part of our post-Covid-19 way of life.

What will it be like

Learning and teaching methods will include pre-reading/watching/listening in preparation for each Zoom session. The Zoom sessions will then involve discussion and activities, some in small 'breakout' groups, as well as tutor presentation. Follow-up materials will be available.

There is no formal assessment. Your progress will be monitored and supported through observation, and through discussion via email.

What else do you need to buy or do

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.

You can participate in class sessions through the use of a computer, laptop, tablet or other similar internet enabled device. Please note that if you only have access to a smartphone, you will be able to attend the class sessions and participate in them but you will find it more difficult to benefit from the full range of materials and activities involved in the course if this is your only means of connection.

Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session and that as far as possible that you can keep this space quite and clear of interruption so that you can concentrate on what is happening in the class.

You need to be able to access online resources provided by your tutor. You will be expected to read/watch/listen to some of this material, including PowerPoint presentations, before each class, so that you are prepared for discussion. This will help you to participate fully.

What this course could lead to

You could enrol on the other Anthropology courses beginning in the Autumn term, either Introduction to Anthropology or Anthropology of Advertising. You may also want to consider further courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences course offer, including courses in Philosophy, Psychology, History, Lietrature and others

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Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why choose Mary Ward?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’