AN451      Half Unit
Anthropology of Politics

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mukulika Banerjee


This course is available on the MA in Modern History, MRes/PhD in Anthropology, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics), MSc in Regulation, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course focuses on politics and power in their cross-cultural application. Using Marxist, Weberian, and Foucauldian approaches it explores how power travels through different socio-cultural contexts, paying attention to issues such as leadership, ordered anarchy, brokerage, sovereignty, surveillance, spectacle, conspiracy, and violence. A recurring theme throughout the course concerns the state. How should the state be studied anthropologically? Processes of state formation and disintegration, nationalism in its various guises, and state-society relations will be reviewed in order to understand how European, post-colonial, and post-socialist societies are governed.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected. This course has a reading week in Week 6 of AT.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

Anderson, B, 1991 [1983], Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism; Appadurai, A, 2006, Fear of small numbers: an essay on the geography of anger;; Blok, A, 1988, The Mafia of a Sicilian Village 1860-1960: a study of violent peasant entrepreneurs; Bryant, R, & Reeves, M, 2021, The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty; Clastres, P, 1987, Society against the state: essays in political anthropology; Evans-Pritchard, EE, The Nuer; Leach, Edmund, 1954, The Political Systems of Highland Burma; Kwon, H, & B. Chung, 2012, North Korea: beyond charismatic politics; Mbembe, A, 2001, On the Postcolony; Navaro, Y, 2021, The make-believe space: affective geography in a postwar polity. Tuckett, A, 2018, Rules, Paper, Status: Migrants and Precarious Bureaucracy in Contemporary Italy; Vincent, J, 2002, The Anthropology of Politics.; Wolf, E. 1999. Envisioning Power: Ideologies of Dominance and Crisis.


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the WT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2022/23: 42

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

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
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication