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ANT2004 Anthropology of Power and Conflict

Semester 2, 2013 On-campus Toowoomba
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Arts
School or Department : School of Humanities and Communication
Version produced : 21 July 2014

Contents on this page


Examiner: Celmara Pocock
Moderator: Bryce Barker


Pre-requisite: ANT1000 or ANT1001 or ANT2000


Anthropologists have debated for decades whether the capacity for violence and aggression is intrinsic to being human biology, or whether it is an outcome of human culture. If violence is attributable to biology, what role does culture play in mediating and controlling those impulses?
One of the characteristics of humans, which they share with at least some species of higher primates, is that individuals respond to frustration, or the constraint of their desires with fear or anger. This may generate conflict and competition and may escalate to dominance and threats of violence. In response to such behaviours others may exhibit submissive behaviour. This means that some individuals or groups may use power, to control the behaviour of others in an attempt to get their own way. All social groups evolve behaviours and 'strategies', which may be used to constrain, direct and deflect the power and force of individuals. This is necessary to minimize demands and threats of violence or other coercion, which if unrestrained would threaten the cohesion and solidarity of the group. This is fundamental to social animals like humans who rely on dependence, cooperation and support to survive.

Culture provides members of human groups with the means to create, identify and manipulate power and control in their own communities. Culture also shapes the motivations, values, and beliefs with which people make sense of the uses and abuses of power. We commonly refer to the study of power and control in human societies as "politics". As anthropologists we study political behaviour and political systems, considering in details the diversity of forms and expressions within human cultures. We investigate power and control as they are found across the social scale from individuals through larger groups to the global system. Because power and control are closely associated with coercion and violence, anthropologists study these as part of the repertoire of human "political" responses.


On completion of this course students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of how power and conflict manifest in different cultures and societies, including their own. The course encourages students to develop their own position on whether aggression, violence and warfare are an inevitable part of human society, or whether we have capacity for peace, conflict resolution and altruism. Students will have:

  1. a knowledge and understanding of relevant concepts, theories and evidence;
  2. an ability to understand and critically evaluate relevant professional literature/publications;
  3. an ability to carry out anthropological research/scholarship on relevant topics, and to report both orally and in writing in an effective way, combining theories, evidence and 'real world' experience.


Description Weighting(%)
1. Human nature: aggression and cooperation 25.00
2. Power, control and the state 25.00
3. Everyday Conflict and Violence 25.00
4. Power and conflict in a globalising world 25.00

Text and materials required to be purchased or accessed

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

  • Eller, JD 2005, Violence and Culture: A Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Approach, Thomson/Wadsworth.
  • Fry, D. P. (ed.) 2013, War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, Oxford University Press.

Reference materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.
  • Refer to the Course Study Book and StudyDesk for additional readings and reference materials.

Student workload requirements

Activity Hours
Examinations 2.00
Lectures 26.00
Private Study 121.00
Tutorials 13.00

Assessment details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Notes
MODULE QUIZZES 20 20 15 Jul 2013 (see note 1)
ESSAY 1 (1500 WORDS) 25 25 12 Aug 2013
ESSAY 2 (2500 WORDS) 30 30 08 Oct 2013
2 HOUR EXAMINATION 25 25 End S2 (see note 2)

  1. There will be four module quizzes, these will be scheduled in the last week of each module. Each quiz is weighted at 5% of the course mark
  2. This is a Restricted Exam and is of 2 hours duration

Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    It is the students' responsibility to attend and participate appropriately in all activities (such as lectures, tutorials, laboratories and practical work) scheduled for them, and to study all material provided to them or required to be accessed by them to maximise their chance of meeting the objectives of the course and to be informed of course-related activities and administration. For this course, normal class attendance consists of one 2 hour lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per week.

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    To successfully complete an individual assessment item, a student must achieve at least 50% of the marks or a grade of at least C-. This statement must be read in conjunction with Statement 4 below.

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    If students submit assignments after the due date without prior approval, then a penalty of 5% of the total marks available for the assignment will apply for each of the first TEN working days late, after which a zero mark will be given.

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the total weighted marks available for the course.

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the aggregate of the weighted marks obtained for each of the summative assessment items in the course.

  6. Examination information:
    The exam for this course is a RESTRICTED examination, and the only materials that candidates may use are writing materials (non-electronic and free from material which could give the student an unfair advantage in the examination.) Students whose first language is not English may take an appropriate unmarked non-electronic translation dictionary (but not technical dictionary) into the examination. Dictionaries with any handwritten notes will not be permitted. Translation dictionaries will be subject to perusal and may be removed from the candidate's possession until appropriate disciplinary action is completed if found to contain material that could give the candidate an unfair advantage.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    Any deferred or supplementary examinations for this course will be held during the next examination period.

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment notes

  1. (a) The due date for an assignment is the date by which a student must lodge the assignment at the USQ. (b) All Faculty of Arts assignments must be lodged in the Faculty Assessment Centre on the Ground Floor of Q Block no later than 12 noon on the due date. (c) In the event that a due date for an assignment falls on a local public holiday in their area, such as a Show holiday, the due date for the assignment will be the next day. Students are to note on the assignment cover the date of the public holiday for the examiner's convenience. (d). Students must retain a copy of each item submitted for assessment. This must be despatched to USQ within 24 hours if requested by the Examiner. (e) In accordance with University's Assignment Extension Policy (Regulation 5.6.1), the examiner of a course may grant an extension of the due date of an assignment in extenuating circumstances such as documented ill-health. (f) Students who have undertaken all of the required assessments in the course but who have failed to meet some of the specified objectives of the course within the normally prescribed time may be awarded the temporary grade: IM (Incomplete-Makeup). An IM grade will only be awarded when, in the opinion of the examiner, a student will be able to achieve the remaining objectives of the course after a period of non-directed personal study. (g) Students who, for medical, family/personal, or employment-related reasons, are unable to complete an assignment or sit for an examination at the scheduled time, may apply to defer an assessment in the course. Such a request must be accompanied by appropriate supporting documentation. One of the following temporary grades may be awarded: IDS (Incomplete - Deferred Examination; IDM (Incomplete Deferred Make-up); IDB (Incomplete - Both Deferred Examination and Deferred Make-up).

  2. Students will require access to email and have internet access to UConnect for this course

  3. Students may be assigned an "Incomplete" grade to signify that all the requirements of the course have not yet been met. Students who are graded "I" can pass the course by successfully completing such additional work as prescribed by the examiner by a given date. Students who have been awarded an IM, ISM, IDM or IDB grade must access information regarding further work to be completed, in the Student Centre of U Connect. The Grades Page in the Student Centre contains information about further work to be completed. Students who have not completed the additional work to the satisfaction of the examiner by the given date will receive the appropriate Failing grade.