Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH3337: Anthropology of the Body

Department: Anthropology

ANTH3337: Anthropology of the Body

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


  • ANTH2051 Politics and Economics OR ANTH2161 Kinship and Religion OR ANTH2141 Global Health and Disease


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of how socio-cultural anthropologists have understood the relationship between life as a social phenomenon and the body as a material reality.
  • To engage critically with contemporary research about bodies and embodied experience as socially contingent phenomenon.
  • To evaluate the extent to which study of the body can provide insights into contemporary experience, questions and problems of both a global and local scale.
  • To explore the implications of understanding socio-cultural anthropology as a fundamentally embodied practice.


  • Key theoretical paradigms in socio-cultural anthropology addressing life as a material and embodied phenomenon.
  • Contemporary ethnographic and theoretical engagements with the body as locus of social meaning and experience. Indicative topics might include:
  • Body size, shape and modification - the aesthetics of class and inequality
  • Death and dying
  • Religion, faith and spirituality as embodied experience.
  • Understanding place through bodily movement.
  • Anthropologies of disability.
  • Commodification and circulation of bodies and body-parts.
  • Skin and boundaries – where bodies end and begin.
  • The senses as socially contingent.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of key theoretical paradigms in the anthropology of the body, and relevant critiques of these paradigms.
  • Deploy theoretical approaches to critique contemporary ethnographic research, and use contemporary research to critique established paradigms of embodied experience as socially contingent.
  • Apply anthropological approaches to contemporary questions and contexts in students’ everyday lives and beyond.
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the course, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of anthropological approaches to life as embodied and material.
  • Apply key skills (see below) to core concepts and debates in the anthropology of the body.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the course, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate competence in the preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written and oral form.
  • Reflect on the socially contingent nature of their own embodied experience, and on the embodied nature of their knowledge of the world.
  • Link anthropological theory on the body to contemporary events beyond the classroom.
  • Re-evaluate ethnography and theory in light of contemporary events and dynamcis.

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

  • Lectures will provide students with an outline of key knowledge, approaches and debates in the anthropology of the body, will discuss literature that students should explore, and will provide relevant examples of links to contemporary events and questions.
  • Seminars will explore ideas introduced in lectures in further detail, examine their relevance to different ethnographic contexts, and consider how they might be applied to contemporary events and dynamics.
  • Interactive components (for instance blog posts, vlogs and message boards) will provide students an opportunity to develop and communicate their own thoughts and ideas with feedback from their peers. Interactive peer-to-peer technologies may be used in formative assessment.
  • 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
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:

Short assignment analysing contemporary events and dynamics through anthropological approaches to the body, and vice versa (750 words or audio/visual equivalent).

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