Introduction to Anthropology for Young Learners

Home Education Online Courses Introduction to Anthropology for Young Learners

Explore the captivating world of anthropology and discover what it means to live life as a human being in the world. The RAI General Anthropology Course offers a comprehensive introduction to the study of humans, both physically and culturally. Delve into topics ranging from human nature to cultural diversity, spanning different societies throughout history and across the globe.

This course is primarily designed for school-age students, including upper secondary, lower secondary, and upper primary students. It is suitable for those with an interest in pursuing anthropology as a degree subject, as well as students currently enrolled in or planning to pursue further education or vocational study.

 

Taught by: Tomislav Marić

Length: 10 x 1 hour classes

Start date: 27th September 2023, 6.30 – 7.30 pm UTC

Certification: Certificates of participation to be given upon completion of the course.

Price: We strive to make anthropology accessible to all, which is why we offer flexible pricing options for this course.

Individual student bookings are priced at £100, while school bookings below a group of 5 students are £75 per student. For school bookings of 5 or more students, the price is £50 per student. We are open to accommodating large school group bookings with customized pricing. Additionally, a limited number of bursaries are available. For more information on bursaries, please email education@therai.org.uk

Materials: All core readings are available online either through publically accessible websites or the RAI Anthropology Library, which students will be given access to once they are enrolled.

 

Book here

 

For any inquiries or further questions, please contact education@therai.org.uk

 

Key words: Social anthropology, biological anthropology, cultures, personhood, identity, boundaries, fieldwork, migration, globalisation, boundaries, applied anthropology.

This course is designed to explore what it means to be human in diverse societies around the world today, and how people interact with, and change, their environments. Anthropology is not the study of ‘others’ but is the study of everything human so we can attempt to explain the similarities and differences among people in the context of humanity. This is the anthropological imagination – to become aware of ourselves as much as of others, to make the everyday seem exotic. In a sense, we all “do” anthropology because it is rooted in a universal human characteristic – curiosity about ourselves and other people, living and dead, here and across the globe.

 

Tutor biography

Tomislav Marić is an experienced social science teacher at Betley Wood High School in London, UK. With a passion for anthropology, he pursued his studies in the field at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Tomislav is actively involved in the education committee at the Royal Anthropological Institute, contributing his expertise to the advancement of anthropological knowledge.

For nearly a decade, Tomislav taught anthropology A levels in secondary schools across London, nurturing students’ curiosity about the human experience. He has also made significant contributions to the field as a co-author of several textbooks, including “Introducing Anthropology: What Makes Us Human?” published by Wiley and the “AQA Sociology for A-level Book 1 and Book 2” published by Hodder Education.

With his extensive knowledge and teaching experience, Tomislav Marić brings a wealth of expertise to the RAI General Anthropology Course, ensuring an engaging and enriching learning experience for all participants.

 

Syllabus: 

Topic 1: What makes anthropology distinctive? What questions does it ask? Such as, is there such a thing as human nature?

Topic 2: The human species; where we came from in deep time; human unity and diversity; the physical and the social body and its transformations

Topic 3: Stages of personhood; passages through social life and social death; the gendered person

Topic 4: Systems of thought and communication; classification of the world; explanation of events with human consequences; moral systems such as witchcraft beliefs and their Western analogues

Topic 5: Identities, boundaries and groups; markers & symbols of identity; demarcating boundaries & defining groups; kinship as organising principle

Topic 6: Engagements with the natural world; cultural constructions of ‘nature’; contrasting views of human responsibility towards the environment and conservation

Topic 7: Movements of populations in the deep past and present; globalisation and its impacts; voluntary and forced migration

Topic 8: Development programmes and their local impacts; the anthropologist’s role in analysis and advocacy

Topic 9: Anthropological perspectives on world issues; global health; climate change; indigenous rights

Topic 10: The practice of anthropology; fieldwork & ethnography; ethical concerns; uses of anthropological knowledge in specialist areas such as forensic & medical practice

 


 

Futher information about this course can be found here:

 

Topic 1: What makes anthropology distinctive? What questions does it ask? Such as, is there such a thing as human nature?

Anthropology is a huge discipline that attempts to understand the entire human experience. It studies humans both physically and culturally, in the past and present, and in the Western and non-Western world. A central part of Anthropology is the fieldwork method (ethnography). Ethnography is the first-hand study of people and their culture.

Anthropologists use ethnographic fieldwork to help them develop a deep understanding of the internal logic of other societies, and to make sense of different forms of human behaviour. There are immense cultural differences between human societies and there may be much in other societies that strikes us, at first, as senseless or even immoral (e.g., sacrifice). Anthropologists must avoid “ethnocentrism,” which means the tendency to judge strange customs on the basis of our preconceptions derived from our own society.

Anthropology is not the study of ‘others’ but is the study of everything human so we can attempt to explain the similarities and differences among people in the context of humanity. This is the anthropological imagination – to become aware of ourselves as much as of others, to make the everyday seem exotic. In a sense, we all “do” anthropology because it is rooted in a universal human characteristic – curiosity about ourselves and other people, living and dead, here and across the globe.

Questions:

  1. What is anthropology?
  2. What do anthropologists study?
  3. What does it mean to live life as human being in the world?
  4. Why do people around the world live so differently and what do they have in common? And how can examining human diversity reveal alternative possibilities of how to be human and how to imagine our shared futures?
  5. What is ethnography?
  6. What is participant observation?
  7. How can anthropology help us understand the world today?
  8. What jobs can you get with cultural anthropology degree?

Topic 2: The human species; where we came from in deep time; human unity and diversity; the physical and the social body and its transformations

What makes us human? This question lies at the heart of the subject of anthropology. We begin by taking a look at how early humans diverged from other primates, examining some of the important physical changes that occurred as well as some of the features of human cultural evolution, including insights into new ways of understanding human evolution. It is possible to see that what makes us human are evolved biological characteristics that in many complex ways link to culturally evolved behaviours. One major key to the survival of human beings is their ability to adapt to their environment. This has been crucially important, given the major changes that have occurred in the environment at critical stages over the course of human evolution.

Culture relates to everything that humans do that goes beyond their biological evolution. It is informed and shaped by the material world that lies beyond them. However, the degree to which biology shapes human behaviour is much disputed. It might be useful to see culture as the way of life of a particular group. Humans are social beings, and it is only through their relations with other humans, species and inanimate objects that cultural characteristics become apparent. This topic is concerned with cultural universals, things that all social groups do, while at the same time exploring the different ways in which such cultural practices are manifest.

Anthropologists are also interested in the meanings and values that are attached to the body in different cultural settings. The body plays an important role in how we classify (put into categories) the world around us. This chapter looks at different relationships between the body and society. The body is seen to communicate a range of statuses, ranks and relationships. Bodies can be perceived as things to be beautified, fixed and adorned, and can be recognized, among other things, as male or female, black or white. Bodies can also communicate the effects of racism, neglect and abuse. Anthropologists have long been interested in ideas about the body.

Questions:

  1. How and when did Homo sapiens evolve?
  2. How similar are humans to other animals and in what ways are they different?
  3. What methods do we use to find out about early humans?
  4. What impact has humanity’s specific biological evolution had in terms of shaping our cultural evolution: what is the relationship between human biology and culture?
  5. How do humans use bodies to communicate differences between one another?
  6. What are the meanings of body modification and body image?
  7. What are the different anthropological theories about bodies?
  8. How does the body reflect the values and beliefs of the wider society to which it belongs?

 

Topic 3: Stages of personhood; passages through social life and social death; the gendered person

Every individual in the world has culturally specific views on what it means to be a person, when one becomes a person and when one ceases to be a person. Personhood is a ‘socially granted status, in varying degrees, to those who meet (or perform) socially sanctioned criteria for membership.’ Personhood may be conferred fully at one point in time, such as birth, or it may slowly develop over time as an individual is socialised, thought of, named, fed or included in specific rituals. Indeed, this process of deciding what it means to be a ‘normal’ person makes very clear what a non- person or an abnormal person is. The way that personhood is understood by a group can also affect the way that people define themselves as individuals or as part of a wider social group. At the same time, concepts of personhood reveal and underpin some of the most deeply rooted ethical principles. The concepts of personhood held by an individual or a group determine the way that individuals relate to animals, spirits and other entities such as cyborgs (short for ‘cybernetic organisms’: beings whose original human bodies have been more or less mechanized, sometimes featured in science fiction films; the term ‘cyborg’ is also relevant to medicinal advances in relation to transplants and artificial limbs).

In this topic we explore personhood from a number of perspectives, describing different concepts. In practice, these concepts are not necessarily clear or distinct. Concepts of personhood are not fixed in time: rather, they are continually being chal- lenged and renegotiated. Interestingly, new forms of technologies have led to a whole new set of debates over the boundaries of personhood, raising many issues about who should decide when someone begins and ceases to be a person.

Questions:

1. What does it mean to be a person? When does someone begin and cease to be a person? (Are there times when someone is a partial person?)
2. How do concepts of personhood vary in different cultures?
3. What is the relationship of an individual person with wider society?
4. To what extent did modernity lead to the development of the Western concept of personhood?
5. Who has the power to decide who is a person?
6. How might concepts of personhood result in tension between the state and individuals or families?
7. How do specific concepts of personhood shape the relationships of people with animals, cyborgs and other entities?
8. How are concepts of personhood challenged by technological developments?

Topic 4: Systems of thought and communication; classification of the world; explanation of events with human consequences; moral systems such as witchcraft beliefs and their Western analogues

Human beings classify the world around them in culturally specific ways. It is very impor- tant for anthropologists to understand the classification system of the particular culture they are studying. All classification systems have their own logic and ways of explaining events beyond people’s control, and they need to be studied in their total context. These ways of seeing the world vary enormously and shape the nature of language to some degree (how much language shapes culture and vice versa is an issue that remains disputed).

It is clear that globalisation and technological advances are having a profound and complex range of effects on language, from the loss of languages to emerging forms of language and communication, interpreted at global and local levels. Communication is a fluid, dynamic aspect of human culture that not only reflects individual and group identity but also shapes the nature of social relationships, which are explored further in this topic.
This topic looks at the variety of ways in which humans make sense of their environment. Human beings also appear to need to explain events beyond their control; a number of different types of explanations will be explored, drawing on a number of cross-cultural examples. There is much debate among anthropologists about the relationship between the ways in which people understand and explain the world around them – for example, the extent to which their language reflects a particular world-view. There is a lot of information to be uncovered in nonverbal communication and in new forms of communication. This topic will also consider the impact of new forms of technology on how people communicate.

 

Questions:

1. What is classification and why do humans classify?
2. How do people explain events beyond their control?
3. How do humans communicate and how is this different from other primates?
4. How did humans acquire language and why?
5. What is the relationship between culture and language?

Topic 5: Identities, boundaries and groups; markers & symbols of identity; demarcating boundaries & defining groups; kinship as organising principle

Identity can be defined as the process that informs the way in which people see themselves and the groups they belong to and also how other people categorize a person. Some parts of a person’s identity are unique to them and other parts are shared. Identity is a very widely used and important concept in many different academic fields, including psychology, politics, society and culture. In fact, identity has become a key topic in wider society today and is at the centre of many contemporary issues – wars, individual rights, ethnic conflict, gender and much more.

This topic takes a closer look at anthropological interpretations of identity. It discusses the ways in which certain resources may be used by individuals and groups in forming, negotiating and maintaining identity. Some of these resources, among them symbols, language, place, space and dance, are explored using a range of ethnographic examples.

One interesting aspect of the subject for anthropologists is the extent to which individuals themselves can shape their own identity, for example, through new forms of technology. There are, however, aspects of a person’s identity that may be impossible to shape or change.

Questions:

  1. What is identity?
  2. Which parts of a person’s identity are chosen and which are given?
  3. How is group identity interpreted and negotiated by the individual?
  4. What resources are used to shape identity?
  5. How is identity affected by technology?

 

Topic 6: Engagements with the natural world; cultural constructions of ‘nature’; contrasting views of human responsibility towards the environment and conservation

This topic explores some of the ways in which people interact with the natural envi- ronment and the cultural consequences of these interactions. There are many ways that people from different cultures formulate and answer the following questions. What is nature? What is human nature? What is the place of humans in nature? What should be the place of humans in nature? To what extent do humans need nature? How do the current environmental problems affect the human world?

Many anthropologists consider that the way in which people interact with nature is a primary indication of cultural differences and similarities. One important way in which people interact with the environment is by productive activities, which require labour, technology and natural resources.

Humans interact with their environments not only biologically; they do so through culture as well. Over the last half million years, hominids and modern humans invented tools that have enabled them to populate new environments without needing to evolve biologically. Houses, clothing and fire have permitted people to adapt to living in a very wide range of climates. All animals must meet the basic requirements for survival: they must obtain food and water, and to fulfil these requirements all human societies have developed forms of subsistence.

The environment is interpreted in different ways by members of different societies, who categorize it and organize it in their own way. Whereas the Western anthropocentric view was often to control the environment, other societies see themselves more as part of the environment, and so have a more biocentric view. For example, in the Ayurvedic system of thought, found in India, the components of nature and the components of humans are the same. Human populations have ongoing contact with and impact upon the land, climate, and the plant and animal species in their vicinity, and these elements of their environment have reciprocal impacts on humans. Cultural diversity has been the key to the adaptation and adaptability of the human species. Anthropological studies of nature show how the culture of various peoples is influenced by and interacts with their ecological surroundings. Individuals have an infinite ability to adapt to varying environmental conditions. In the present context of climate crises, human engagement with nature is more crucial than ever in overcoming the complete destruction of planet. Anthropologists are using their skills and knowledge to raise awareness as well as exploring culturally sensitive alternatives to current practices.

Topic 7: Movements of populations in the deep past and present; globalisation and its impacts; voluntary and forced migration

Globalisation is a relatively new term used to describe a much older historical process that began with humans moving out of Africa to spread all over the world. As communication and transportation become faster and more extensive, connecting more and more people around the globe, the world seems to get smaller. It can be argued that globalisation is really quite an old process, but that global awareness is quite new; awareness of being part of an interconnected global system was basically impossible to most of the people traditionally studied by anthropologists. The key features in contemporary globalisation are instantaneous communication and satellite television. As globalisation makes the world smaller, cultures that were once relatively distant and insulated from one another are increasingly coming into contact. The results of these encounters are diverse and often unpredictable. Anthropological approaches are distinct from those of other disciplines studying globalisation. They concentrate on a specific group of people and the meaning they give to what is happening in their lives and in the world around them.

There is greater migration today than ever before. According to UNHCR, there were 70 million international migrants in 1970, while today (2020) there are more than 200 million. With globalization, the opportunity and inclination to move is greater than ever. Environmental change, food insecurity and war, for example, all represent emerging sources of human displacement. In recent years the European Union has faced a mass influx of refugees from outside the region. Anthropologists have made significant contributions to the interdisciplinary field of migration studies.

Questions:

1. What is globalisation?
2. How do anthropologists study globalisation?
3. What are the key features or characteristics of transnational flows?
4. What is the impact of globalisation on different cultures?
5. To what extent does globalization lead to homogenization or cultural diversity?
6. What are the consequences of global economy?

 

Topic 8: Development programmes and their local impacts; the anthropologist’s role in analysis and advocacy

Studying anthropology opens doors to many fields of work and equips students with the skills and knowledge that are required in the twenty-first century. Organizations such as the World Bank employ anthropologists on all their development projects. Organizational anthropology saves businesses money and increases productivity, and UK firms have found that, given the cultural diversity of those who use their services, healthcare providers ben- efit from staff with anthropological training. This topic will explore what anthropologists do with their knowledge and experience of fieldwork and how they use their skills in many fields beyond anthropology.

Applied anthropology uses the theories, methods and ethnographic research of anthro- pology to explore and solve human problems. Applied anthropologists often don’t work in academic settings. For example, they might work in hospitals, business offices, govern- mental structures, nonprofits, amongst other settings. In these areas, the anthropologist applies anthropological perspectives, theory and cultural knowledge to assess the main issues for the benefit of users.
One of the most debated issues in anthropology is advocacy. It is understood that anthro- pology mainly involves understanding the world. Advocacy may be an emerging area of anthropology, but it has already raised much controversy. Is it the role of an anthropologist to try and change the world, or does their role end in understanding it? Should anthropol- ogists work as advocates for the rights of minority groups they try to study, and does this compromise their objectivity? Can research findings be authentic and objective? What is the role and responsibility of anthropological inquiry?

Questions:

  1. What is applied anthropology? How does it differ from anthropology that is not applied?
  2. What is the relationship between academic and applied work in anthropology?
  3. What is advocacy in anthropology?
  4. How can the theoretical concepts and research methods of anthropology enrich our understanding in the contexts of education, social policy, business and commerce and international relations?

 

Topic 9: Anthropological perspectives on world issues; global health; climate change; indigenous rights

Temperatures are increasing all over the world, resulting in increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. Humans are in the midst of the destruction of ecosystems at a level that has only occurred five times in the last half billion years. We are facing climate crisis, social turmoil on local and global scales, as well as changing political and economic systems. Anthropology has engaged with other disciplines to investigate the climate throughout its history. This section explores the response of anthropologists to the climate emergency, highlighting the discipline’s insights to climate and human interactions and arguing that anthropology can add important contributions to the investigations.

Questions:

  1. Should we listen to the farmers, fishers, and backyard gardeners who say they can see climate change happening around them, or should we leave that to the scientists with their ice cores samples and global circulation models?
  2. What would happen if we saw climate change as a local issue and not a global one?
  3. How can we effectively teach climate change to children?
  4. Do indigenous and traditional communities have something to teach us about how to weather the storm?

Topic 10: The practice of anthropology; fieldwork & ethnography; ethical concerns; uses of anthropological knowledge in specialist areas such as forensic & medical practice

An important difference between anthropology and other disciplines is the centrality of ethnographic methodology. This in-depth, detailed research goes beyond many of the methods found in other disciplines in that it involves so much personal involvement and commitment from the researcher. Anthropologists often spend long periods of time with the people whom they study, and this tends to be within the personal, private spaces of their lives. It is frequently through spending time with people, working, eating and laugh- ing with them, that important anthropological findings occur – more often than not, unexpectedly. Examples of ethnographic research are central here.

Anthropology as a discipline is unique in its commitment to explore human cultures. This chapter discusses only the research methods of social/cultural anthropology. Social anthropologists learn about the culture of another society most distinctively through fieldwork and first-hand observation in that society, although other methods are used as well. Anthropological research involves a range of methods, such as informal (unstructured)interviews, direct observation, participation in the life of the group, collective discussions, analyses of personal documents produced within the group, self-analysis, results from activities undertaken off- or online, and life histories over a prolonged period of time. These kinds of data are rich, detailed and qualitative, offering deep insight into the culture studied.

These methods are also applied in the newer anthropological subdiscipline of digital anthropology, which explores the impact of digital culture in everyday life. This topic looks at some of these research methods and at the practical, ethical and theoretical issues that are associated with them.

Questions:

  1. What is ethnography?
  2. How do practical, ethical and theoretical issues affect the choice of research method?
  3. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of using PO and unstructured interviews?
  4. To what extent is fieldwork an objective research method?
  5. How do digital environments and methodologies redefine ethnographic practice?