• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Anthropology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
Social Animals: anthropological perspectives on animal-human relationships (ANTH6519)

This course examines animal-human relationships from a multiple of theoretical perspectives to explore the various positions that animals occupy in human (as pets, food, friends, enemies, beings with rights, organ donors and spectacles of nature). It also introduces students to some of the theoretical cornerstones (and classic readings) of the discipline of Anthropology.

What are animals? How do we classify them? What sorts of relationships do animals have to humans? What can the anthropological exploration of animals and their relationships to humans tell us about ourselves? Animals and their relationships with people have been of interest to anthropologists for a long time, and some theoreticians have even suggested that the anthropological exploring animal-human relationships allows the discipline to come to terms with its colonial past. Early understandings of animals focused on their sustenance and symbolic value, and structuralist perspectives placed animals centrally in marriage and other systems of great importance to human social lives. More recent approaches have retained the notion that animals are important because they offer insight into human conceptualisations of and actions in the world. These approaches, which arise from a multiple of theoretical perspectives, have attempted to nuance old dichotomies and to look into the interesting and sometimes conflicting positions that animals occupy as pets, food, friends, enemies, beings with rights, organ donors and spectacles of nature.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Evaluate the relevance of studying animals anthropologically;
  2. Appreciate the culturally constituted dimensions of animals;
  3. Understand the various roles of animals in the discipline and its development, in webs of power and disempowerment, globalisation,  social relations, debates about the constitution of human-ness,  and culturally specific interpretations of animals;
  4. Participate in a community of scholars organised around an interest in animals;
  5. Build in depth knowledge of particular topics according to the student's own program of study to the student's own emerging interests; and
  6. Critically apply anthropological ideas and techniques to the study of animals.

Indicative Assessment

Participation (15%) [Learning Outcomes 1-4]
Tutorial presentation, 20 minutes (20%) [Learning Outcomes 4, 5, 6]
Major essay, 6000 words (65%) [Learning Outcomes 1, 5, 6]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of workshop and workshop-like activities; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ANTH2133


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $3570
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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