AN357      Half Unit
Economic Anthropology (2): Transformation and Globalisation

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Rebecca Bowers OLD 6.17A


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 available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course explores the limits and potentials of contemporary global capitalism. We all know that we live in a global economy, but how has this come into being? What are its political, social and cultural consequences? Why is the global economy so volatile? How does it produce inequality for many and abundance for some? Is globalisation dead in an era of ‘de-coupling’ and popularism? What might the futures of global capitalism be? Through the term we will answer these questions in relation to classic themes of production, social reproduction, circulation and consumption. However our theoretical approaches will be expanded to explore the emerging anthropology of: logistical power, the commodification of intimacy, algorithmic interactions, global branding, media spectacles, the security state, financialisation and speculation. Importantly the course will demonstrate that globalisation does not have a single logic nor is it a towering force. Instead, our focus on ethnography takes us inside the local processes through which the durable capture of accumulation and power are created. Significantly too we will be examining globalisation from the perspective of global elites, the middle classes and the precarious poor. By taking an anthropological approach to globalisation we will move away from an economic or ‘economistic’ theory of capitalism. Instead we will see the significance of desire, kinship, affect, political dreams, ethics and culture to the intimate economy of capitalism. At the end of the course we will have a better understanding of recent global changes, but also a set of theoretical tools that can help us to rethink approaches to capitalism in general.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected. 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

Yanagisako, S. and L. Rofel (2019) Fabricating Transnational Capitalism: a collaborative ethnography of Italian-Chinese Global Fashion, Duke University Press.

Cowen D (2014) The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dua, Jatin. (2019) Captured at Sea: Piracy and Protection in the Indian Ocean. University of California Press.

Allison, A. (2009). Nightwork: Sexuality, pleasure, and corporate masculinity in a Tokyo hostess club. University of Chicago Press.

C.Upadhyay (2015) Re-engineering India: Work, Capital and Class in an Offshore Economy, Oxford University Press

Amoore, Louise, and Volha Piotukh, eds. (2015) Algorithmic life: Calculative devices in the age of big data. Routledge

Nakassis, Constantine V. (2016) Doing style: Youth and mass mediation in South India. University of Chicago Press.

Fillitz, Thomas, and Paul van der Grijp, eds.(2018) An Anthropology of Contemporary Art: Practices, Markets, and Collectors. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Stout, N. (2019) Dispossessed: how predatory bureaucracy foreclosed on the American Middle Class. University of California Press.

Maguire, Mark and Setha Low (2019) Spaces of Security: Ethnographies of Securityscapes, Surveillance, and Control. NYU Press.

Zeynep Tufekci (2017) Twitter and tear gas: The power and fragility of networked protest. Yale University Press.

Coleman, Gabriella (2014) Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy: The many faces of Anonymous. Verso books.

Bear, Laura (2015) Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt Along a South Asian River. Stanford University Press.


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

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2021/22: 44

Average class size 2021/22: 14

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

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