Postgraduate Module Descriptor


ANTM104: Family Hominidae and Other Primates

This module descriptor refers to the 2017/8 academic year.

Module Aims

The module aims to 1. enable students to understand and evaluate the role of primatology as a bridge which can serve to unify the seemingly disparate theoretical and methodological approaches of the biological and social sciences. 2. enable students to critically engage with a wide range of disciplinary perspectives which tackle human interactions with nonhuman primates on the ground. 3. to consider the ways in which an understanding of nonhuman primates can facilitate reflection on the human condition in a range of cultural contexts. 

The study of nonhuman primates is primarily the preserve of zoologists, ethologists and primatologists, although in some academic institutions primatology falls under the remit of anthropology departments as a sub-discipline of physical or biological anthropology. Primatology itself can be broken down into sub-disciplines, such as ethnoprimatology and cultural primatology. Despite the similar nomenclature, ethnoprimatology and cultural primatology are two distinctly different areas of academic interest and enquiry. Ethnoprimatology looks at the human–nonhuman interface and involves researchers observing and documenting contemporary human interactions with primates on the ground. Cultural primatology on the other hand involves the investigation of ‘culture’ in primates, and the complex sociality which exists within this order. Such an endeavour has significant implications for our understanding of the human species, and cultural primatology is often utilised by palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists interested in the origins of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). Within the module you will explore the work of field and laboratory based researchers, such as Jane Goodall's long-term observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in the Gombe, Tanzania, and Shirley Strum's research on Olive baboons (Papio anubis) in Kenya. This engagement with a large body of empirical data on nonhuman primate behavioural ecology, communication and sociality allows for theoretical discussions concerning important anthrozoological questions such as do nonhuman primates exhibit 'cultural' behaviours? Is there a risk of anthropomorphism in multi-species ethnographic research? Do nonhuman primates represent useful models for reconstructing early human societies? And how can humans and nonhuman primates co-exist in areas where species compete for scarce resources? There are no pre- or co-requisites for this module. The module is suitable for non-specialist students and interdisciplinary pathways.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here - you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary origins of the human species and the phylogenetic relationships which exist between humans and other extant nonhuman primates;
2. demonstrate a detailed understanding of how this shared genetic heritage enables anthropologists and scholars from cognate disciplines to comparatively consider what it means to be human;
3. discuss and critically analyse a wide range of human interactions with nonhuman primates;
4. demonstrate a critical appreciation of the wider implications (in terms of environmental sustainability) of nonhuman primate behavioural ecology;
Discipline-Specific Skills5. demonstrate a critical awareness of the synergies and areas of conflict which exist between social and biological anthropology;
6. demonstrate a detailed understanding of the ways in which primatology can serve to unite the disparate approaches (methodological and theoretical) of social and biological anthropology;
7. effectively apply appropriate theoretical models in the critical analysis of human interactions with nonhuman primates;
Personal and Key Skills8. plan, undertake and present independent written work of a high scholarly standard;
9. communicate complex theoretical ideas in a clear and coherent manner;
10. work effectively and provide constructive feedback to peers within the context of group discussions.