Skip to main content


SOC3077 : Making People: Anthropology of Belonging, Life and Death

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Cathrine Degnen
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


How do we come to be the people we are? What are the key moments in life that shape personhood? What are the cross-cultural differences in the possibilities of the forms that personhood take? This module explores, through cross-cultural examples and by looking at different points in the life course, how notions of the person are reproduced and vary substantially through time and space.

Making People will explore the ways in which people are constituted through social relations and practices across the life course. This includes from before birth and during; via childrearing and caretaking practices; through skilled practices such as hunting and animal husbandry; during the pressures on selfhood in old age; at the point of death; and afterwards in regards to burial and remembrance.

The module will also introduce students to recent anthropological and sociological perspectives on transitions in the life course via a series of cross-cultural examples.

Finally, this module will develop students’ knowledge of theoretical debates in the social sciences over personhood and relationality, with particular regards to what these social practices reveal about the categories of nature and culture and ideas about the autonomous individual.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module introduces students to anthropological and sociological perspectives on transitions in the human life course. Rather than take an approach that simply describes discrete roles and stages, this module examines the life course via a focus on how people build relations with the world and each other at various crucial points across the life course. Such connections often come into focus at moments of extreme experiences (such as birth, rites of passage and death), but are also achieved through more mundane practices (such as eating, hunting, gardening, caretaking and remembrance). Whether extreme or mundane, all have profound consequences for social life, and this module considers instances of both using a number of cross-cultural case studies. Such transitions can be understood as moments in which cultural meaning is made, the category of the person is reproduced, social cohesion is maintained and at times challenged. The module explores these themes using theoretical perspectives that unite the biological and the social as well as look beyond ontologies that divide the world into human and non-human realms.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1100:00100:00Reading around lectures plus preparation and completion of assignment 1 and 2.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading88:0064:008 hrs preparation for each seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Seminars, assumes 4 groups of maximum 15 students.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Assessment preparation workshops to support students with essay writing.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00"Learning in the open" about practices of public commemoration via organised fieldtrip with ML.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery20:000:00Drop-in feedback sessions after each assignment, students come individually for 15-20min.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are utilised to introduce students to the scope of the subject, theoretical perspectives, and empirical evidence. They provide the narrative thread around which students’ own reading should take place. Seminars (small group teaching) are organised to encourage students to explore via small group discussion and prior reading their developing understanding of the cultural field, and to discuss how this understanding might be applied to analyses of a specific popular cultural form. The workshop is designed to enable students to prepare for their assessment via groupwork and discussion in order to discuss student plans for topic and strategies for accomplishing the essays. Assessment drop-ins are an opportunity for students to meet with the lecturer and discuss the feedback on their essays and on their exams so as to build on experience gained and improve future performance. The fieldtrip will be a hands-on session in the real world about practices of commemoration and memoralisation.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M502000 word
Essay2M502000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essays will permit students to explore one topic in some depth: read around the topic, draw from and organise sources to develop an argument, etc.

The assessments will provide evidence that learning has occurred and that learning outcomes have been met.

Reading Lists