Not available in 2021/22
AN205      Half Unit
The Anthropology of Melanesia

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael W. Scott, OLD 6.16

Availability

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

Course content

This course provides an introduction to selected themes in the anthropology of the region in the Southwest Pacific Ocean known as Melanesia.  It gives students a grounding in the contemporary anthropology of the region, primarily through a close reading of three book-length ethnographies.

The three ethnographies, which are all new since 2013, are Christopher Wright's The Echo of Things, an account of what photography means to people in the western Solomon Islands; Alice Street's Biomedicine in an Unstable Place, an analysis of how persons and diseases are made visible or invisible in a hospital on the north coast of Papua New Guinea; and Alex Golub's Leviathans at the Gold Mine, a study of the relationship between indigenous landowners and a large international gold mining operation in their valley in the highlands of New Guinea.

These ethnographies not only provide students with focused accounts of three very different contexts in Melanesia, they also address histories, dynamics, and concerns familiar to people living throughout the region.  Furthermore, because the three authors draw on different intellectual antecedents and disciplinary traditions, their work provides an entree into the most influential theoretical debates animating Pacific anthropology today.

Topics to be traced throughout the course include personhood and bodies, kinship and sociality, religion and cosmology, technology and infrastructure, development, globalization, and the state.  Engagement with these three books will be enhanced and supplemented by other readings (including works by Pacific Islanders), ethnographic films, and a visit to the British Museum.

Teaching

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

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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Christopher Wright, The Echo of Things: The Lives of Photographs in the Solomon Islands (2013); Alice Street, Biomedicine in an Unstable Place: Infrastructure and Personhood in a Papua New Guinean Hospital (2014); Alex Golub, Leviathans at the Gold Mine: Creating Indigenous and Corporate Actors in Papua New Guinea (2014).

Assessment

Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

The assessed essay must be between 2,500 – 3,000 words in length.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information