Undergraduate Degree

The department offers an undergraduate degree: BA in Anthropology

Undergraduate Courses

First year Courses

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.

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.

Second year Courses

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. 

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.

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. 

Third year Courses

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.

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.

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.

Contact us for more Information

Undergraduate Degrees

For further enquiries contact Melissa Louw.

TELEPHONE:

+27 21 959 2336

EMAIL :

mlouw@uwc.ac.za

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