Postgraduate Course: An Introduction to Anthropological Theory (PGSP11049)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course is not designed to present a complete history of the various theoretical developments or debates within anthropology. Instead, organized around a contrast between anthropologists who place the emphasis on 'society' and anthropologists who stress the importance of 'culture', it aims to provide an intensive introduction to some of the most important theoretical perspectives and to show the ways in which they have been used in explaining social and cultural processes among particular peoples. Utilizing a number of fieldwork studies, both 'classic' and more recent, it also focuses on the intimate link between theory and ethnography, and attempts to elucidate the distinctive character of social anthropology: the questions it asks and the answers it supplies.
a. Academic Description
This course is not designed to present a complete history of the various theoretical developments or debates within anthropology. Instead, organized around a contrast between anthropologists who place the emphasis on 'society' and anthropologists who stress the importance of 'culture', it aims to provide an intensive introduction to some of the most important theoretical perspectives and to show the ways in which they have been used in explaining social and cultural processes among particular peoples. Utilizing a number of fieldwork studies, both 'classic' and more recent, it also focuses on the intimate link between theory and ethnography, and attempts to elucidate the distinctive character of social anthropology - that is, the questions it asks and the answers it supplies.
b. Outline Content
The quest for comparison (society versus culture) Utilizing Evans-Pritchard's classic ethnography of the Azande, this lecture attempts to explain what anthropology 'is' and what anthropologists 'do'.
2. From function to structure
Focusing on the work of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, this lecture explores the theoretical perspectives that have come to be known as 'functionalism' and 'structural-functionalism'.
3. From action and production to performance Introducing the work of a variety of anthropologists (Gluckman, Barth, Turner), this lecture focuses on the gradual move away from 'function' and 'structure' towards a more dynamic understanding of social life based on the notions of '(inter)action' and 'performance'.
4. Society as culture
This lecture discusses the way in which some anthropologists have tried to re-conceptualize the domain of the social in terms of '(dis)ordered' experience (Douglas) and 'practical' logic (Bourdieu).
5. From language to text
This lecture discusses the 'structuralism' of Levi-Strauss and the 'interpretive' anthropology of Geertz - two perspectives that, despite their differences, place the emphasis on 'culture'.
6. From symbols to narratives
Examining the significance of kinship (in the case of Schneider) and history (in the case of Sahlins), the importance of 'culture' is further explicated and debated.
7. Culture as society
Discussing the work of Foucault and Gramsci, as well as their influence on social anthropology, this lecture explores the way in which anthropologists have tried to re-conceptualize the domain of the cultural in terms of 'discourse' and 'hegemony'.
Focusing on the notion of 'sociality', this lecture discusses some of the ways in which the new concerns with practice and discourse were combined in an attempt to transcend the dichotomy between 'culture' and 'society'.
Introducing the notion of 'embodiment', this lecture deals with another way in which recent work has tried to move beyond the dualisms embedded in the dichotomy between 'culture' and 'society'.
10. Conclusion: anthropological 'fictions'
Focusing on the connection between ethnographic writing, politics and representation, this lecture reviews the various theoretical approaches and re-considers the anthropological 'quest': could anthropology be a kind of 'fiction'?
c. Student Learning Experience
The course consists of one two-hour session a week for the whole of the semester. These sessions involve a mixture of lectures (including possibly some 'guest-lectures'), class discussions, debates, and student presentations. Throughout the various sessions, students are encouraged to explore the relevance of anthropological theory by creating links with their own interests and the kind of questions that first brought them to anthropology.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||The course is assessed through a combination of a short essay (20%) and a long essay (80%).
||The course is assessed by a combination of a short essay (word-limit: 1,500) and a long essay (word-limit: 4,000). I set essay questions/topics but, when it comes to the long essay, students can design their own in consultation with me. The overall aim of the assessment and feedback is to allow them to develop their own ideas, demonstrate their ability to focus on pertinent issues and analyse relevant evidence in an integrated as well as critical manner. As the short essay carries only a weighting of 20% and it is submitted very early in the semester, it is used to provide formative assessment and feedback that can help students identify their strengths and weaknesses - beyond providing individual written feedback, as well as general verbal feedback in class, students will be encouraged to seek further individual feedback during one-to-one meetings with the lecturer. In the form of long essay plans and student presentations that focus on issues closely related to the long essay topics, there are more opportunities for feedback throughout the course. The long essay will be returned with written comments providing individual summative feedback for each student at the end of the course.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- show a clear understanding of the main anthropological theories and a critical appreciation of their place with social anthropology
- reflect on the application of a variety of ethnographic theories to different ethnographic problems
- engage with the kind of questions anthropologists ask and some of the answers they offer, students should have a clear understanding of the anthropological 'mode of thought'.
- appreciate the intrinsic connection between anthropological theory and the methodological challenges embedded in ethnographic enquiry.
|Barnard, A. 2000 History and Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge|
University Press. Bourdieu, P. 1990 'Belief and the body' & 'Structures, habitus, practices'. In The
Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Comaroff, J. and J. Comaroff 1992 Ethnography and the Historical Imagination.
Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1937 Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande
Oxford: Clarendon Press. Geertz, C. 1973 'Deep play: notes on a Balinese cock-fight'. In The Interpretation of
Cultures. New York: Basic Books. Kuper, A. 1999 Culture: The Anthropologists' Account. Cambridge, Mass. / London:
Harvard University Press.
Lambek, M. 1998 'Body and mind in mind, body and mind in body'. In M. Lambek
And A. Strathern (eds), Bodies and persons. Cambridge: Cambridge
Levi-Strauss, C. 1966 The Savage Mind. London: George Widenfeld & Nicholson
Malinowski, B. 1929 The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia.
Roseberry, W. 1997 'Marx and Anthropology'. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:
25-46. Sahlins, M. 1983 'Other times, Other customs: The Anthropology of History'.
American Anthropologist 85: 517-544. Talle, A. 1993 'Transforming Women into "Pure" Agnates: Aspects of Female
Infibulation in Somalia'. In V. Broch-Due, I. Rudie & T. Bleie (eds), Carved
Flesh, Cast Selves. Oxford/Providence: Berg. Turner, V. 1969 The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. New York: Aldine
Viveiros de Castro, E. 1998 'Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism'.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4: 469-488. Wacquant, L. 1998 'The prizefighter's three bodies'. Ethnos 63 (3): 325-352.
Weston, K. 1994 'Forever is a Long Time: Romancing the Real in Gay Kinship
Ideologies'. In S. Yanagisako and C. Delaney (eds), Naturalizing Power:
Essays in Feminist Cultural Analysis. London: Routledge.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Dimitri Tsintjilonis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3934
|Course secretary||Mr Jack Smith
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485