First Year Handbook
First Year Timetable
AN151 Introduction to Anthropology (Dr Ela Drazkiewicz)
Anthropology, from the Greek anthropos meaning 'human' and logia meaning 'study', is the discipline that explores the full richness of human beings and their cultures, past and present. Anthropology is a comparative and theoretical subject, and here in Maynooth we place particular emphasis on the knowledge that emerges from anthropological fieldwork. Anthropologists do fieldwork, write ethnographic texts, and make contributions to a body of theoretical knowledge; we explore these distinctive styles of research and representation. In fieldwork, anthropologists gather information about people and places, creating diverse forms of data: interview transcripts, life histories, village diagrams, maps, kinship genealogies, grammars and dictionaries, photos, videos of rituals or political protests, recordings of myths and songs, material artefacts, and much more. The data anthropologists collect in fieldwork is made intelligible through its relationship to a set of questions within anthropological theory. So when writing 'ethnography,' anthropologists weave interpretations of these data into detailed descriptive analyses of social and cultural life, often hoping to yield theoretical insight. Through a close reading of ethnographic texts, and through the completion of small projects/assignments, in this module we hope to understand the unique sensibility guiding anthropological ways of creating new knowledge about the world
AN155 The Anthropology of Performance (Dr Steve Coleman)
This module will introduce students to the ethnographic study of cultural performance. Performance is central to the social life of societies, and research into performance is one of the most effective ways of understanding sociocultural dynamics in particular places. We will introduce ourselves to several theoretical concepts in performance studies, including framing, performativity, remediation, semiotics of performance, and recent extensions and critiques of performance theory. As part of the module we will also investigate the ways in which film and video have been used both as research tools for documenting and studying performance, as well as being important media of cultural performance themselves.
AN152 Introduction to Anthropology 2 (Dr Thomas Strong)
Everyone today is faced with an important question: how do we understand and relate to others who have very different beliefs about the world?
As a discipline, anthropology seeks to render the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. We often attempt to turn encounters with ‘foreign’ or ‘strange’ beliefs into occasions for creating fresh knowledge about social and cultural life, and into opportunities for gaining a deeper understanding of human beings. For example, in many parts of the world today, people live in fear of the malicious influence of those they believe to be witches. This module samples diverse contemporary and historical cases of witchcraft phenomena, including a famous Irish case, in order to introduce and contemplate fundamental topics of anthropological inquiry. By closely examining cultural difference and putatively ‘exotic’ beliefs, anthropology provokes us to question our own ‘taken for granted’ assumptions about the world.
This module continues the comprehensive first-year introduction to the discipline, covering a range of topics in which the problem of cultural difference comes into especially sharp focus. These include: moral and epistemological relativism, differing ideas about nature, the varied ways in which people around the world understand kinship, diverse systems for understanding affliction and healing, and cosmologies that posit the active influence of ancestral ghosts and spiritual beings in the everyday lives of people. Through an ‘ethnographic exercise’—a small fieldwork and interpretation project—students are encouraged to begin viewing social and cultural phenomena ‘close to home’ through anthropological eyes.
AN157 Clutter (Tara McAssey)
Netflix’s (2018) Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series marked a cultural moment where the ‘danger’ of clutter became a collective and pressing concern. The series advocated for a mindful approach for how we manage our surrounding material worlds and cast scrutiny on how we store, use and cling-onto our possessions and how they should ‘spark joy’. This course will examine this proliferation of popular interest into consumption and divestment practices focusing on a number of themes such as the meaning of material goods, how we construct our identities, upcycling practices, defining waste, design aesthetics and Instagram culture and alternative second-hand markets. Drawing on a range of sources including academic texts, personal memoirs, popular media content, internet memes, etc., we will engage meaningfully in anthropological discussion about this ‘clutter complex’ in contemporary times.
Second Year Handbook
Second Year Timetable
Essay coversheets for all modules can be found on the relevant moodle page.
While in your first year you had a set course of modules, in the second year we give you a wider range of options, so you have some choices to make. Your lectures will be a bit smaller, and also a bit more intense. By this time, we expect you to have the basics of anthropology under your belt, and to be ready to delve a bit more in depth into the subject. You will begin to have more opportunities to speak out in your lectures, and we will have higher expectations of your written and exam work.
AN221 Research and Writing (Dr Jamie Saris)
This module is a general survey of the main theoretical approaches in social and cultural anthropology from its early modern roots until the present. We will pursue a critical study of the schools of thought that prevailed within the discipline at different times and examine a selection of ethnographies that represent them.
AN222 Linguistic Anthropology (Dr Steve Coleman)
This module explores some of the ways we use language and speech to make and remake ourselves and investigates a few of the ways that social organisation, social relationships, and identity are mediated through talk.
AN229 Medical Anthropology (Dr Frank Szabo)
This course offers an introduction to medical anthropology. If sickness and suffering are universal aspects of the human condition, it is also true that disease and illness are always experienced within historically specific sociocultural frameworks. Putting sickness into social context, in this course we tarry with the proposition that disease is never just about biology. Rather, we view health and illness as produced by and within hybrid and dynamic 'biosocial' milieux, melding the somatic and the semiotic, culture and corporeality, body and mind. In exploring sickness across societies with an eclectic aetiology of this sort, medical anthropology takes seriously diverse ways of knowing and treating disorder, sometimes questioning (and sometimes supporting) the magisterial social position of Western biomedicine. This course thus explores mysteries and meanings of affliction and convalescence as occasions for considering some of anthropology's most enduring conceptual quandaries, tackling head-on questions such as: the epistemological status and ritual efficacy of both ‘faith’ and ‘science,’ colonialism and cultural confrontation, embodiment and the social construction of the body, medical power and (global) social inequality, the politics of reproduction and gender inequality, modernity and political economies of hope.
AN231A Area Studies II Africa (Dr Anne Fitzgerald)
This course aims at familiarising the student with definitive works that have led to the current representation of Africa in anthropology and social science circles. The course debates a wide array of classic and contemporary articles and books on the continent. In order to enable students to form their own perspectives, the course will be critical but not conclusive. The course will also be useful for those who are interested in early theoretical developments of anthropology.
AN232 Economic Anthropology (Dr Ela Drazkiewicz)
This module takes up and deals with all the controversial and “messy” parts of the economy that formal economics sets aside. Tough questions are posed about human nature, power and social life. Students will read in detail about the economic lives of people in many different kinds of societies, and about the major issues of poverty and development that shape the world. Economic anthropology is directly concerned with the most central anthropological issues of human nature, choice, values, and morality. This course gives students a solid basis for thinking about the different ways we explain human behaviour, thought, and culture and provides a foundation for applying anthropological knowledge to real-world situations.
AN227 Anthropological Research and Writing (Prof David Prendergast)
This course of lectures and tutorials explores how anthropological field research is designed and carried out in settings ranging from remote villages to urban settings, from organic communities of people to highly formalized organizations, whether in a foreign country or one's own native country. The course addresses how such research gets written up as ethnographies and how such ethnographies are read. Students will learn practical ethnographic field techniques by carrying out a field exercise in participant-observation, and will learn how to design an anthropological research project, including planning, fieldwork, analysis and write-up phases, by writing up a proposal for an actual research project (which they have the option of carrying out as a BA thesis in the third year). Moreover, students will learn the epistemological foundations of anthropological research, as well as the ethics of anthropological research.
AN228 Material Culture (Dr Pauline Garvey)
This module looks at anthropological approaches to material culture, from spectacular monuments of the built environment to the commodities that furnish domestic life. Through diverse ethnographies, we will focus on the active role of the material world to mediate, constitute and intervene in human relationships.
AN226 Psychological Anthropology (Dr A. Jamie Saris)
This course is designed to introduce the student to how the relationships between personal minds and socio-cultural phenomena have been approached by anthropologists over the past one hundred years or so. The lectures focus on how specific thinkers have understood the problem of the individual mind within various social-cultural contexts in pursuit of models of social analysis and understandings of individuals that might have some actual relationship to how humans variably fashion their lives in different times and places.
AN234 Anthropological Approaches to Poverty & Development (Dr Chandana Mathur)
This module tries to familiarise students with critical anthropological perspectives on global poverty and inequality, and the efforts to address it, using a core ethnography and shorter theoretical texts. It begins by considering the long historical process of the making of the contemporary Global South, and goes on to probe the exacerbation of global inequality in the era of globalisation. Excerpts from key texts by Worsley, Appadurai and Scheper-Hughes are among the readings assigned for the first segment of this module. The second segment is based on a close textual reading of the classic ethnography on the subject of development, James Ferguson's 'The Anti-Politics Machine'. This module is a standalone module offered in the Anthropology Department; it is also the second half of the elective stream 'Perspectives on Poverty and Development', which is a teaching collaboration between the International Development and the Anthropology departments.
AN237A Changing Legal Landscapes: Anthropology and the Law (Dr Anne Fitzgerald)
This module will explore the field of legal anthropology from its historical origins to contemporary debates on legal pluralism and human rights. A core objective of the course is to foreground law as a social process influenced by developments outside of the law. The course will examine the contested arenas of law and custom, crime and punishment and the disputing process.
Third Year Handbook
Third Year Timetable
Essay coversheets for all modules can be found on the relevant moodle page.
Third Year Anthropology takes you deeper into the critical theory and rich ethnography of the discipline. We challenge you with seminars developed out of our own anthropological field research and invite you to engage actively with the material, offering your own interpretations and theoretical explorations in your essays. There are no tutorials associated with Third Year Anthropology, but we periodically arrange writing workshops that encourage peer critique of your ongoing writing projects.
There is an option to spend a year at a university abroad. Students who choose this option are awarded a BA International degree.
AN301 Contemporary Theory and Ethnography I (Dr Pauline Garvey)
This compulsory course looks at contemporary theory and ethnographic approaches in anthropology.
AN302 Special Topics in Anthropology 1 (Future Imaginations: The Anthropology of the Future and Perceptions of Time) (Stuart Lang)
Anthropology has typically been a discipline focused on the past, but throughout its history there have been those who have looked forward in time. In this module, students will learn about how people think about the future and how this impacts the present. We will also explore multiple visions of the future and how each of these are informed by both the past and the present. Themes including science-fiction, dystopic and utopic thinking, and the perception of time will be part of the discussion within this module. Using a number of anthropological texts, students will critically engage with the themes of the module to gain a better understanding of how we as humans think about the future and our place in it.
AN307 Thesis Draft (Tara McAssey)
This course involves the preparation and writing up of data collected for a B.A. thesis.
AN342 Anthropology, User Experience and Service Innovation (Dr Mary Galvin)
This module explores service innovation through the context of human experience. It will equip undergraduate students with the transferable skillset required to bridge academic learning with the applied contexts of UX research practitioners. Students will explore user experience in terms of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Using methods such as design ethnography, experience-centred design and co-design, students will develop a toolkit for capturing experience across a range of societal and organisational issues. This module will illustrate how students can create innovative ways of responding to these issues, bringing about positive change through evidence-based practices. Major international organisations are seeking individuals who can bring creative but also critical responses to problem-solving. This module will expose students to the potential of innovation to initiate or manage change in the design of private and public sector products and services, while also reflecting on public good and societal responsibility.
AN338 Anthropology & the Environment (Dr Chandana Mathur)
The anthropologist Eric Wolf coined the term 'political ecology' in 1972. Since then, anthropologists have made significant contributions to the interdisciplinary field of political ecology, exploring the networks of power underlying human-environment relationships. This module will familiarise students with these contributions, theoretical as well as ethnographic.
AN343 Contemporary Theory and Ethnography II (Dr Ela Drazkiewicz)
THE ANTHROPOLOGY of ORGANISATIONS and EXPERT CULTURES: from NGOs, through state bureaucracies and international institutions, to corporate worlds Is bureaucracy the art of making possible impossible? Is good policy un-implementable? Are all bureaucrats incompetent villains who never answer a phone? Is corruption and nepotism a universal problem? Is it a problem? This course will not give you a ready-made recipe to successfully navigate University Administration or Social Protection Services. It will not teach you how to fill out the forms and make successful claims in public and private institutions. However, it will help you to better understand the socio-cultural mechanisms that drive and shape modern institutions and organisational worlds. Using political and organisational anthropology we will unpack such issues as transparency, expert and audit cultures, policy-making and bureaucratic utopias. In the classes we will discuss examples ranging from the ethnographies of street-level bureaucracies (for instance Northern Ireland security services) to the powerful transnational mega institutions (such as the EU). We will also analyse bureaucratic manifestations of the commercial and non-profit sector and learn how to do ethnographic studies within organisations and with elites.
AN309 Globalisation (Prof Hana Cervinkova)
This course explores the concept of globalization, which has come to dominate the social sciences in the last two decades. We will begin with a consideration of the existence and definition of the concept and proceed to discuss its key principles: homogenization; hybridization; cross-cultural consumption; disappearance of home; de-territorialization of culture and demise of state borders. The Course will also take a critical look at the alleged promises of globalization and its possible alternatives.
AN341 Anthropology Conspiracy Theories (Dr Ela Drazkiewicz)
In this module we will examine recent theory and ethnographies of Conspiracy Theories. At the time when Fake News is on everybody’s lips, and conspiracy has become the contemporary lingua franca, what can anthropologists contribute to the debate? In this course we will consider conspiracy theories through anthropological lenses. We will move beyond a normative approach and look for comparative angles. The objective is to take these theories and people who believe in them seriously, and examine what social functions does conspiratorial thinking play in the contemporary world? We will specifically examine why do people believe in conspiracy theories? How do conspiracy theories operate? How do conspiratory ideas travel, how are they born, but also how do they die? We will also grapple with such questions as: what is the difference between a Whistle Blower and a Conspiracy Theorist? Is there any?
AN318 Thesis II
This course involves the writing up and completion of a B.A. thesis.
AN336 Semiotic Anthropology (Dr Steve Coleman)
This module explores contemporary anthropological applications of Charles S. Peirce's semiotic theory. The concept of "semiosis" (the action of signs) is useful for understanding relations between human and non-human agency, between discursive meaning (as in language) and other forms of action and agency, and for understanding the qualitative, sensuous dimensions of culture and social life. We will explore the theoretical bases of semiotics as method and theory, and critically read a few recent ethnographies which focus on the relations between the "human" and "natural" realms.
AN339 Troubling Identities: Activisim & Anthropology Today (Dr Frank Szabo)
This seminar focuses a reflexive and critical anthropological lens on contemporary identity politics. The module samples historical genealogies of identities today, as well as philosophical, social scientific, and historical analyses of how ‘the self’ has come to be a key problem in contemporary society. We will review several of the dominant frameworks that shape contemporary identity politics, including multiculturalism and the politics of recognition, representation and cultural appropriation, inequality and intersectionality, and so on. Moving from the emergent norms and forms that make identity intelligible as a political problem, the seminar also focuses on activist strategies and tactics in this arena. Substantial attention will be given to anti-racist activism in Ireland, the US, and elsewhere, as well as to the mutating global politics of gender and sexuality, including especially queer and trans* perspectives.
Maynooth University is the only university in Ireland to offer a specialised degree in Anthropology. As such, you will have a unique opportunity to gain a thorough grounding in the discipline. Anthropology is divided into specialities that focus on particular areas of human experience, e.g. medical anthropology, economic anthropology, linguistic anthropology. As a student, you will be encouraged to make connections across these disciplines in your comparisons of cultures and societies. You will also develop writing and communication skills as you carry out research on a topic that you develop, and write a BA thesis.
As a specialised BA degree, Anthropology is taken with three other subjects in First Year, and with one other (minor) subject/elective in Second and Third Year. There is an option to spend a year at a university abroad, taking courses and doing field research for a thesis. Students who choose this option are awarded a BA Anthropology - International degree.
Take either 15 or 30 ECTS in Anthropology and then either 2 or 3 other subjects, 15 ECTS (credits) in each. A full year comprises 60 ECTS.
Take two subjects, a minimum of 50 credits in Anthropology plus up to 10 credits from the Elective stream or from another subject
AN 221: History, Theory, and Practice - 5 credits
AN 227: Research and Writing - 5 credits
Single Honours students are required to do a BA thesis in Third year, so you should begin to formulate your project while you are in Second Year.
Remaining Second year modules:
In addition to the compulsory modules, Single Honours Anthropology students must take at least another 40 credits in Anthropology, and up to 10 credits from the Elective stream or from another subject.
It is not necessary to take the 10 non-anthropology credits in the same subjects as were taken in First year.
You can take the full 60 credits in Anthropology or take only 50 credits in Anthropology and the remaining 10 credits in another subject (only recommended if you didn't take the elective stream in 2nd year but rather chose another subject to fulfill your 10 credits)
AN 307: Thesis I - 5 Credits
AN 301: Contemporary Theory & Ethnography I - 5 credits
AN 304: Contemporary Theory & Ethnography - 5 credits
AN318: Thesis II - 10 credits. It is highly recommended that Single Honours Anthropology students take a thesis in Third year.
Remaining third year modules:
In addition to the compulsory modules, Single Honours Anthropology students must take a minimum of 35 credits in Anthropology.