Advanced Theory of Social Anthropology

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Harry Walker OLD 5.06B and Mr Geoffrey Hughes OLD 5.06A


This course is compulsory on the BA in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law. This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.


Students should have a substantial background in Social Anthropology.

Course content

The aim of this course is to train students to engage critically with classic and contemporary texts in the discipline, thereby deepening understandings of current trends and emerging debates. It will examine the theoretical implications of particular anthropological approaches by surveying their origins, their strengths and their critique. The course will take the form of an intensive reading group in which approximately six texts (three in each of MT and LT) will be discussed and analysed in depth, along with supplementary reading material where appropriate. Students will be expected to develop their own critical responses to each text, as well as an appreciation of the context in which it was written and its contribution to relevant theoretical discussions and debates.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Lectures provide a general introduction to the text and relevant issues or debates. Classes probe more deeply into these topics and will comprise small group work as well as general conversations.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 in MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the MT and LT.

- Verbal: all students are expected to come to class prepared to participate and everyone is expected to speak in every class. Anyone struggling to participate should meet with the course teacher to discuss ways to increase participation.

- Essays: A formative essay may be submitted to your academic advisor through the tutorial system. This essay can be used to develop ideas for the summative essay. For non-Anthropology students taking this course, a formative essay may be submitted to the course teacher.

Indicative reading

Adriana Petryna. Life Exposed. Janet Roitman, Fiscal Disobedience. Jason de León, Land of Open Graves. James Laidlaw, The Subject of Virtue. Tanya Luhrmann, When God Talks Back. Alessandro Duranti, The Anthropology of Intentions.



Essay (100%, 7200 words) in the LT.

All students will produce a portfolio of six position pieces, to which they are expected to make a contribution after each three-week cycle. Each position piece will be around 1200 words, and will comprise a critical reflection on the text and its contribution to the wider anthropological literature. Portfolios will be assessed periodically throughout the year, with feedback provided to students on a regular basis. The final grade will be determined by the beginning of Summer Term.

Teachers' comment

In interpreting the Course Survey results, bear in mind that over the period covered by the survey this course has been taught by a number of different teachers (who might not be teaching you in the next session). In addition, the course material may have changed quite considerably.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2016/17: 27

Average class size 2016/17: 9

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 59%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)