Reading Other Cultures: Anthropological Interpretation of Text and Film

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Laura Bear OLD 6.09 and Dr Johannes Steinmuller OLD 5.08


This course is compulsory on the BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course aims to provide training in the reading and interpretation of visual and textual anthropology for first-year students, and to develop analytic skills. The course introduces students to detailed, holistic study of a culture in its context, and develops skills in bringing together the various elements of cultural and social life analysed by anthropologists. By the end of each term, successful students will have both a detailed knowledge of three important texts, and also have a rounded view of the three cultures studied. They will also have developed the capacity to think critically about ethnographic writing and film-making. In addition, the course aims to enable students to examine in detail the process by which ethnographic texts are produced. The course brings students to a closer understanding of anthropological fieldwork and evidence. Students will usually read three book-length ethnographic accounts of other cultures (or the equivalent) per term, and will study a film (or pictorial, architectural or other visual material) associated with each text. Teaching will normally be arranged in cycles of three weeks; in the first two hour session, students will be given a background lecture, with a one-hour class. In the second week, they will study a relevant ethnographic, documentary or fiction film (eg a significant film from the country under study), followed by a class. In the third week, they will have a two-hour seminar which brings together an overview of the significance of the text studied and its relationship to the visual material with which it is paired. There may be a final integrative session in the final week of each term.


MT and LT. Three lectures per term plus an introductory lecture; three films/visual material presentations per term/six discussion classes per term/three two-hour seminars per term. This course will make consistent use of electronic resources, especially the 'public forum' posted on Moodle. Students are encouraged to avail themselves of this opportunity to constructively interact with the class and the class teachers.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to read the three set texts per term, approximately 1/3 text (two-four chapters) each week, and it will be essential to do this in order to pass this course. Students will be asked to give informal and formal presentations in the classes and seminars, and to present an assessment essay after each term's work. Emphasis will be on developing students' abilities to read and analyse texts as a whole, and to relate them to the other material offered on the course. Supplementary readings may be provided during the term. Anthropology students taking this course will have an opportunity to submit a tutorial essay for this course to their personal tutors. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher

Indicative reading

Texts may be chosen from among the following and other works; Gayatri Reddy (2005), With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India; Anne Rademacher (2011), Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformation in Kathmandu; Roxanne Varzi (2006), Warring Souls: Youth, Media and Martyrdom in Post-Revolution Iran; Sharon E. Hutchinson (1996), Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with Money, War, and the State. Detailed reading lists are provided at the beginning of the course.


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (15%, 2500 words) in the MT.
Essay (15%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2012/13: 33

Average class size 2012/13: 13

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 79.4%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)