Not available in 2013/14
AN245      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Borders and Boundaries

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mathijs Pelkmans OLD6.13


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, 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.


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

Course content

How do territorial borders influence human behaviour and thinking, and how, in turn, do citizens manage and manipulate such borders? These questions have become pressing in the current age of globalization and intensifying trans-national connections. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the disintegration of the USSR are but a few of the changes that have rendered ideas of borders as the self-evident limits of notions of society and culture problematic. At the same time, increased porosity of borders may make cultural differences more salient in everyday social and symbolic practice. Moreover, because of the tenuous relations between border dwellers and the state, border studies highlight blind spots in our understandings of concepts as society, identity, culture, ethnicity, and nation. As such, the study of borders links up with central anthropological questions. Whether dealing with ideas about purity, dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, or the (partly artificial) separation of modern society into "spheres," boundaries are being drawn, enlivened, and contested.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Anthropology students taking this course will have an opportunity to write tutorial essays on topics from the course. Non-Anthropology students taking the course can submit a formative essay to the course teacher.

Indicative reading

Barth, Frederick. 1969. "Introduction." In Ethnic Groups and Boundaries:
The Social Organization of Culture Difference, edited by F. Barth, 9-38.
Boston: Little, Brown; Berdahl, Daphne. 1999. Where the World Ended:
Re-Unification and Identity in the German; borderland, Introduction.
University of California Press; Bornstein, Avram. 2002. Crossing the Green
Line between the West Bank and Israel. Philadelphia: Univerity of
Pennsylvania Press; Brubaker, Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity without groups.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press; Cole, John, and Eric Wolf. 1999 [1974].
The Hidden Frontier: Ecology and Ethnicity in an Alpine Valley. Berkeley:
University of California Press; Donnan, Hastings, and Thomas M. Wilson. 1999.
Borders: Frontiers of Identity, Nation and State. Oxford: Berg; Driessen,
Henk. 1992. On the Spanish-Moroccan Frontier: A study in ritual, power, and
ethnicity. Oxford: Berg; Green, Sarah F. 2006. Notes From the Balkans:
Locating Marginality and Ambiguity on the Greek-Albanian Border. Princeton
University Press, 2006; Kearney, Michael. 2004. Changing fields of
anthropology: from local to global. Lanham: Rowman ; Littlefiedl; Pelkmans,
Mathijs. 2006. Defending the Border: Identity, Religion, and Modernity in the
Republic of Georgia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


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

The assessed essay must be between 2,000 – 2,500 words in length.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information