Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH3327: Anthropology of Data and Quantification

Department: Anthropology

ANTH3327: Anthropology of Data and Quantification

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 OR ANTH2161 Kinship and Religion


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop an understanding of the production, analysis and use of quantified data as a combination of human and non-human practices, and to analyse these practices anthropologically.
  • To introduce students to wider debates in the anthropology and sociology of quantification, including situating contemporary data practices within larger trends in the history and philosophy of science and knowledge production.
  • To interrogate the role of quantified data in governance and relationality at multiple levels – at the level of the global, the national, the interpersonal, and the self.
  • To examine data practices through the lenses of imperialism, empowerment, and infrastructure.


  • The module takes an interdisciplinary approach – which will include resources from critical medical anthropology, social and cultural anthropology, sociology, history, and science and technology studies (STS) – to analysing data practices and infrastructures.
  • Topics may include: the production and use of data in constituting health problems and solutions, the rise of Big Data in global governance, situating contemporary structural data inequalities (e.g., statistical capacity) in larger histories of unequal flows of capital, algorithms as culture, and the Quantified Self and tracking devices.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding of anthropological and interdisciplinary approaches to the politics and culture of quantified data.
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to the anthropology of data.
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate in depth knowledge of data practices and infrastructures, the structural forces that shape them, and the contribution anthropology can make to deepen our understanding.
Key Skills:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Communicate complex theoretical ideas and their relationship with empirical research material through written work.
  • Show initiative to find resources on their chosen assessment topics and to apply those resources in the evaluation of theory.

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

  • Lectures and seminars will integrate lecture, tutorial, and practical components, the balance being dictated by appropriateness to the topic in question.
  • Lectures may consist of pre-recorded videos, live presentations, break-out discussions or other activities as appropriate to the material covered from session to session.
  • Lecture elements will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the anthropology of data and quantification, discuss the literature that students are required or recommended to read in preparation, and provide relevant examples and case studies.
  • Tutorial elements will develop topics introduced in lectures and required reading to analyse aspects or case studies in greater depth and to prepare students for their summative assignment.
  • Practical components will provide students with hands-on experience, allowing them to apply concepts and debates to cases in the world around them.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of classes and will introduce general and particular reading related to the assessment, which will be an essay.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Seminars 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:

An ‘in-class’ presentation and an essay abstract and outline, on the subject of the summative essay (500 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