Anthropology in the Time of COVID
Showcasing first-year undergraduate assessment through the pandemic in 2020
In response to the national lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, UCL established emergency measures for online teaching and assessment. These measures were put in place to alleviate stress for students and staff who were suddenly facing unprecedented circumstances. For our first-year students, UCL moved all planned exams and coursework to a single ‘capstone assignment’. The aim was to allow students to synthesise their learning from across their programme of study in a single piece of coursework.
Departments were free to devise the assessment questions and in anthropology we came up with a choice of two questions which encouraged our students to think laterally and creatively apply their learning from across their programme. The first question, ‘What is anthropology and why is it important?’, asked our students to consider the main aims and purposes of anthropology from a synthetic viewpoint that combined their broad-based learning in biological anthropology, social anthropology, and material culture. The second question focused on COVID-19 and asked students to write an article for the general public that addressed the pandemic and its management by drawing on any aspect of anthropology encountered throughout their first year.
In recognition of the resilience and hard work of our first-year students during that first national lockdown, the department decided to publish a shortlist of the 10 best capstone essays. We are incredibly proud to present these essays in this special edition of the Anthropolitan blog, not only as a celebration of our students’ achievements under duress, but to showcase their intellectual creativity and critical mindedness with our department and beyond.
Dr. Alison Macdonald
Head of Teaching
By Thea Prosser
This place is created as the Zoom window fills the screen of my computer, each of the members of the group join the video call and they are literally ‘framed’ in their own rectangular box.
By Steven Liu
It is true that anthropology is not required for joining the global struggle of many minority groups, but could it do more both politically and intellectually?
By Pepe Weischer
Anthropology should not only matter in academic terms, but also as a tool to engage with the world in practical ways.
By Izzy Davies
The baking and sharing of bread satisfy the aforementioned urge to integrate with the society from which one has been excluded.
By Mai Pedersen
Marginalised people cannot impose their power into this space, if there is not enough room for the rules to be adhered to.
By Harris Morris
The ‘Plague Town Model’ illustrates how knowledge formed power, and by knowing where everyone was, the plague could be eradicated from the village.
By Ana Clara Ribeiro Pellicer
The landscapes of favelas are not just a background for human action, people make them and are made by them.
By Christina Antoinetta Vasilescu
It is a fundamental aid of discerning our individual as well as global realities upon which we can act to improve conditions of unjust.
By Bichen Xu
Uncertainty is generated by coronavirus’s capacity to breach the politics of species and blur division of life and death.
By Catrina Denton
The routine and practical nature of how death is dealt with contradicts our first lessons of death and experiences of loss.