All Change! An examination of the role of transition and change in enriching teaching and learning in undergraduate and A Level Anthropology

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Change and transition are both foci of anthropological investigation. Recent decades within the anthropology of religion, for example, have seen a shift of focus from seeing religious conversion as an event to its viewing as a process, something continual and of the nature of an extended and ongoing enactment. Such approaches challenge theoretical perspectives previously dominant, yet still popular, in the discipline. For example, Turner’s (1969) examination of The Ritual Process accentuates that there is an element of progression to a ritual act, yet calls upon a model that demonstrates distinct stages with marked boundaries indicating transition from one of these stages onto another. This intimates at the existence of distinct categories between neophytes pre- and post-conversion. Yet, when religious conversion comes to be seen as an ongoing process, or a negotiation between previous and adopted identities, the distinctiveness of this transition and of the boundaries between these categories becomes blurred, and one might even argue that liminality itself has been extended. This poses a challenge to the traditional understandings previously dominant in the discipline and leaves the student scholar swamped in a quick sand of post-modernity.

Yet, the teaching of anthropology itself is also embedded in relationships of change. Here, I call upon the context of teaching the new A Level in Anthropology at a sixth form college in a semi-rural community to elucidate the dramatic changes required of a student in moving on from the GCSE qualification to success in Anthropology at this more advanced level, and also consider the preparation that the A Level course provides for progression onto studying the discipline in Higher Education. This investigation reveals that the ritualised regurgitation of information required at GCSE level aids students with the retention of the ethnographic narratives of anthropology, however leaves them ill prepared for the analytical skills demanded by the discipline. Yet despite the challenging demands that this programme of study makes of its students, the new A Level Anthropology qualification develops key critical thinking skills that benefit students across their A Level subjects in addition to bringing them a new lens, or – in a post-modern sense – many new lenses, through which to see the world.

Through an examination of the implications of changes in the emphasis of scholars’ examination of religious conversion and a study of the transitions that students experience in progressing through their education in anthropology, this paper demonstrates how issues of change enhance discussion and debate in the discipline and consequently enrich teaching and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventTeaching Amidst Change: Annual conference of the Teaching Anthropology Network, European Association of Social Anthropologists - Department of Education, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Sept 20136 Sept 2013


ConferenceTeaching Amidst Change
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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