Human Sciences Course Information

First Year syllabus

Paper 1: The Biology of Organisms including humans An introduction to the evidence for mammalian, primate and human evolution.

Principles of mammalian physiology: the cell, body fluids, the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reproduction, hunger and thirst, movement, the senses, and the integrative organization of the central nervous system.

Principles of ecology: ecosystems, plant and animal communities and numbers, biotic interaction, the impact of man on the environment.

Paper 2: Genetics and Evolution

Principles of genetics and evolution illustrated by examples from human and other organisms.

Mechanisms of evolutionary change: selection and adaptation, evolution of sex, altruism, kin selection and co-operation. Alternative models of evolution. The role of culture in human evolution.

The genetic material - its nature, mode of action, and manipulation: the chromosomal basis of heredity; molecular genetics; mapping the human genome; sex determination; mutation at the level of the gene and the chromosome.

Mendelian inheritance; genetic variation in populations and its maintenance; quantitative variation and its genetic basis.

Subject 3: Society, Culture and Environment

Social and cultural anthropology: the comparative study of the world's civilizations and peoples, including cross-cultural, power-based and gender perspectives upon social practice and theories of human life. Specific topics will include production and consumption; transactions and modes of exchange; elementary aspects of kinship and marriage; belief systems and social control; political and social organization; classification; technology and social change; material culture and ethnographic resources; the impact of colonialism; space, place and culture; environment and cultural landscapes in transition; land and property rights. Candidates will be expected to be familiar with appropriate ethnographic monographs.

Human Geography: Approaches to understanding contemporary international migration - from neo-classical to post-structuralist; forced migration, changing international, regional and national legislation and policy; diasporas and transnationalism, especially issues of identity, home and belonging; social divisions and the experience of migration and integration addressing gender, class, and ethnicity, cosmopolitan or 'superdiverse' cities; and state policy and the influence of nationalism, xenophobia, economics and ethics.

Subject 4: Sociology and Demography

Sociology: Current and classic discussions of explanatory strategies and social mechanisms, models of individual action and the consequences of aggregation. Empirical research involving these approaches in areas of substantive sociological interest such as social class, ethnicity, religion, the family, politics.

Demography: Elementary aspects of population analysis. Comparative study of fertility, mortality and family systems in selected human societies. The long term development of human population and its relation to habitat and resources. The demographic transition.

Subject 5: Quantitative Methods for the Human Sciences

The use and importance of statistics and quantitative methods in the human sciences. Graphs, scales, indices and transformations. Frequency distributions and their parameters, including the binomial, normal and Poisson distributions. Notions of probability and risk. Problems of sampling. Tests of statistical significance including t-tests, chi-squared and confidence intervals. Elementary analysis of variance, correlation and regression.

Second Year syllabus: The Honour School

The Honour School is divided into two sections. All candidates will be required to offer the following six compulsory subjects:

  • Animal Behaviour and its Evolution
  • Human Genetics
  • Human Ecology
  • Demography and Population
  • (a) Anthropological Analysis and Interpretation or (b) Sociological Theory
  • Dissertation

    Candidates will also be required to offer two of of a range of options which might include (not all subjects will be offered every year)

  • Anthropological Analysis and Interpretation (if not taken as a core paper)
  • Anthropology of a Selected Region (eg Lowland South America, Japan, South Asia,  Africa)
  • Anthropology of Medicine
  • Biological Conservation
  • Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Evoluiton and Medicine
  • General Linguistics
  • Gender: Theories and Realities: Cross Cultural Perspectives
  • Health and Disease
  • Language and Social Anthropology
  • Physical and Forenseic Anthropology: the Analysis of Human Skeletal Remains
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Social Policy
  • Sociological Theory (if not taken as a core paper)
  • Sociology of Post-Industrial Societies
  • South and Southern Africa
  • A wide range of Psychology options
  • Schedule of Subjects
1) Behaviour and its Evolution: Animal and Human

Introduction to the study of behaviour including the evolution of behavioural interactions within groups. Behavioural strategies that have evolved in humans and other animals. The use of models to understand complex behaviour. Advanced ethology and cognition, including learning. Perception and decision-making. Primate behaviour and evolutionary ecology, including the development of primate social systems and the evolution of cognition. This paper is examined by an unseen written examination paper.

2) Human Genetics and Evolution

The nature and structure of the human genome, including an overview of human gene function and assessment of social implications. Population genetics of humans and primates. Quantitative genetics and complex trait analysis in humans. Genomic complexity as illustrated by the genetic basis for immune response. Molecular evolution, human genetic diversity and the genetic basis of human evolution. Genetic basis of common complex diseases. Human behaviour, cognition and cultural transmission in the context of six million years of physiological evolution and ecological change. This paper is examined by an unseen written examination paper.

3) Human Ecology

Human ecology of disease, emphasizing diseases that significantly contribute to the global burden of mortality and cultural change. Diet and nutritional anthropology of human societies. Ethno-biology and its cultural ontological and epistemological contextualization, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Ethno-linguistics and the principles of folk-naming and folk-taxonomy of organisms, Local Ecological Knolwedge (LEK) and the significance of place, and practical applications of ethnobiology including biological conservation. Ecology of human reproduction, including cultural differences in reproduction strategies. This paper is examined by an extended essay and a presentation. 

4) Demography and Population

Major features of past and present population trends, the socio-economic, environmental and biomedical factors affecting fertility, mortality and migration; the social, economic and political consequences of population growth, decline and ageing; and major controversies in demographic theory. Specific topics include traditional and transitional population systems in historical and contemporary societies; demographic transitions and their interpretation; demographic processes in post-transnational societies (modern Europe and other industrial areas) including very low fertility, longer life, international migration and new patterns of marriage and family; the changing position of women in the workforce; ethnic dimensions of demographic change; and policy interventions. The paper also tests knowledge of demographic analysis and techniques including data sources, the quantitative analysis of fertility and mortality, the life table, the stable population and other population models, population dynamics and projections, and limits to fertility and the lifespan. The paper is examined by an unseen written examination paper.

5) (a) Anthropological Analysis and Interpretation

The comparative study of social and cultural forms in the global context: to include economics and exchange, domestic structures and their reproduction, personal and collective identity, language and religion, states and conflict, understanding of biology and environment, historical perspectives on the social world and upon practice in anthropology.

5) (b) Sociological Theory

Theoretical perspectives which may include rational choice; evolutionary psychology; interpersonal interaction; social integration and networks; functionalism. Substantive problems which may include stratification; gender; nationalism; race and ethnicity; collective action; norms; ideology; economic development; gangs and organized crime. Candidates will be expected to use theories to explain substantive problems.

6) Dissertation

In the dissertation the candidate will be required to focus on material from within the Honour School, and must show knowledge of more than one of the basic approaches to the study of Human Sciences.

Course Handbooks
The following are currently available:
Preliminary Course Handbook for 2016-17 (for students due to take Prelims in 2017)
Final Honour School Handbook for 2015-17 (for students due to take Finals in 2017)
Final Honour School Handbook for 2016-18 (for students due to take Finals in 2018)


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