Anthropology of Birth, Sex and Death
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2019
Friday 26 June 2020
01 August 2019
Requisites for this module
BA LL36 Social Anthropology,
BA LL3P Social Anthropology (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL6P Social Anthropology (Including Placement Year),
BA LL37 Social Anthropology with Human Rights,
BA LL38 Social Anthropology with Human Rights (Including Year Abroad),
BA LL39 Social Anthropology with Human Rights (Including Placement Year)
This module looks at some of the basic facts of human existences, birth, sex and death, from a cross-cultural perspective. All humans face these 'facts of life' but they do them in different as well as similar ways. The first part of the module looks at the human body and in particular how different peoples understand the process of procreation. To what extent are the body and bodily processes understood and experienced the same ways around the world? Are things that seem obvious to Westerners equally obvious to other people? How does culture affect how we experience and understand the body?
We will spend several weeks looking at gender and ideologies of gender and ask some broad questions about gender and power, specifically focusing on how these questions relate to issues of the body and birth and sex and death.
We finish the module with looking at death and the experience of death varies across cultures and why.
• To give students an appreciation of cultural difference;
• To challenge students’ understandings of key issues relating to sex and gender;
• To explore issues of power and ideology cross culturally.
• To examine issues, experiences, and rituals surrounding birth, sex and death across cultures and through time;
• To develop students critical reading skills;
• To engage in open debate over a range of challenging and sensitive issues.
The module follows a clear path and each week builds on the previous one. Later sessions will refer to previous ones and regular attendance is essential.
The course group meets weekly for two hours at a time. The sessions will be characterised by a mixed format of lecturing, group activity and open discussion. A typical session will consist of a half-hour lecture after which students will read a short piece of text relevant to the lecture. After a period of small group work the discussion is opened to include everyone. The process is repeated with more lecturing for short periods followed by group work and discussion. The final twenty minutes to half hour of the session will normally be devoted to discussion of the key texts set for reading.
- Ott, Sandra. (1979) 'Aristotle Among the Basques: The 'Cheese Analogy' of Conception', in Man. vol. 14 (4) , pp.699-711
- Rosaldo, Renato. (c1993) Culture & truth: the remaking of social analysis, Boston: Beacon Press.
- Canessa, Andrew. (2012) Intimate indigeneities: race, sex, and history in the small spaces of Andean life, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. vol. Narrating native histories
- Carolyn Pedwell. (no date) 'Theorizing 'African' Female Genital Cutting and 'Western' Body Modifications: A Critique of the Continuum and Analogue Approaches', in Feminist Review: Palgrave Macmillan Journals.
- Bloch, Maurice. (1982) 'Death, women, and power', in Death and the regeneration of life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- L.J. Jondanova. (1980) 'Natural facts: and historical perspective on science and sexuality', in Nature, culture, and gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Holy, Ladislav. (1985) 'Fire, Meat and Children: the Berti Myth, Male Dominance and Female Power', in Reason and morality, London: Tavistock Publications. vol. ASA monographs
- Gay-Y-Blasco, Paloma. (1997) 'A 'Different' Body? Desire and Virginity Among Gitanos', in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. vol. 3 (3) , pp.517-535
- Fuambai Ahmadu. (2000) 'Rites and Wrongs: An Insider/Outsider Reflects on Power and Excision', in Female circumcision in Africa: culture, controversy, and change, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. vol. Directions in applied anthropology
- Bloch, Maurice; Parry, Jonathan. (1982) 'Introduction', in Death and the regeneration of life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Laqueur, Thomas Walter. (1990) Making sex: body and gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
- Dorkenoo, Efua. (1994) Cutting the rose: female genital mutilation : the practice and its prevention, London: Minority Rights Group. vol. Minority rights publications
- Harries, Patrick. (1990) 'Symbols and Sexuality: Culture and Identity on the Early Witwatersrand Gold Mines', in Gender & History. vol. 2 (3) , pp.318-336
- (1984) Ritualized homosexuality in Melanesia, London: University of California Press.
- Harris, Olivia. (1982) 'The dead and the devils among the Bolivian Laymi', in Death and the regeneration of life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Whitehead, Harriet. (1981) 'The bow and the burden-strap: a new look at institutionalised homosexuality in native North America', in Sexual meanings, the cultural construction of gender and sexuality, New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Giallombardo, Rose. (1966) Society of women: a study of a women's prison, New York: Wiley.
- Melissa Llewellyn-Davies. (1981) 'Women, Warriors and Patriarchs', in Sexual meanings, the cultural construction of gender and sexuality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (2011) Genesis 1-11: tales of the earliest world, Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
- Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. (1992) Death without weeping: the violence of everyday life in Brazil, Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Delaney, Carol. (1986) 'The Meaning of Paternity and the Virgin Birth Debate', in Man. vol. 21 (3) , pp.494-513
- Wikan, Unni. (1977) 'Man Becomes Woman: Transsexualism in Oman as a Key to Gender Roles', in Man. vol. 12 (2) , pp.304-319
- Harris, Olivia. (1980) 'The Power of Signs: Gender, Culture and the Wild in the Bolivian Andes', in Nature, culture, and gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Gose, Peter. (c1994) Deathly waters and hungry mountains: agrarian ritual and class formation in an Andean town, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. vol. Anthropological horizons
- Ortner, Sherry. (1974) 'Is female to male as nature is to culture?', in Woman, culture, and society, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
- Martin, Emily. (1991) 'The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles', in Signs. vol. 16 (3) , pp.485-501
- Jean Jackson. (1996) 'Coping with the Dilemmas of Affinity and Female Sexuality: Male Rebirth in the Central Northwest Amazon', in Denying biology: essays on gender and pseudo-procreation, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
- Monica Konrad. (1998) 'Ova Donation and Symbols of Substance: Some Variations on the Theme of Sex, Gender and the Partible Body', in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. vol. 4 (4) , pp.643-667
- Shepherd, Gillian. (1987) 'Rank, gender and homosexuality: Mombassa as a key to understanding sexual options', in The Cultural construction of sexuality, London: Tavistock Publications.
- Bloch, M.; Guggenheim, S. (1981) 'Compadrazgo, Baptism and the Symbolism of a Second Birth', in Man. vol. 16 (3) , pp.376-386
- Gillison, Gillian. (1980) 'Images of nature in Gimi thought', in Nature, culture, and gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- (no date) Shinjuku Boys 1995 - YouTube.
- Chris Curling. (2003) Masai women, London: Granada Television International. vol. Disappearing world
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||Reading Assignment 1
||Reading Assignment 2
||Reading Assignment 3
||Reading Assignment 4
||Reading Assignment 5
||Reading Assignment 6
||Reading Assignment 7
||Reading Assignment 8
||Reading Assignment 9
||Reading Assignment 10
||Reading Assignment 11
||Reading Assignment 12
||120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main)
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Professor Andrew Canessa
Jane Harper, Student Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052
Available via Moodle
Of 40 hours, 34 (85%) hours available to students:
6 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).
Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can
be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements,
industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist
of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules.
The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.
The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.