• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Biological Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Geoffrey Kushnick
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2020
    See Future Offerings

The potential of human populations to grow, stabilise or decline is realised through events which are often strongly marked culturally and always crucial for individuals: birth, migration and death. The prospects and hazards of survival, mobility, marriage and raising a family vary greatly between populations, and are often related to sociocultural factors including religion, education, gender roles, valuation of children, political organisation and economy. Yet if sociocultural factors are to influence the dynamics of fertility and mortality, they must do so through their effects on those very biological events, giving birth and dying. This course explores in an anthropological context the complex interplay between culture and biology in producing population dynamics of different kinds, as well as the implications of those population dynamics for the societies in question. Course topics include: population size and structure in the past and present; the biology of natural fertility; social factors controlling fertility; mortality and the impact of varying life expectancies; population pressure on resources and consequences for migration; marital mobility, marriage practices, kinship systems and sex ratios; the demography of small-scale societies; health, nutrition and the demographic effect of epidemics; demographic implications of warfare; change, development and demographic transitions. Quantitative demographic techniques are introduced but not pursued in depth. Examples are drawn from around the world, including the Australasian region. The course is designed on the premise that what is distinctive about the anthropological (in the broad sense) approach to population is its concern with the processes that lie behind population numbers more than the numbers themselves, and its comparative perspective across cultures and from the distant past to the present.

Learning Outcomes

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

Upon Successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Master the fundamentals of the factual groundwork presented in the course, particularly with regard to the lectures and the required readings; demonstrate a substantive awareness of key facts and the contributions of pivotal authors in the literature which examines human population dynamics cross-culturally and (in the broad sense) anthropologically
  2. Demonstrate an advanced grasp of fundamental concepts in anthropological demography and demographic anthropology
  3. Be conversant with advanced demographic methods and measures sufficiently to be able to calculate  measures and draw supported inferences from quantitative results on fertility, mortality, migration and other demographic topics
  4. Use a selective case study approach to explain a topic or argument in the field orally to your graduate level peers, in a clear, concise, analytical and evidence-based manner, couched so as to elicit discussion; and respond thoughtfully to the substance of peers’ similar contributions
  5. Draw together material from a range of scholarly sources relevant to an advanced level topic or proposition in the field, to form a unified text which sets out your own independent, where appropriate critical, assessment of that material, balancing general argument and supporting evidence

Indicative Assessment

One 3,500 word essay (45%) (Learning Outcomes 2 & 5).

Mid-semester examination, covering first part of the course, 1.5 hour duration (20%), held during regular class period. (Learning Outcomes 1-3)

Final examination, covering second part of the course. 2 hour duration, (25%) held in exam period. (Learning Outcomes 1-3).

One c.15 minute tutorial presentation (10%). (Learning Outcome 4).

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


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 tutorials; 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 BIAN2120

Preliminary Reading

McFalls, J.A. 'Population: A Lively Introduction', Population Bulletin 58 (4), Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC, 2003.
Scheper-Hughes, N. 'Demography without Numbers', in Kertzer, D. and Fricke, T. (eds), Anthropological Demography, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997.


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
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4110 24 Feb 2020 02 Mar 2020 31 Mar 2020 29 May 2020 In Person N/A

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