AN303      Half Unit
Advanced Theory of Social Anthropology

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Fenella Cannell


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, Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Cape Town), Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Fudan), Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Melbourne) and Exchange Programme for Students in Anthropology (Tokyo). This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

Places are limited and the course may only be suitable for external students in unusual cases. Any student who wishes to make an exceptional request to be considered should please contact the course teachers for advice on suitablity and availability of places.


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 lectures and classes conducted as an intensive reading group in which approximately three texts 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. Students taking this course will develop their capacity to meet the distinctive demands of reading and analysing longer (typically book-length) texts. This course offers a step towards graduate-level skills of independent work, and places emphasis on the active role of the students in identifying their own lines of analysis in relation to a set text.


4 hours of lectures and 18 hours of classes in the MT.

Lectures provide a general introduction to the text and relevant issues or debates, which may include background and contextual issues, comparative materials (published, visual, primary text etc as appropriate) and in some instances debates about what is at stake in the different ways in which we learn to think and write.

This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual lectures, classes and online interactive activities. The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected.

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

Indicative reading

  • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. In the realm of the diamond queen.
  • Gillian Feeley-Harnik. Selection of articles, including chapters in S.Mckinnon and F. Cannell eds. (2013) Vital Relations and in S. Franklin and S.Mckinnon eds. (2001) Relative Values.
  • Deirdre de la Cruz. Mother figured: Marian apparitions and the making of a Filipino universal.


Coursework (100%, 3000 words) in the MT.

All students will produce a portfolio of position pieces (worth 100% of the total mark), to which they are expected to make a contribution after each of the three cycles. Portfolios will be assessed periodically throughout the term.

Students who submit fewer than two position pieces will receive a mark of zero for each missed assessment. The overall mark will be the average of the two position pieces with the highest grades, including any zeros for missed assessments.

Students who submit at least one position piece and fail the course and are not eligible to graduate will be expected to add to their portfolio at resit in order to achieve a pass.  Students who do not submit any position pieces (0 out of 3), will be awarded a Zero Absent for the whole course and cannot be awarded the degree until they submit sufficient work at resit to complete the course.

In addition to following the guidance that will be given in lectures and classes, students are welcome to come and discuss their summative coursework plans individually with the course teacher in office hours.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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