Skip to main content
Unit of study_

ANTH2700: Key Debates in Anthropology

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit introduces students to contemporary issues in anthropology and the world. Students will learn approaches to climate change, illness and well-being, human-animal relations, life in cities, new forms of media, work and welfare, inequality, poverty and development, the social life of new digital technologies, the changing character of the family, emergent forms of violence and domination and the new forms of protest and resistance that are occurring in the world today. The unit will provide students informed and practical approaches to contemporary social problems and an appreciation of the different cultural lenses through which they are understood.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ANTH2700
Academic unit Anthropology
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 1000 level in the Anthropology major
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ryan Schram,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Concept quiz
A test of basic concepts and terms discussed in the first part of the class
15% Week 04
Due date: 22 Mar 2021 at 09:00
10 questions
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5
Assignment Essay
An argumentative essay on an open question of theory
30% Week 06
Due date: 12 Apr 2021 at 09:00
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Take-home essay assignment
Essay answers to a choice of writing prompts on topics from the whole class
30% Week 13
Due date: 15 Jun 2021 at 09:00
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Participation Tutorial participation
Regular contributions to weekly tutorial discussions
10% Weekly n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Tutorial preparation journal
Weekly reflections to prepare for discussion in class
15% Weekly 1500 words total
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Assessment summary

The complete instructions for each of the assignments in this class is posted on the class Canvas site. The procedures for submission and what to do if you fall behind and need an extension on your work are posted there as well.


Assessment criteria

See the table “What the results mean” on the Student Guide page, “Guide to grades” for an explanation of your score:

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

Students have to submit all of the assignments in order to pass the class. Any missing assignments will result in an AF. The university policy for accepting late work, including late penalties, will be applied to students’ work. It is very important for students to keep in regular contact with their tutor about their progress in the class.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Two minds Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 02 Society as mind. Bashkow (2006); Hanks (1996). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 03 The savage slot. Trouillot ([2003b] 2016); Trouillot ([2003a] 2016); Wolf (1984); Gilberthorpe (2007); Stasch (2015). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 Close encounters. Sahlins (1988); Sahlins (1992); Sahlins (1996). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 05 Ethnic nations on a global stage. J. L. Comaroff and Comaroff (2009); J. Comaroff and Comaroff (1989); J. L. Comaroff and Comaroff (1990); J. L. Comaroff (1987). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 06 Cultural contexts for global forces. Englund and Leach (2000). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 Bonds and bondage. Ferguson (2013); Perry (2005). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 Revolutionary struggles. Abu‐Lughod (2012); Winegar (2012); Mittermaier (2014). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 09 States of affect. Verdery (1999); Malarney (2001). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 The city. Jaffe and Koning (2015); Chance (2018). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 A piece of the pie. Ferguson (2015); Bize (2020). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 A world of borders. Hoang (2017); Green (2011). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 Arts of resistance. Farmer (1996); Hewamanne (2010). Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

According to university policies, attendance is required in lectures and tutorials whether they are online or on campus, and tutorial participation is a part of your grade.

More importantly, though, your instructors and tutors want to get to know you as an individual and to help you and every student develop his or her own individual perspective on the field of anthropology. For that reason, we want to see you in class on a regular basis and to have regular (weekly) contact with each student to see how their thinking is developing.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings


Abu‐Lughod, Lila. 2012. “Living the ‘Revolution’ in an Egyptian Village: Moral Action in a National Space.” American Ethnologist 39 (1): 21–25.

Bashkow, Ira. 2006. The Meaning of Whitemen: Race and Modernity in the Orokaiva Cultural World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bize, Amiel. 2020. “The right to the remainder: Gleaning in the fuel economies of east Africa’s northern corridor.” Cultural Anthropology 35 (3): 462–86.

Chance, Kerry Ryan. 2018. “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: How Territorial Informality Builds Future Cities.” In Living Politics in South Africa’s Urban Shacklands, 85–105. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 1989. “The Colonization of Consciousness in South Africa.” Economy and Society 18 (3): 267–96.

Comaroff, John L. 1987. “Of Totemism and Ethnicity: Consciousness, Practice and the Signs of Inequality.” Ethnos 52 (3-4): 301–23.

Comaroff, John L., and Jean Comaroff. 1990. “Goodly Beasts, Beastly Goods: Cattle and Commodities in a South African Context.” American Ethnologist 17 (2): 195–216.

———. 2009. “A Tale of Two Ethnicities.” In Ethnicity, Inc., 86–116. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Englund, Harri, and James Leach. 2000. “Ethnography and the Meta‐Narratives of Modernity.” Current Anthropology 41 (2): 225–48.

Farmer, Paul. 1996. “On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below.” Daedalus 125 (1): 261–83.

Ferguson, James. 2013. “Declarations of Dependence: Labour, Personhood, and Welfare in Southern Africa.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19 (2): 223–42.

———. 2015. “A Rightful Share: Distribution Beyond Gift and Market.” In Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution, 165–89. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Gilberthorpe, Emma. 2007. “Fasu Solidarity: A Case Study of Kin Networks, Land Tenure, and Oil Extraction in Kutubu, Papua New Guinea.” American Anthropologist 109 (1): 101–12.

Green, Linda. 2011. “The Nobodies: Neoliberalism, Violence, and Migration.” Medical Anthropology 30 (4): 366–85.

Hanks, William F. 1996. “The Language of Saussure.” In Language and Communicative Practices, 21–38. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Hewamanne, Sandya. 2010. “Suicide Narratives and in-Between Identities Among Sri Lanka’s Factory Workers.” Ethnology 49 (1): 1–22.

Hoang, Lan Anh. 2017. “Governmentality in Asian Migration Regimes: The Case of Labour Migration from Vietnam to Taiwan.” Population, Space and Place 23 (3): e2019.

Jaffe, Rivke, and Anouk De Koning. 2015. “Introduction.” In Introducing Urban Anthropology, 1–19. London: Routledge.

Malarney, Shaun Kingsley. 2001. “"The Fatherland Remembers Your Sacrifice": Commemorating War Dead in North Vietnam.” In The Country of Memory Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam, edited by Hue-Tam Ho Tai, 46–76. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mittermaier, Amira. 2014. “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice: The Egyptian Uprising and a Sufi Khidma.” Cultural Anthropology 29 (1, 1): 54–79.

Perry, Donna L. 2005. “Wolof Women, Economic Liberalization, and the Crisis of Masculinity in Rural Senegal.” Ethnology 44 (3): 207–26.

Sahlins, Marshall. 1988. “Cosmologies of Capitalism: The Trans-Pacific Sector of "The World System".” Proceeedings of the British Academy 74: 1–51.

———. 1992. “The Economics of Develop-Man in the Pacific.” Res 21: 13–25.

———. 1996. “The Sadness of Sweetness: The Native Anthropology of Western Cosmology.” Current Anthropology 37 (3): 395–428.

Stasch, Rupert. 2015. “How an Egalitarian Polity Structures Tourism and Restructures Itself Around It.” Ethnos 80 (4): 524–47.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. (2003a) 2016. “Adieu, Culture: A New Duty Arises.” In Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World, 97–116. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

———. (2003b) 2016. “Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness.” In Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World, 7–28. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Verdery, Katherine. 1999. The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Postsocialist Change. New York: Columbia University Press.

Winegar, Jessica. 2012. “The Privilege of Revolution: Gender, Class, Space, and Affect in Egypt.” American Ethnologist 39 (1): 67–70.

Wolf, Eric R. 1984. “Culture: Panacea or Problem?” American Antiquity 49 (2): 393–400.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate a deep familiarity with the areas of social life that anthropologists examine through cross-cultural comparison and cultural immersion.
  • LO2. understand how contemporary anthropological arguments are constructed through analysis of relevant evidence and theory.
  • LO3. understand the various methodologies used in ethnographic research and how they can enable social and cultural insight and theoretical innovation.
  • LO4. demonstrate proficiency in the use of anthropological databases and scholarly literature relevant to research in the discipline.
  • LO5. use anthropological knowledge to inform and critique social scientific theories.
  • LO6. communicate anthropological knowledge through various media and to make a valued societal impact with that knowledge.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

This is a new class that has been developed as a requirement for anthropology majors to give them a firm foundation in the field.

Please see the class Canvas site for a comprehensive guide to the class, including a guide to each week’s topic, required readings, and recommended readings, and full instructions for each assignment.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.