AN230      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Industrialisation and Industrial Life

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Gisa Weszkalnys


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Human Resource Management and Employment Relations 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.


Undergraduates taking this course should have completed an introductory course in anthropology unless granted exemption by the course teacher

Course content

This course deals with anthropological perspectives on the industrialisation process, on industrial life, and the transformation of nature involved, in relation to relevant theoretical debates and with reference to selected ethnographies. The aim is to lead students to develop a critical understanding of the dramatic societal changes brought about by industrialisation and, specifically, of how it affected relations between people and nature, for example, through the increasing exploitation as well as processing of natural resources and the production of energy on a large scale. The course will focus in particular on the practices and cosmologies of those people who in their everyday life or their work participate in these alterations, drawing on case studies from Papua New Guinea, Africa, South America. The themes touched on are likely to include the rural-urban and centre-periphery nexus linking neophyte proletarians with peasant villages and the producers of resources in the periphery with their consumers in the metropolitan centres; the ways in which industrialisation produces new social, environmental, and physical vulnerabilities; the contrast between the organised and unorganised sector; the new kinds of relations formed between companies and local communities in the context of corporate social responsibility programmes; local discourses about industrial pollution and environmental degradation; and the politics of ontology that arise where usable and exploitable nature meet. We will also discuss notions such as development, sustainability, the resource curse and peak oil, which point to the problems in the conduct of industrialised and post-industrialised production as we have come to know it. Throughout, students will be introduced to materials and viewpoints from within and outside the discipline, and will be encouraged to compare and evaluate the nature and value of ethnographic evidence and other approaches to these issues.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in the classes and are required to write assessment essays. 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

A. Apter, The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the spectacle of culture in Nigeria (2005); J. Nash, We eat the Mines and the Mines eat us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines (1979); A. Biersack, J. B. Greenberg, eds. Reimagining Political Ecology (2006); J. Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity (1999); S. Kirsch, Reverse Anthropology: indigenous analysis of social and environmental relations in New Guinea (2006); A.Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2005); K. Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944); D. Rajak, In Good Company (2011).


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information