AN284      Half Unit
Anthropological Approaches to Race, Racism, and Decolonisation

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Imani Strong and Prof Laura Bear


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 is a call to action—in the tradition of the movements and literatures it examines—that will provide students with a foundational understanding of race and contemporary racism, as well as approaches and theories central to their potential transformation. The course will focus on the discipline’s historical and present theoretical orientations to race, explore alternative modes and questions in the practice of anthropology raised by anthropologists and theorists of colour, and provide an understanding of the policies—institutional, economic, social, and bureaucratic—that maintain both an academic and social racial status quo. Explicitly asking students to engage with the concept of antiracist and decolonial futures for anthropology, the course centres non-white/non-Western thought and thinkers, “activist” anthropology as a norm, and racial subjectivities as central to theory and practice.

The course will ask:

• What has been the role of the anthropologists of colour in forming the basis of what is commonly thought of as anthropological theory? What can we learn from their theories and methods?

• How can we understand contemporary racisms and how, positioned in the legacy of anthropology’s contribution to its construction, can anthropology become an antiracist tool?

• Where can anthropology intervene on policy or re-orient theory to engage an antiracist epistemology in a transformative way? What is the scope of a so-called “activist” anthropology?

• What are the potential futures for anthropology as a discipline actively engaged in decolonising theory and methods?


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

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

Formative coursework

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

Students will have the opportunity to write a 1,500-word formative essay in the MT. Feedback will be provided online, and/or during office hours.

Indicative reading

• Allen, Jafari Sinclaire and Jobson, Ryan Cecil. 2016. The Decolonizing Generation: (Race and) Theory in Anthropology since the Eighties. Current Anthropology. 57(2):129-148

• Baker, Lee.  1998. From savage to negro: anthropology and the construction of race, 1896-1954. University of California Press.

• Buck, Pem Davidson. 2012. “Whither whiteness? Empire, state, and the re-ordering of whiteness.”  Transforming Anthropology, Vol. 20, Number 2, pp. 105–117

• Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2019. Affective Justice: The Racialized Imaginaries of International Justice. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 42: 2. 244-267.

• Elliot-Cooper, Adam. 2018. The struggle that cannot be named: violence, space and the re-articulation of anti-racism in post-Duggan Britain, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41:14, 2445-2463,

• Fanon, Frantz. 1963. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.

• Harrison, Faye V. 1992. The Du Boisian legacy in anthropology. Critique of Anthropology 12(3):239–260.

• Jacobs-Huey, Lanita. 2002. The natives are gazing and talking back: reviewing the problematics of positionality, voice, and accountability among “Native” anthropologists. American Anthropologist 104(3):791–804.

• Mbembe, Achille. 2013. Introduction: The Becoming Black of the World. In Critique of Black Reason. Duke University Press.

• Rosa, J. and Díaz, V. 2020, Raciontologies: Rethinking Anthropological Accounts of Institutional Racism and Enactments of White Supremacy in the United States. American Anthropologist, 122: 120-132.

• Stoler, A. L. 2002. ‘Genealogies of the Intimate: Movements in Colonial Studies’, in Carnal knowledge and imperial power: race and the intimate in colonial rule. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 1–21.

• Táíwò, Olúfémi O., and Beba Cibralic. 2020. “The Case for Climate Reparations. Foreign Policy.

• Takezawa, Yasuko. 2011. “Toward a New Approach to Race and Racial Representations: Perspectives from Asia.” In Racial Representations in Asia. Kyoto University Press.

• Twine, France Winddance. 1998. Chapter 3: Mapping the Ideological Terrain of Racism. in Racism in a racial democracy: the maintenance of white supremacy in Brazil, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.


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

All UG students will be required to submit a 3,000 word policy proposal, which will be due in the first week of the subsequent term.

Students will be able to choose between:

a) a policy essay utilizing ethnographic evidence for an anti-racist/decolonial intervention on a particular institution explored during the course,

b) a design for an anti-racist social movement or campaign, or;

c) a traditional theoretical essay taking race as the analytical lens for examination of an institution or policy addressed in the course.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills