Introduction to Anthropology (daytime) – Online

A famous social anthropologist once described his job as being a sort of cross-cultural private eye, spying into peoples cultures instead of their bedrooms! Anthropologists look at very different societies, often finding different solutions to common human problems, for example the problem of how to obtain food or how to raise children, or how to explain sickness or understand what happens after death. Discovering these differences (or similarities) is fascinating and brings us to the essence of Anthropology - it makes us stand back and question our own assumptions. It shows that almost no piece of human behaviour is either natural or inevitable. On this course we will examine some of the ways people think and act in different cultures, including our own.

Who is this course for

The course is for anyone who is interested in finding out what Anthropology is and why it is useful. The only requirement is that you are open-minded, prepared to contribute to discussion and interested in people.

What does this course cover

This is an introductory course and the emphasis is on finding out about the subject by actually doing some Anthropology. That will involve examining the ways people think and act in different cultures, including our own. We will look for answers to key questions. What is Anthropology? what does it include? Why is it interesting? Why is it useful? How do anthropologists work? What problems do they meet? What are some of the major theories in the history of Social Anthropology and how have those ideas influenced our understanding of society and culture?

We will focus on one of the important organising principles in human society - reciprocity- examining what it means and how it works (or doesnt work) in different societies. Then, as anthropologists, will use the concept of reciprocity to investigate the institution of marriage across different cultures. What do we mean by 'marriage'? How widespread is it? How can we use the idea of reciprocity to help us understand the different rules and practices surrounding marriage? How diverse is marriage? Does cross-cultural comparison lead to deeper understanding of our own traditions and taboos?
Underpinning the course is an understanding that each individual brings into class his or her own unique set of assumptions and evaluations based on different beliefs and experiences, and that sharing these different perspectives enriches and deepens learning for all.

By the end of the course you should be able to:
- Explain what Anthropology is and what distinguishes it from other social sciences
- Recognise and question culturally determined assertions
- Identify and describe at least two of the key theories in the history of Social Anthropology
- Use an anthropological approach to investigate an aspect of culture

What will it be like

The course will be run online using Zoom for the live class sessions and either the Moodle page for the course or some other system for the distribution of the electronic resources for the session sitting alongside this. Although there will be some adjustments that need to be made for the online version of this course, we will aim to keep the experience as close as possible to that of a face to face course taught in the Centre.

Learning and teaching methods used include tutor presentation, discussion, small and large group activities, watching documentary film, research. There is no formal assessment. Your progress will be monitored and supported through observation and discussion.

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.

By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may occasionally be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes but any such recordings will not be made available to anyone outside of the Mary Ward Centre organisation without us asking you again for further permission to do so.

You only need paper and pen. You should read the material provided by the tutor. This will help you participate fully in class.

What this course could lead to

Students can enrol on the next course with Jo; 'Looking at Humour- an anthropological perspective'' starting in January 2020. You may also be interested in the Archaeology courses.

It's confirmed my interest in the subject & inspired me to pursue it further. Also has challenged many of my preconceptions.

MWC student

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.’