Advanced Theory of Social Anthropology

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Harry Walker OLD 5.06B and Mr Geoffrey Hughes OLD 6.08


This course is compulsory on the BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law. This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.


Students should have a substantial background in Social Anthropology.

Course content

The aim of this course is to train students to engage critically with classic and contemporary texts in the discipline, thereby deepening understandings of current trends and emerging debates. It will examine the theoretical implications of particular anthropological approaches by surveying their origins, their strengths and their critique. The course will take the form of an intensive reading group in which approximately six texts (three in each of MT and LT) will be discussed and analysed in depth, along with supplementary reading material where appropriate. Students will be expected to develop their own critical responses to each text, as well as an appreciation of the context in which it was written and its contribution to relevant theoretical discussions and debates.


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

The course consists of 10 lectures and 10 classes in each of MT and LT. Lectures provide a general introduction to the text and relevant issues or debates. Classes probe more deeply into these topics and will comprise small group work as well as general conversations.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 pieces of coursework in the MT and 2 essays in the MT and LT.

- Verbal: all students are expected to come to class prepared to participate and everyone is expected to speak in every class. Anyone struggling to participate should meet with the course teacher to discuss ways to increase participation.

- Essays: A formative essay may be submitted to your academic advisor through the tutorial system. This essay can be used to develop ideas for the summative essay. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher.

- Initial blog posts: Marks will be provided promptly on the first two blog posts, which will not count towards the final grade. 


Indicative reading

Adriana Petryna. Life Exposed. Janet Roitman, Fiscal Disobedience. Jason de León, Land of Open Graves. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern. Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think. Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World.


Essay (25%, 2500 words) in the MT.
Essay (25%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Online assessment (50%) in the MT and LT.

All students will design and manage their own blog (worth 50% of the total mark), to which they are expected to make a short contribution each week. These will be assessed periodically throughout the year, with the final grade determined at the end of Lent Term.

One 2,500 word essay will be submitted after the end of each term, each worth 25% of the total mark.  

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 38

Average class size 2015/16: 38

Capped 2015/16: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills