University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Anthropological Theory (PGSP11172)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to give a deeper grounding in contemporary social anthropology. In charting how society and culture are being theorized, we reflect on forms of theoretical knowledge and ethnographic sensibilities that are relevant today, and assess the stakes for a future anthropology. The course first introduces three of the most important strands of 'grand theory' (Boas's theory of culture, Marx's theory of ideology, and Claude LÚvi-Strauss' structuralism). It then discusses three theorists who have reworked these grand theories in their own distinctive ways: Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, and Bruno Latour. In the last two lectures, we move away from examining the work of particular theorists, to consider how anthropological theory has also been profoundly affected by two broader social and political movements: feminism and post-colonialism. Each week, the lecture introduces the theory and leads to a joint discussion. The tutorials focus on how each strand of theory has informed and engendered different kinds of ethnographic writing. This course is not a comprehensive history of anthropological theory: there is very little reference, for example, to British anthropology in the mid-twentieth century or to earlier influential ideas like evolutionism or diffusionism. Instead, it works like a genealogy, by taking anthropological debates at the beginning of the 21st century as a starting-point for a re-reading of thinkers of the past century. The students' own first-hand reading and creative engagement with theoretical thought is the main aim of this course.
Course description Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Bourdieu: A Different Style of Reflexivity
Week 3: Foucault: Power and the Body
Week 4: Feminism and Anthropology
Week 5: Critical Histories and Postcolonialism
Week 6: Marx and Marxist Anthropology
Week 7: Weber: Meaning, Modes of Living, Modernity
Week 8: Levi-Strauss and Structuralism
Week 9: Latour: 'Reassembling' the Social
Week 10: Conclusion

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  14
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4000 word essay
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. show a confident grasp of the main trends in anthropological theory that are influential today
  2. utilise the reading of a number of original writings by a range of theorists, and be capable of providing a critical account of anthropological theorists and the intellectual context in which they worked
  3. relate the application of those theories in existing ethnographic writing and be able to draw upon them in thinking about future ethnographic research.
Reading List
Nash, J. 1997. When Isms Become Wasms: Structural Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism And Post-Modernism. Critique of Anthropology 17(1): 11-32.
Ortner, S. 1984. Theory in Anthropology Since the Sixties. Comparative Studies in Society and History 26(1):126-166
Boas, F. 1974. The Aims of Ethnology. In A Franz Boas Reader: the Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883-1911. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. GN6 Boa
Stocking, G. 1982. Franz Boas and the Culture Concept in Historical Perspective. In Race, Culture, and Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. GN325 Sto
Orta, A. 2004. The Promise of Particularism and the Theology of Culture: Limits and Lessons of "Neo-Boasianism." American Anthropologist, Vol. 106 (3): 473-487.
Marx, K. 1970. The German Ideology. London: Lawrence & Wishart. HX276 Mar
Althusser, L. 1971. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. London: NLB. B2430.A473 Alt
Asad, T. 1979. Anthropology and the Analysis of Ideology. Man, Vol.14, No.4: 607-627 (
Tutorial reading:
Taussig, M. 1977. The Genesis of Capitalism amongst a South American Peasantry: Devil's Labor and the Baptism of Money. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol.19, No.2: 130-155. (
LÚvi-Strauss, C. 1967. Four Winnebago Myths. In Myth and Cosmos: Readings in Mythology and Symbolism (ed.) J. Middleton. New York: The Natural History Press. BL313 Myt. (also available in LÚvi-Strauss's Structural Anthropology: Vol.2. GN362 Lev)
LÚvi-Strauss, C. 1972. Overture. In The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. BL304 Lev
Gow, P. 2001. Introduction. An Amazonian Myth and Its History. Oxford: Oxford University press. F3430. 1. P5 Gow.
Latour, B. 1993. Ch.4 Relativism, in We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Q175.5 Lat
Latour, B. Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Door Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, edited by Wiebe E. Bijker & John Law, MIT Press, USA, 1992, pp. 225-258.
Nadasdy, P. 2007. The Gift in the Animal: The Ontology of Hunting and Human-Animal Sociality. American Ethnologist 34(1): 25-43.
Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity (chapters 3&4: Structures, Habitus, Practices AND Belief and the Body, pp. 52-79)
Foucault, M 1977 Docile Bodies' in M Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison Harmondsworth: Penguin. 135-169
Laidlaw, J. 2002. Towards an Anthropology of Freedom and Ethics. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute n.s. 8 (2): 311-332
Strathern, M. 1987. 'An Awkward Relationship: the Case of Feminism and Anthropology' Signs 12 (2): 276-92
Mahmood, S. 2001. Feminist Theory, embodiment, and the docile agent: some reflections on the Egyptian Islamic revival. Cultural Anthropology 16 (2): 202-36
Said, E. 1985 [1978]. Orientalism. London: Penguin. In particular the Introduction.
Bhabha, H. 1984. Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse
October 28, Discipleship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis: 125-133
Also published as Chapter 4 in The Location of Culture. London: Routledge. 85-92
Sahlins, M. 1999 Two or three things I know about culture Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute n.s. 5(3): 399-421
Carrithers, M. 2005.Anthropology as a Moral Science of Possibilities Current Anthropology 46: 433-456
Dirks, N., G. Eley and S. Ortner Introduction: Culture/Power/History in Dirks, Eley and Ortner (eds) 1992 Culture/Power/History. Princeton: UP
Kuper, A. 1994 Culture, identity and the project of a cosmopolitan anthropology Man 29 (3): 537-54.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tom Boylston
Course secretaryMs Jessica Barton
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information
© Copyright 2015 The University of Edinburgh - 18 January 2016 4:38 am