Childhood and Youth in the Contemporary World (847L6)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

Anthropologists have taken children's lives into account from the early stages of the discipline, as visible in the works of, for example, Mead and Malinowski.

These accounts, however, were often based on adult's views on children. More recently, anthropological interest has shifted from these socially constructed and symbolic understandings of childhood to an engagement with children's own perspectives and practices (James and Prout 1990).

These approaches assume the centrality of children as actors, rather than passive beings who are being acted on; children are seen as complete humans, rather than as deficient adults-to-be.

This perspective has enabled a wealth of cross-cultural, ethnographic studies to emerge, describing ideas and practices surrounding children and childhood. These include key events of the life course, such as birth and death, but also a focus on how children are shaped by, and actively shape, their social environments, such as families and peers, educational institutions and religious communities.

Key themes address children in the context of play and labour, children's bodies, spaces and mobilities, as well as their experiences of, and responses to violence.

In this module, you gain an overview of anthropological engagements with childhood, both historically and including its more recent methodological innovations. Broader theoretical discussions are complemented by in-depth ethnographic material from cultures and societies across the globe.

The module covers the following topics:

Week 1 - 'Childhood' as a cross-cultural concept
Week 2 - Anthropological Perspectives on Children
Week 3 - Rites of Passage
Week 4 - Education and Morality
Week 5 - Children's Bodies and Spaces
Week 7 - Labour and Play
Week 6 - Children's Mobilities
Week 9 - Children and Violence
Week 10 - Individual Term Paper Tutorials


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2022/23. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.