AN475      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Revolution

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alpa Shah OLD 6.17A


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Learning and Cognition). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Optional for MSc students in Anthropology.  Also available to students on other degree programmes as an outside option.

Course content

This course will focus on the study of revolution from an anthropological perspective. It will concentrate on three different types of revolutionary struggle, in three different continents, through three different types of ethnographies: the Zapatista indigenous movement in Mexico, the Zimbabwean anti-colonial struggle, and the Maoist ‘People’s War’ in Nepal. In each case, students will be encouraged to critically consider the varying degrees of involvement of the anthropologist in the movements concerned, the theoretical premises of the anthropologists and how these affect the politics and ethics of writing. In this process, students will deepen their understandings of the theoretical debates around production and reproduction, social transformation, religion and secularism, activism and anthropology, and violence and ethics in radical social change. The course will demonstrate that although anthropologists were once criticised for ‘missing the revolution’ on their doorstep, in fact their long term engagement with communities who come to be affected by revolutionary struggles has much to offer to the theoretical and practical work of radical social transformation.


4 hours of lectures, 4 hours of seminars and 12 hours of seminars in the MT.

Type MT sessions

Week 1, 4, 7, 10 – one 60 minute lecture followed by a one hour seminar (this is the only part of the course which is shared with UG students)

Week 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 – one two hour seminar-workshop interspersed with lecturing.

Formative coursework

Anthropology students taking this course will submit a tutorial essay for this course to their academic advisers. Non-Anthropology students taking this course will submit a formative essay to the course teacher.

Indicative reading

This course will be based on the close reading of the following three ethnographic monographs:

Earle, Duncan, & Simonelli, Jeanne. (2005). Uprising of Hope: Sharing the Zapatista Journey to Alternative Development. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.

Lan, David. (1985). Guns and Rain: guerrillas and spirit mediums in Zimbabwe. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pettigrew, Judith. (2013). Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil War. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Take home exam (90%) in December.
Class participation (10%) in the MT.

Assessment for this course will comprise a ‘take-home’ exam of up to five questions. Students will be asked to write a 2000-2500 word essay on each of two questions, drawing across the breath of the course.

The take home essay will be worth 90% of the total mark.

10% of marks will be given for general class participation.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills