Political and Legal Anthropology

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mathijs Pelkmans OLD 5.08 and Ms Insa Koch NAB 7.17


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

Course content

The anthropological analysis of political and legal institutions as revealed in relevant theoretical debates and with reference to selected ethnography. The development of political and legal anthropology and their key concepts including forms of authority; forms of knowledge and power; political competition and conflict; colonial transformation of indigenous norms; writing legal ethnography of the 'other'; folk concepts of justice; the theory of legal pluralism; accommodation of religious practices in secular laws of European states.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in the classes.

Indicative reading

Gledhill, J, 1994, Power and its Disguises; Leach, E, 1954, The Political Systems of Highland Burma; Sharma, A and Gupta, A, 2006, The Anthropology of the State; Verdery, K, 1999,  The Political Lives of Dead Bodies; Moore, S F, 1978, Law as Process; Malinowski, B, 1916, Crime and Custom in Savage Society; Bohannan, P, 1957, Justice and Judgement among the Tiv; Comaroff J and Roberts S, 1981, Rules and Processes. 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 ST.

Students are required to write an assessment essay of 2000-2500 words in Michaelmas and Lent Term (15% each). 

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 53

Average class size 2015/16: 14

Capped 2015/16: No

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information