Theory and Ethnography in Social Anthropology 1 - SE882

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
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7 15 (7.5) PROF J de Pina Cabral







This module aims to develop the anthropological imagination of master's students, that is, to instil the ability to apprehend theoretical issues and apply them with a critical and informed sense of difference in the human experience. The module is not a 'history of theory' survey; rather, it will proceed by means of a set of longstanding themes in social and cultural anthropology through which different theoretical approaches to the same ethnographic problem or issue have been explored. The module may be organised around a single theme that has long dominated anthropological discussions (such as 'the gift', hierarchy and scale, structure and agency etc.) which will be used as a lens through which to view theoretical discussions within social anthropology as well as its appropriations from other disciplines.


This module appears in:

Contact hours



Autumn Term

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by 100% coursework.
Coursework for the module comprises an essay of 2000-3000 words (65%), a class test during term time (20%), and seminar participation throughout the module (15%).
As is appropriate to a Master's level module, the emphasis in assessment is on independent research and the originality of a student's contribution to the field under study, accounting for most of the assessment weight being placed on the essay. The class test is a minor assessment item designed to test for the student's retention and understanding of key concepts presented in the module, whilst the seminar participation assessment tests (and rewards) students for active participation in the exchange of ideas with peers in the seminar meetings, which form the core teaching method of this module.

Indicative reading

H.L. Moore, Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions. Polity Press 2011
J. Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. Columbia University Press 2002
A. Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions in Globalization. University of Minnesota Press 1996
A. Gupta and J. Ferguson (eds), Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science. University of California Press 1997
K. Sykes, Arguing with Anthropology: An Introduction to Critical Theories of the Gift. Routledge 2005
H. Miyazaki, The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge. Stanford University Press 2004

Learning outcomes

1) Have a sound grasp of signal concepts in the contemporary and historical corpus of social anthropology
2) Examine the development of social anthropology's approach to these and related concepts
3) Demonstrate a working knowledge of ethnographic case studies through which these concepts can be thought about and critiqued
4) Develop a nuanced comparative perspective on these concepts and phenomena by engaging with both ethnographic and historical
5) Facilitate the application of anthropological modes of thinking to contemporary political, social and cultural events and structures
6) Apprehend both theoretical issues and current events with a critical and informed sense of difference in the human experience

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