Not available in 2016/17
AN424      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Melanesia

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael W Scott, OLD 6.16


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in Religion in the Contemporary World and MSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course provides an introduction to selected themes in the anthropology of the region in the Southwest Pacific Ocean known as Melanesia.  It gives students a grounding in the contemporary anthropology of the region, primarily through a close reading of three book-length ethnographies.

The three ethnographies, which have all been published within the last two years, are Christopher Wright's The Echo of Things, an account of what photography means to people in the western Solomon Islands; Alice Street's Biomedicine in an Unstable Place, an analysis of how persons and diseases are made visible or invisible in a hospital on the north coast of Papua New Guinea; and Alex Golub's Leviathans at the Gold Mine, a study of the relationship between indigenous landowners and a large international gold mine in their valley in the highlands of New Guinea.

These ethnographies not only provide students with focused accounts of three very different contexts in Melanesia, they also address histories, dynamics, and concerns familiar to people living throughout the region.  Furthermore, because the three authors draw on different intellectual antecedents and disciplinary traditions, their work provides an entree into the most influential theoretical debates animating Pacific anthropology today.

Topics to be traced throughout the course include personhood and bodies, kinship and sociality, religion and cosmology, technology and infrastructure, development, globalization, and the state.  The readings will be supplemented by ethnographic films.


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

Formative coursework

Students are expected to prepare discussion material for presentation in seminars.

Indicative reading

Christopher Wright, The Echo of Things: The Lives of Photographs in the Solomon Islands (2013); Alice Street, Biomedicine in an Unstable Place: Infrastructure and Personhood in a Papua New Guinean Hospital (2014); Alex Golub, Leviathans at the Gold Mine: Creating Indigenous and Corporate Actors in Papua New Guinea (2014).  Detailed reading lists are provided at the beginning of the course.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 2

Average class size 2015/16: 2

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information