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Unit of study_

ANTH2700: Key Debates in Anthropology

Semester 1, 2022 [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 06 10 questions
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5
Assignment First essay
An argumentative essay analyzing a scholar's theoretical perspective
30% Week 08 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Possible sources for the second essay
A report on preliminary research for the second essay
10% Week 10 300 words
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO6
Assignment Second essay
An essay arguing for the contribution a chosen anthropologist has made
30% Week 13 1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Weekly writing assignments
Weekly reflections to prepare for discussion in class
15% Weekly 1200 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 A world in motion. Straight (2002) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 07 The politics of time, or What was globalization? Holtzman (2007); Kelly (1998) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 The politics of scale. Gupta and Ferguson (1992); Gupta (1995); Verdery (1999) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 09 Us and them. Malkki (1992) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 The government of cultures. Shah (2007); Appadurai (1998); Appadurai (1990) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 How can we decolonize the study of difference? Bamford (2004) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 12 Ontological politics. Blaser (2016); Blaser (2013) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 Indigenous cosmopolitans. de la Cadena (2010); Bessire and Bond (2014) 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.

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

Abranches, Maria. 2014. “Remitting Wealth, Reciprocating Health? The ‘Travel’ of the Land from Guinea-Bissau to Portugal.” American Ethnologist 41 (2): 261–75.
Appadurai, Arjun. 1990. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” Theory, Culture & Society 7 (2–3): 295–310.
———. 1998. “Dead Certainty: Ethnic Violence in the Era of Globalization.” Development and Change 29 (4): 905–25.
Bamford, Sandra. 2004. “Conceiving Relatedness: Non-Substantial Relations among the Kamea of Papua New Guinea.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10 (2): 287–306.
Barthes, Roland. 1972. Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation. Translated by Annette Lavers. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Bashkow, Ira. 2006a. “The Lightness of Whitemen.” In The Meaning of Whitemen: Race and Modernity in the Orokaiva Cultural World, 64-94+12pp (photographs). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2006b. The Meaning of Whitemen: Race and Modernity in the Orokaiva Cultural World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bessire, Lucas, and David Bond. 2014. “Ontological Anthropology and the Deferral of Critique.” American Ethnologist 41 (3): 440–56.
Blaser, Mario. 2013. “Ontological Conflicts and the Stories of Peoples in Spite of Europe: Toward a Conversation on Political Ontology.” Current Anthropology 54 (5): 547–68.
———. 2014. “Ontology and Indigeneity: On the Political Ontology of Heterogeneous Assemblages.” Cultural Geographies 21 (1): 49–58.
———. 2016. “Is Another Cosmopolitics Possible?” Cultural Anthropology 31 (4): 545–70.
Cadena, Marisol de la. 2010. “Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections beyond ‘Politics.’” Cultural Anthropology 25 (2): 334–70.
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.
———. 2009a. “A Tale of Two Ethnicities.” In Ethnicity, Inc., 86–116. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
———. 2009b. Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago 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.
Gupta, Akhil. 1995. “Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State.” American Ethnologist 22 (2): 375–402.
———. 2001. “Governing Population: The Integrated Child Development Services Program in India.” In States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State, edited by Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat, 65–96. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Gupta, Akhil, and James Ferguson. 1992. “Beyond `culture’: Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference.” Cultural Anthropology 7 (1): 6–23.
Holtzman, Jon. 2007. “Eating Time: Capitalist History and Pastoralist History among Samburu Herders in Northern Kenya.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 1 (3): 436–48.
Holtzman, Jon D. 2003. “In a Cup of Tea: Commodities and History among Samburu Pastoralists in Northern Kenya.” American Ethnologist 30 (1): 136–55.
Kelly, John. 1998. “Time and the Global: Against the Homogeneous, Empty Communities in Contemporary Social Theory.” Development and Change 29 (4): 839–71.
Malkki, Liisa. 1992. “National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among Scholars and Refugees.” Cultural Anthropology 7 (1): 24–44.
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.
Shah, Alpa. 2007. “The Dark Side of Indigeneity?: Indigenous People, Rights and Development in India.” History Compass 5 (6): 1806–32.
Smith, James H. 2011. “Tantalus in the Digital Age: Coltan Ore, Temporal Dispossession, and ‘Movement’ in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” American Ethnologist 38 (1): 17–35.
Smith, James Howard. 2008. Bewitching Development: Witchcraft and the Reinvention of Development in Neoliberal Kenya. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Straight, B. 2002. “From Samburu Heirloom to New Age Artifact: The Cross-Cultural Consumption of Mporo Marriage Beads.” American Anthropologist 104 (1): 7–21.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2016a. “Adieu, Culture: A New Duty Arises.” In Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World, 97–116. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
———. 2016b. “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. “Giving Proper Burial, Reconfiguring Space and Time.” In The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Postsocialist Change, 95–112. New York: Columbia University Press.

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.