Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH30N7: Anthropologies of Knowledge

Department: Anthropology

ANTH30N7: Anthropologies of Knowledge

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • ANTH2051 Politics and Economics OR ANTH2141 Global Health and Disease


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To understand and critically assess key anthropological approaches to knowledge
  • To understand how knowing happens as a social practice
  • To comparatively assess how ethnography helps illuminate the creation and contestation of knowledge in different domains
  • To critically interrogate how the authority of expertise is shaped and contested through wider assumptions, cultural contexts and social practices.


  • Key theoretical approaches to knowledge in social anthropology (including relevant insights from cognate disciplines including STS), including Foucaultian, Actor-network-theory and practice-based approaches.
  • Shifts in wider orientations to expertise, from mid-twentieth century scientific and technological rationalism to post-structuralism, ‘post-truth’ and decolonial perspectives.
  • Enlightenment and post-enlightenment approaches
  • The ‘social life’ of expertise
  • Contemporary ethnographic studies of knowledge as ways to understand the politics of expertise.
  • Critical reflections on anthropology and ethnography as a forms of knowledge.
  • Case studies of knowledge as social practice, including in relation to Science, Art, Architecture and Creativity, Heritage, Policy and Planning and International Development.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand key theoretical paradigms in the anthropology of knowledge
  • Appreciate how the authority of specific regimes of knowledge is constructed and contested in particular social and historical contexts
  • Demonstrate critical awareness of anthropology and ethnography as specific forms of knowledge, associated with particular forms of authority.
  • Apply anthropological approaches to contemporary questions regarding the problems and possibilities of expertise.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Link conceptual frameworks to specific ethnographic cases, and appreciate how conceptual possibilities expand from these examples.
  • Demonstrate reflexive awareness of the ways in which students’ own knowledge is situated and shaped by their own individual circumstances and the social contexts they inhabit.
  • Competence in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature.
  • Reflect on the socially contingent nature of knowledge, including the forms of knowledge that shape their own experiences of the world • Link anthropological theories of knowledge to contemporary contexts beyond the classroom.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate competence in the preparation and effective communication of different conceptual approaches
  • Demonstrate ability to synthesize, describe and critically assess the merits of different approaches.
  • Interpret different theories in light of other competing theories and understand the assumptions that underpin these differences.
  • Link ideas to the social contexts in which these developed.
  • Demonstrate competence in appropriate bibliographic referencing
  • Demonstrate competence in ability to structure narratives in a clear and logical way.

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

  • Lectures introduce key approaches, debates and ethnographies in the anthropology of knowledge and cognate disciplines.
  • Seminars explore ideas introduced in lectures through key ethnographic and conceptual readings, and reflect on their relevance to contemporary situations.
  • Preparation for seminars and reading time will allow students to develop their understanding of material prior to seminars and written assignments.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Seminar 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

A summary and critical reflection on one key ethnographic reading in the anthropology of knowledge. Students will be encouraged to choose a reading that is relevant to their essay topics, in to use this as an opportunity to develop initial reflections on the topic (750 words).

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