The Anthropology of Island Peoples


For millennia, islands have been home to some of the most innovative, unique, and intriguing societies in human history.

From the enigmatic megaliths of Rapa Nui to the shamanic priests of South Sulawesi, this course engages archaeological, historical and ethnographic evidence to examine the vibrance and ingenuity of island communities from a cross-cultural perspective.

Far from being isolated or static, we’ll discover that the human geographies, economies and identities of island peoples offer a rich dynamic framework through which to examine cultural diversity, tradition and the relentless influence of a rapidly-changing world.

Programme details

Courses starts: 21 Sept 2021

Week 0:  An Introduction to Teams – Course orientation

Week 1:  Introduction: islands, 'island-ness' and our anthropological lens

Week 2:  Haiti: resilience and rapture

Week 3:  Sulawesi: gender transcended

Week 4:  Japan: sacred shinto shrines

Week 5:  Kiriwina: Trobriander totems and trade

Week 6:  Samoa: coming of age

Week 7:  Tonga: gods and empire

Week 8:  Rapa Nui: moai and mystery

Week 9: Material culture of island peoples. An exploration of digital museum resources.

Week 10:  Fiji: succession and sacrifice


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £229.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Mark Anderson

Mark specialises in African archaeology, the anthropology of ritual, and applied anthropology. He is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Imperial College London, a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Course aims

To explore the rich culture of island peoples through the lens of cultural anthropology, drawing from ethnographic, archaeological and historical sources.

Course Objectives:

1. To deepen understanding of cultural anthropology and related disciplines as approaches to the study of human societies in general, and of island peoples in particular.
2. To critically explore anthropological theories and methods and how these may be applied in practice, drawing from ethnographic case studies, archaeological evidence and historical sources.
3. To encourage the systematic and critical study of human experience, behaviour, and social and cultural organisation.

Teaching methods

Principles of active learning, exploration and co-construction of knowledge will also feature in the online version of the course. A combination of pre-recorded material and digital archives, asynchronous tasks (that you can complete in your own time) and weekly live online sessions in MS Teams will be combined to create an accessible and engaging learning experience.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be better able to:

  1. Define key anthropological terms, concepts and practices and discuss them in relation to specific cultural contexts;
  2. Examine key themes in the study of island cultures, economies and social organisation;
  3. Critically analyse anthropological issues relating to island peoples, drawing from ethnographic, archaeological or historical evidence.

Assessment methods

Formal assessment will follow Option A, and will involve two summative written assignments - one of 500 words (or equivalent if presentation format is chosen) and one of 1000 written words. These will be preceded by a formative written assignment of 500 words.

Each assignment will give learners an opportunity to demonstrate one or a combination of the specified learning outcomes, and will generate detailed feedback. Informal assessment and feedback will also occur through group discussions and learning activities during the classes.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

This course is designed to offer an introduction to the topic and no prior knowledge or experience is necessary. Those who do have some prior knowledge of social or cultural anthropology (or related subjects) may find this useful.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)