University of kent se832 section 1: module specifications the title of the module

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1. The title of the module

Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems

2. The Department which will be responsible for management of the module

Department of Anthropology

3. The Start Date of the Module

Autumn 1998

4. The cohort of students (onwards) to which the module will be applicable

1998-9 onwards

5. The number of students expected to take the module


6. Modules to be withdrawn on the introduction of this proposed module and consultation with other relevant Departments and Faculties regarding the withdrawal

Not applicable

7. The level of the module (eg Certificate [C], Intermediate [I], Honours [H] or Postgraduate [M])

Postgraduate [M]

8. The number of credits which the module represents

20 credits

9. Which term(s) the module is to be taught in (or other teaching pattern)

Spring Term

10. Prerequisite and co-requisite modules

No prerequisites other than acceptance into the MA or MSc in Environmental Anthropology or MSc in Ethnobotany or, for students taking it from other postgraduate courses in the university, permission from the instructor and from the programme’s director

For the MSc Ethnobotany the co-requisites are SE802, SE831, SE837, SE840, SE836 and SE839

11. The programmes of study to which the module contributes

Compulsory for students registered for the MA and MSc in Environmental Anthropology and MSc in Ethnobotany.

Optional for students registered for the MA in Social Anthropology.

12. The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes

  • enable students to discuss critically the relationship between people and other organic species, in terms of the social and knowledge systems of which they are part, and using anthropological approaches and data (MA PLO – A: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B – 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; D – 2,)

  • introduce various methodological approaches within ethnobiology (A – 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, D – 2,)

  • deal with the ways in which different societies and cultures have come to perceive, know, use, classify and symbolically represent plants and animals (A – 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, D – 2)

  • introduce students to the ways in which anthropologists have approached the study of local systems of classification and knowledge, and peoples' management and use of plants and animals (A – 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, D – 2)

  • present case studies through which these concepts can be thought and critiqued (A:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, ; D: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • develop a nuanced comparative perspective on these concepts engaging ethnographic and ethnobiological materials (A1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B; 1, 2, 7; C: 3, 4,6, 7,8; D – 1)

  • gain an appreciation of the potential challenges and benefits of ethnobiological research in local, regional, national and international settings (A1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B; 1, 2, 7; C: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; D – 1)

13. The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this module will be able to:

  • articulate and assess a range of anthropological and cognate approaches to issues in ethnobiological knowledge systems (MA PLO – A: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, D – 2)

  • understand the study of ethnobiological knowledge systems in relation to how the subject has developed (A:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, ; D: 1, 2,)

  • evaluate various theories of how ethnobiological knowledge is organized and explained (A: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7; B: 1 8; C: 3, 5; D 1; 2)

  • think critically in anthropological terms about the relationship between ethnobiological knowledge systems and other aspects of culture and society (A: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; B – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; C – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, D – 2)

  • choose appropriate methods in relation anthropological questions suitable for research study (A: 5, 6, 7, 9; B: 2; C: 2, 4, 6, 8)

  • present ideas systematically and cogently both orally and in writing (B: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8: 1,2,3,4,5)

  • interact with peers and their seminar leaders in the exchange of ideas (B: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7; D: 1,2,5)

  • summarise complex material succinctly (B: 1, 2,3,7; C: 3,4,5,6; D : 1,2)

14. A synopsis of the curriculum

1. Ethnobiology, anthropology and indigenous knowledge

2. The structure of ethnobiological categories

3. Ethnobiological classifications: the relations between categories

4. Variation, change and the evolution of ethnobiological categories

5. The cultural transmission of knowledge

6. Knowledge and use of domesticates

7. Classifying secondary biodiversity and ethnoecological knowledge

8. Constructions of nature, natural history intelligence, and natural species as symbols,

9. Plants in the evolution of human health and healing

10. Medicinal plants and theories of sickness and healing

11. Measuring the significance of biological resources: the valuation debate

12. Project presentations

The module will ordinarily consist of 12 two-hour classes consisting of a 30-45 minute introduction by the teacher, followed by a discussion or practical.

15. Indicative Reading List

The following books will be useful throughout the module:

1. Atran, Scott 1990 Cognitive Foundations of Natural History. Toward an Anthropology of Science. Cambridge University Press

2. William Balée 1994 Footprints of the Forest. Ka'apor Ethnobotany - The Historical Ecology of Plant Utilization by an Amazonian People. Columbia University Press

3. Ellen, R. (ed.) 2006 Ethnobiology and the Science of Humankind. JRAI Special Issue. Also published as book. Oxford: Blackwell.

4. Berlin, Brent 1992 Ethnobiological Classification: Principles of Categorization of Plants and Animals in Traditional Societies. Princeton University Press

5. Cotton, C. M. 1996 Ethnobotany. Principles and Applications. John Wiley & Sons

6. Minnis, P. E. (ed.) 2000 Ethnobotany: a reader. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

7. Ellen, R. 1993 The Cultural Relations of Classification: An Analysis of Nuaulu Animal Categories from Central Seram. Cambridge University Press

  1. Maffi, L. (ed.) 2001 On biocultural diversity: linking language, knowledge and the environment. Smithsonian Institution Press.

  2. Medin, D. and S. Atran (eds.) 1999 Folkbiology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Gary Martin 1995 Ethnobotany. Chapman and Hall

  3. Zerner, C. 2000 People, plants and justice: the politics of nature conservation. New York: Columbia University Press.

16. Learning and Teaching Methods, including the nature and number of contact hours and the total study hours which will be expected of students, and how these relate to achievement of the intended learning outcomes

Teaching Methods: Each student will attend 12 two-hour class meetings which will be made up of a combination of a short lecture with in-depth discussion of lecture materials with reference to class readings and to assigned case studies. He/she will furthermore meet with their supervisor for at least forty minutes during the term to discuss in detail plans for an essay related to the course materials.

Skills: Through preparation for the seminars all students will be acquainting themselves with the principal ideas underlying the anthropological understanding of ethnobiological knowledge systems. Students are encouraged in course meetings to think critically and systematically about different approaches to analysing and describing these ideas in a range of world cultures. These empirical materials will be closely related, both through directed readings and class discussions, to the theoretical materials which have emerged from the study in order to constantly assess the pertinence and applicability of those theories. Students will, throughout the course, be taught how to express their ideas in speech and in writing, how to use ethnographic and other examples to present theoretical concepts, and how to use scholarly and scientific resources to present their own arguments. Intensive seminar engagement will develop student abilities to present and debate ideas in small group discussions as well as to formulate and ask questions. They will as well learn how to search libraries and data banks for research materials and how to make use of electronic networks to gain access to information.
Achieving objectives:

1) information provided in lectures will introduce students to a conceptual apparatus appropriate to the analysis of varying forms of ethnobiological knowledge systems, illustrated through examples given in lectures

2) in seminars students will be encouraged to connect the issues and concepts raised in lectures to work they have read, as well as to express those connections in the presence of their peers (and the seminar leader) and to debate the issues raised by them with them

3) students will be instructed in essay writing - structure, use of illustrative material, development of hypotheses, proper use of sources - and will be expected to show, through their essays, that they can focus the ideas accumulated through lectures, seminar discussions, reading and specific directed research into coherent and critical written essays

17. Assessment methods and how these relate to testing achievement of the intended learning outcomes
Students are assessed on this module by one two thousand word essay, the topic of which will be decided between the student, his or her supervisor, and the course convenor. Feedback on both essays and coursework will be provided to the student; through this feedback students are informed of the strengths and weaknesses of their understanding and their presentation of ethnobiological arguments.
Students taking this module who are not registered for either the MA or MSc in Environmental Anthropology of Ethnicity or the MSc in Ethnlobotany will also be examined by one two thousand word essay.
18. Implications for learning resources, including staff, library, IT and space
Over the 10 year period that this module has been taught the library has accumulated a good set of teaching resources. Library and departmental resources, both textual and electronic, are regularly reviewed and course handouts are revised on an annual basis with extra purchases made where necessary.
The teaching committee of the department and the department's Director of Graduate Studies have joint responsibility for the staffing of this module. There are at least three members in the Department competent to teach this module..

19. The School recognises and has embedded the expectations of current disability equality legislation, and supports students with a declared disability or special educational need in its teaching. Within this module we will make reasonable adjustments wherever necessary, including additional or substitute materials, teaching modes or assessment methods for students who have declared and discussed their learning support needs. Arrangements for students with declared disabilities will be made on an individual basis, in consultation with the University’s disability/dyslexia support service, and specialist support will be provided where needed.

20. Campus(es) where module will be delivered

Canterbury campus


Statement by the Director of Learning and Teaching: "I confirm I have been consulted on the above module proposal and have given advice on the correct procedures and required content of module proposals"


Director of Learning and Teaching

Print Name



Statement by the Head of Department: "I confirm that the Department has approved the introduction of the module and, where the module is proposed by Departmental staff, will be responsible for its resourcing"


Head of Department

Print Name




(Where the module is proposed by an Associate College)

Statement by the Nominated Officer of the College: "I confirm that the College has approved the introduction of the module and will be responsible for its resourcing"


Nominated Responsible Officer of the Associate College


Print Name



Associate College



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