AN456      Half Unit
Anthropology of Economy (1): Production and Exchange

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Julia Huang OLD 6.12


This course is available on the MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MRes/PhD in Anthropology, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society, MSc in Regulation, MSc in Social Anthropology, MSc in Social Anthropology (Learning and Cognition) 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 examines ‘the economy’ as an object of scholarly analysis and a domain of social action. We start by asking how scholars measured, described, modeled, and predicted its behaviour. What forms do economic institutions take cross-culturally? How were these institutions transformed as a result of their incorporation into a wider capitalist markets, state systems, and development initiatives? For example, we will examine the central place of households within capitalist economies, largely overlooked by mainstream economic analyses, and the role that money can play in both dividing and uniting human societies. The course will familiarise students with fundamental aspects of the field and with core concepts used in economic analysis, such as production, consumption, exchange, property, alienation, scarcity, and value. But we will also try to break open the standard frames of the debate by highlighting, for example, the place of nature in the capitalist expansion, and how economic life is not just life in the ordinary. What progress have anthropologists made in understanding fluctuations, booms and busts? What can ethnography tell us about how people cope with crises, individually and collectively, and what the future may hold? Throughout the course, students will become familiar with the key concepts of economic anthropology with reference to selected ethnography and gain a solid understanding of relevant theoretical debates.


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

Formative coursework

Students will do presentations 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

J.G. Carrier and D. Miller (1998) Virtualism: A New Political Economy. M Sahlins (1974), Stone Age Economics; J Parry and M Bloch (Eds) (1989), Money and the Morality of Exchange; K. Polanyi (1944) The Great Transformation. K Ho (2010) Liquidated: an Ethnography of Wall Street. S. Mintz (1985) Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History; E. Shever  (2012) Resources for Reform: Oil and Neoliberalism in Argentina; C.Hann and K.Hart (2011) Economic Anthropology: History, Ethnography, Critique. This is an indicative reading list: 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: 28

Average class size 2015/16: 15

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information