Study Abroad and Exchanges



SOC1027 : Comparing Cultures

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


"This module introduces students to the ways in which anthropologists and sociologists have analysed and compared culture/s. It explores the concept of culture and debates surrounding the term, and introduces a number of issues in comparison. It starts by asking what is meant by 'culture' and explores how that question has been answered at different times by the cognate disciplines of sociology and anthropology. The module will work through themes such as:

• The conceptualisation of culture; the challenge of understanding cultural diversity; and the dynamics of cultural and social difference; the problem of ethnocentrism;

• The problems of representation; understanding and translation in ethnography and other intensive methodologies

• Ways of thinking about the social, political, spatial and temporal relations of culture

A range of cultural phenomena and media will be studied - including ceremonies and ritual, museums, films, music, television.

The module works through these questions through an exploration of a number of exampels of cultural institutions and practices which are each explored from an anthropolgical and a sociological perspective: family and kinship; social stratification and exclusion; language; reciprocity and exchange; the social life of art; and religion and ritual.

Outline Of Syllabus

"The module begins by asking how the notion of culture is understood by both sociologists and anthropologists. The second week introduces students to how the intellectual history of the disciplines shaped anthropology into the study of the 'strange' or 'other' (but not only), and sociology as the study of the 'familiar' (but not only). It then proceeds to work throgh key themes which are each explored from an anthropolgical and sociolgical perspective in individual lectures and in the seminars.

social stratification and exclusion;
kinship and the family
reciprocity and exchange
rites of passage and the life-course
language and communciation
Being in places, communities

In the final lectures the module returns to the history of each of the cognate disciplines to explroe critically how this history shaped potential political engagement and social critique of anthropologists and sociologists by attending to questions of social justice (soc) and cultural relativism (anth).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops81:008:00Film showing in second hour of one of the lecture blocks
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:004 x1 hr for assessed feedback.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1156:00156:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are utilised to introduce students to the subject, theoretical perspectives, and empirical evidence. They provide the narrative thread around which students’ own reading should take place. Seminars are organised to encourage students to explore their developing understanding of the concept in question, and to discuss how this understanding might be applied to analyses of a specific cultural phenomenon or popular cultural form.

Ethnographic films are used to exemplify particular phenomena under exploration and to visualise what the anthropological method of participant observation entails. Simultaneously they make anthropology’s goals apparent, and demystify the process of getting to know and making sense of unfamiliar cultural practices.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M261,000 words
Written exercise1M243 seminar reading short synopses (300 words each)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The unseen exam tests knowledge and understandings of the core concepts explored in the module testing learning outcomes. It obliges students to think on their feet to produce succinct arguments answering two essay-style questions.

The essay tests understanding by allowing students to create a reasoned argument regarding their chosen questions on module content. It allows practice of research, critical reading, synthesis of literature and the development of a sustained argument on the chosen topics.

The seminar reading synopses are short (300 word) reflective summaries of the reading set for a seminar. Students will be required to submit their write-up to the seminar leader when attending the relevant session. They have a choice of three topics from seven seminars; the first seminar introduces students to synopsis writing. Seminars facilitate the development of students critical reading skills and allows them to 'try out' their understanding of complex academic materials in order to develop skills in independent argument which supports academic development as well as preparation for the essay and exam. Each synopsis is worth 8% (=24%) of the final mark.

Reading Lists