Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Anthropology


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability
Tied to L6K507
Tied to C9K609


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To encourage students to explore the perspectives of evolutionary medicine and the critical appraisal of western biomedicine in the light of evolutionary theory.


  • Evolutionary medicine takes the view that many contemporary health issues are related to an incompatibility between the lifestyles and environments in which humans currently live and the conditions under which human biology evolved. This module explores the ways in which questions about health and disease can be reframed using an evolutionary perspective. Areas to be covered include reproductive health (e.g. fertility, pregnancy loss, menopause), infant health (e.g. colic, jaundice, SIDS, infant sleep, breastfeeding) and chronic disease (e.g. breast cancer, obesity and diabetes, allergies).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced knowledge of the theoretical perspective of evolutionary medicine.
  • Detailed knowledge of the evolutionary approach to understanding a number of health problems e.g. obesity, type 2 diabetes, allergies, sudden infant death syndrome.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Understand and explain the application of evolutionary perspectives to a variety of contemporary health issues.
  • Understand the value of a cross-cultural perspective in informing evolutionary medicine.
  • Be able to evaluate evolutionary explanations of health issues and be able to articulate how these might be tested.
  • Synthesise evolutionary theory with contemporary understandings of health.
Key Skills:
  • Written communication - the ability to convey the theory and detailed knowledge described above in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars - Core content is delivered through seminars, shared with Level 3 undergraduates. Some seminars are tutor led and some student led. Tutor-led seminars are used to deliver complicated theoretical material in an interactive manner, while student-led seminars require students to discuss their prior reading. There is an emphasis on the reading and critical appraisal of primary research literature. Seminars are used to deliver subject knowledge.
  • Tutorials: Students will attend advanced level tutorials which will allow them to apply the knowledge gained in seminars, archiving subject skills learning outcomes. Tutorials will consist of small groups of MSc students.
  • Formative essays will be used to consolidate student's ability to explain and articulate evolutionary perspectives on health, in preparation for the examination.
  • The summative exam will be used to assess student's ability to explain and synthesis their understanding of the course material, testing all the learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 5 2 in Michaelmas, 2 in Epiphany, 1 in Easter 1 hour 5
Seminars 20 Weekly during first 20 teaching weeks 1 hour 20
Preparation and Reading 275
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Unseen Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 2000 word essay in Michaelmas Term. One 2000 word essay in Epiphany Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University