Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH2161: Kinship and Religion

Department: Anthropology

ANTH2161: Kinship and Religion

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • People and Cultures (ANTH1061) OR Being Human (ANTH1111)


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module builds on Level 1 modules introducing social anthropology theory and methods. It explores in greater depth themes which fall under the broad headings of kinship and religion. The module is an essential foundation for students wishing to study social anthropology topics at Level 3. More specially the module aims to:
  • Provide a cross-cultural overview of the theoretical and ethnographic importance of the anthropological studies of kinship and religion
  • Cover key theories of kinship and religion in social anthropology, supported by ethnographic case studies
  • Consider the form that religious and kinship practices take in a variety of different societies and communities and their relationship with beliefs, values and experience
  • Provide an in-depth and broad knowledge of kinship and its importance to human sociality
  • Examine critically the relationship between the practice of different religions and different forms of kinship for social organisation, identities, conflict and culture
  • Provide an awareness of how a theoretical and ethnographic awareness of these topics might help understand critical events and controversies in the contemporary world.


  • This module consists of two parts, kinship and religion.
  • The indicative content of kinship is:
  • Overview of key issues in the anthropology of kinship followed by coverage of some of the following major themes: kinship and the social structure of human communities; basic debates in the study of kinship and relatedness; anthropological approaches to relatedness.
  • The indicative content of religion is: Overview of key issues in the anthropology of religion followed by coverage of the following major themes: ritual and belief, religion and race; secularism; religion and gender.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand the role of kinship and religion in human societies, and the various ways it has been theorised by anthropologists.
  • Be able to demonstrate familiarity with a range of representative ethnographic cases (present and past, Western and non-Western).
  • Understand how to relate their personal experience of kinship and religion to the broader field of anthropological knowledge.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Have an understanding of the basic conceptual vocabularies of kinship and religion.
  • Be able to analyse the symbolic foundations of kinship and religious practices.
Key Skills:
  • Library research
  • Using kinship notation
  • Debating skills
  • Note taking
  • Essay writing
  • Critical reading and analysis.

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

  • Lectures and seminars introduce students to the material and enable discussion of it, informed by wider reading.
  • Lectures may include pre-recorded videos, live presentations, and/or interactive components as appropriate to the material covered from week to week
  • Seminars allow students to explore and discuss material from the lectures and readings in depth with their tutors and peers
  • Formative assessment is by two 300 word essay outlines .
  • Summative assessment is by two 2500 word essays (each worth 50% of the module mark).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Seminars 6 Three in Michaelmas and three in Epiphany 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 174
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 50% Yes
Essay 2500 words 50% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment is by two 300 word essay outlines

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