AN456      Half Unit
Anthropology of Economy (1): Production and Exchange

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Alpa Shah OLD 6.17A


This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MRes/PhD in Anthropology, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society, MSc in Regulation, MSc in Social Anthropology, MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World) and Master of Public Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

What is the economy? We will explore how the history of capitalism has been inextricably tied to producing an idea of the economy as a distinctive domain of life and how anthropologists have persistently challenged this understanding, showing how economic life is inextricably tied to religion, politics and kinship, for instance. We will show the radical possibilities of social relations that anthropologists have offered by studying communities that appear to be ‘the original affluent society’, seemingly not affected by capitalist societies, or incorporated on their own terms. At the same time, we will examine the impact of capitalism and the inequalities it has brought on diverse people around the world, looking at the role of colonialism and empire, industrialisation and neoliberalisation, which includes regimes of production, accumulation and dispossession. Central to our examination will be understanding processes and experiences of exploitation, oppression and domination. We will unveil the invisible work of the many that is never valued but gets hidden in precarity, by migration regimes and within households. We will highlight the ways in which gender, race, ethnicity, caste and class need to be central to any analysis of the economy. At all times, we will look for people’s creative responses to the situations they find themselves in, whether it is through acquiescence, reincorporation, religious conversion, weapons of the weak or outright rejection and revolt.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

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 of MT.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

A few ethnographies to whet your appetite: Bronislaw Malinowski (1964) Argonauts of the Western Pacific; Marshall Sahlins (1974) Stone Age Economics; Marcel Mauss (1990 [1925)). The Gift: the form and reason for exchange in archaic societies; Sidney Mintz (1985) Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History; June Nash (1979) We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: dependency and exploitation in Bolivia's tin mines; Michael Taussig (1980) The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America; Jonathan Parry (2020) Classes of Labour in a Central Indian Steel Town; Maria Mies (1982) The Lace Makers of Narsapur: Indian Housewives produce for the World Market; Carol Stacks (1974) All Our Kin; Claude Meillassoux (1981) Maidens, Meal and Money: capitalism and the domestic community; Jan Breman (1974) Patronage and Exploitation: changing agrarian relations in South Gujarat India; Alpa Shah, Jens Lerche, Richard Axelby, Brendan Donegan, Dalel Benbabaali, Jayaseelan Raj and Vikramaditya Thakur (2018) Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st Century India; Tania Murray Li (2014) Land's End: Capitalist Relations on the Indigenous Frontier. 

A few general overview texts: James G. Carrier and Don Kalb (eds) (2015) Anthropologies of Class: Power, Practice, and Inequality; Richard Wilk and Lisa Cliggett (1996) Economies and Cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology; James Carrier (ed) (2005) A Handbook of Economic Anthropology

Other general introductory textsStephen Gudeman (2001) The Anthropology of Economy; Chris Hann and Keith Hart (2011) Economic Anthropology; Susana Narotzky (1997) New Directions in Economic Anthropology; Jonathan Parry and Maurice Bloch (Eds) (1989), Money and the Morality of Exchange; Stuart Plattner (ed) (1989) Economic Anthropology; James Carrier (2019) A Research Agenda for Economic Anthropology


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 47

Average class size 2020/21: 16

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information