Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Deborah James

Prof Adam Kuper


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development (Management), MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Learning and Cognition). This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective and MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The main aim of this course is to examine the relationship between theory and ethnography in modern social and cultural anthropology; the course focuses mainly on the development of anthropology before circa 1970 (with an emphasis on the British School) during the MT, and after that date during the LT. The course starts with the influence on social anthropology of classic social theorists Durkheim, Marx, and Weber. It covers functionalism/structural functionalism; methodological individualism; conflict and the critique of functionalism; class consciousness and ideology, ethnic group and social stratification; and 'elective affinities' between cultural predispositions and economic action. The second term covers Levi-Strauss and structuralism; Bourdieu, Sahlins, practice theory; theories of culture and interpretive anthropology; postmodernism and ethnographic critique.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Indicative reading

R Aron, 1968, Main Currents in Sociological Thought; A Kuper, 2005, The Reinvention of Primitive Society: transformations of a myth; H L Moore and T Sanders (eds.), 2006, Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology; D Mclellan, 1977, Karl Marx: Selected Writings; W Runciman, 1978, Weber: Selections in Translation; S Lukes, 1973, Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work; B Malinowski, 1922, Argonauts of the Western Pacific; EE Evans-Pritchard, 1971, Nuer Religion; E Leach, Political Systems of Highland Burma; M Gluckman, 1958, Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand; M Sahlins, 1976, Culture and Practical Reason; M Bloch, 1983, Marxism and Anthropology; C Lévi-Strauss, 1966, The Savage Mind; A Kuper, 2000, Culture: the Anthropologists’ Account; M Sahlins, 2000, Culture in Practice; P Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice; C Geertz, 1973, The Interpretation of Cultures; D Schneider, 1968, American Kinship: a cultural account. Detailed reading lists are provided at the beginning of the course.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2012/13: 56

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information