AN485      Half Unit
Mind and Society

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Laura Bear OLD.6.02


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Social Anthropology and MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course will introduce students to different ways in which anthropologists (and others) have sought to understand the human mind in its social and cultural context. It will survey a range of contemporary theoretical perspectives within psychological anthropology and cognate disciplines, including psychoanalytic and post-psychoanalytic social theory; phenomenological approaches in anthropology; and other anthropological engagements with the psy disciplines.

Students will learn to assess the value and limits of various perspectives on the human mind by placing them in dialogue with ethnographic studies of selected mental phenomena and mediating social practices. These ethnographies will be about the outer limits of mental experience such as the uncanny, hallucinations and dreams and how these relate to time. What does it mean to be human and to exist suspended between the past, present and future? And how do limit experiences alter our mental experiences of time and reality? How is our sense of mental reality generated and who gets to define what it is?

Specific topics addressed include:

  • Human Consciousness in Time
  • The Uncanny and ‘Reality’
  • Trauma and Temporality
  • The Will and the Unconscious
  • Scientific Experiments and other Hallucinations
  • Neuroscience and Mystic Materialism
  • Imagination and Dreaming
  • The Gaze, Visions and Creativity


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

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

  • Lepselter, S. 2016. The Resonance of Unseen Things: poetics, power, captivity, and UFOs in the American uncanny. University of Michigan Press
  • Langlitz, Nicolas. 2013. Neuropsychedelia: The revival of hallucinogen research since the decade of the brain. Univ of California Press
  • Mittermaier, Amira. 2010. Dreams that Matter: Egyptian landscapes of the imagination. Univ of California Press.
  • Abi-Rached, J. and Rose, N. 2022. Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Hollan, Douglas W. 2022."Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: The Looping Effects of Persons and Social Worlds." Annual Review of Anthropology 51
  • Desjarlais, Robert, and C. Jason Throop. 2011. "Phenomenological approaches in anthropology." Annual review of anthropology 40
  • Rutherford, Danilyn. 2016 "Affect theory and the empirical." Annual Review of Anthropology 45
  • Bear, Laura. 2016. "Time as technique." Annual Review of Anthropology 45
  • Porcello, T., Meintjes, L., Ochoa, A. M., & Samuels, D. W. 2010. “The reorganization of the sensory world.” Annual Review of Anthropology, 39.
  • Howes, David. 2019 "Multisensory anthropology." Annual Review of Anthropology 48.
  • Csordas, Thomas J. 1993.  "Somatic modes of attention." Cultural Anthropology 8(2)
  • Carsten, Janet, ed. 2008. Ghosts of memory: essays on remembrance and relatedness. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Santo, Diana Espirito. 2022. Spirited histories: technologies, media, and trauma in paranormal Chile. Taylor & Francis.
  • Murphy, Keith M., and C. Jason Throop, eds. 2010. Toward an Anthropology of the Will. Stanford University Press.


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

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2023/24: Unavailable

Average class size 2023/24: Unavailable

Controlled access 2023/24: 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
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills