Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH3927: The Anthropology of Ethics and Morality

Department: Anthropology

ANTH3927: The Anthropology of Ethics and Morality

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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the advanced study of cross-cultural ethics and morality
  • To explore the theoretical concepts with which anthropologists have engaged with the study of ethics and morality, from Durkheim to the present day
  • To demonstrate the ways in which anthropologists can learn from moral philosophy and moral philosophers can learn from ethnography
  • To showcase the new anthropology of ethics and the ways in which it obliges us to rethink some cherished disciplinary assumptions


  • The module will examine anthropological approaches to ethics and morality, beginning with Durkheim and proceeding more recently influential approaches such as those based on work in virtue ethical moral philosophy, the late work of Michel Foucault, and phenomenology.
  • Topics covered will include: conceptual resources in thinking about ethics; ethics in the spheres of kinship, politics, economics, and religion, and problems in thinking about the place of ethics, the subject of ethics, and ethical freedom.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge and intensive understanding in of cross-cultural approaches to ethics and morality.
  • Deploy analytical skills specific to social anthropological studies of ethics and morality.
  • Be competent in accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In depth knowledge of the anthropology of ethics and morality, with emphasis on interpretation and comprehensive understanding of primary or secondary data.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and effective communication of research methods, data, interpretation and arguments in written form.

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

  • Classes will integrate lecture and tutorial components.
  • Lecture elements will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and cases 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.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of tutorials and general and particular reading related to the assessment, which will be a written assignment (such as an essay or report).
  • Summative Assessment: 1x2500 word essay based on a question selected from a list drawn up by the lecturer and drawing on ethnographic and theoretical material from across the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Classes 15 Specified in module handbook 1 15
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

750 word position piece

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