AN275      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Revolution

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alpa Shah OLD 6.17A


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Optional for BA/BSc Social Anthropology and BA Anthropology and Law.  Also available to students on other degree programmes as an outside option, and to General Course students.


Unless granted an exemption by the course teacher, students taking this course should have completed an introductory course in anthropology (AN100 Introduction to Social Anthropology).

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.  


6 hours of lectures, 6 hours of classes and 8 hours of workshops in the MT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of MT.

Formative coursework

Students registered for Anthropology degrees will submit a tutorial essay for this course to their academic advisers. Students who are not registered for Anthropology degrees 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 (100%) in the MT.

The take home exam will be held the week following the end of the MT.


Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills