AN451      Half Unit
Anthropology of Politics

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mathijs Pelkmans OLD 5.08


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in Anthropology, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society, MSc in Regulation, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course focuses on the notion of power and its cross-cultural application. Using Marxist, Weberian, and Foucauldian approaches it explores how power travels through different socio-cultural contexts, paying attention to issues such as domination and resistance, patron-client relations, the mafia, revolution and violence. A recurring theme throughout the course concerns the state. How should the state be studied anthropologically? Processes of state formation and disintegration, nationalism in its various guises, and state-society relations will be reviewed in order to understand how European, post-colonial, and post-socialist societies are governed.


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

Formative coursework

Students will undertake collaborative discussion duties during seminars for which they will receive formative feedback. They will also have an opportunity to write tutorial essays on topics from the course which will be formatively assessed.

Indicative reading

Anderson, B, 1991 [1983], Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism; Asad, Talal, 1973, Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter; Barth, F, 1965, Political leadership among Swat Pathans; Blok, Anton, 1988, The Mafia of a Sicilian Village 1860-1960: a study of violent peasant entrepreneurs; Evans-Pritchard, EE and Fortes, M, 1940, African Political Systems; Evans-Pritchard, EE, The Nuer; Gledhill, John, 1994, Power and its disguises; Hansen, T B and Stepputat F (eds), 2001, States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State; Leach, Edmund, 1954, The Political Systems of Highland Burma; Mbembe, A, 2001, On the Postcolony; Navaro-Yashin, Yael, 2002, Faces of the state: secularism and public life in Turkey; Vincent, J, 2002, The Anthropology of Politics.


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

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2015/16: 30

Average class size 2015/16: 17

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication