SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Theory in Anthropology

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

The course as a whole aims at equipping students with the necessary skills for approaching critically a series of fundamental changes that have been taking place in anthropological theorising from the 1950s onwards.

The course will introduce the work of major theorists, contextualising their contributions both in theoretical and historical terms, and charting the development of current concerns with, among others, agency, history, text, and the body. This is achieved by means of interrogating anthropology interaction with a series of theoretical 'paradigms', ranging from structuralism, phenomenology and Marxism to post-modernism and post-structuralism. 

In addition, it will provide students with inter-disciplinary pointers as the relation of the discipline with a series of other disciplines such as history, psychoanalysis, etc. are explored in some depth. 


The course has been designed with the explicit purpose of providing a bridge between two key courses that students take in their first and third year, building upon the knowledge they gained from attending Introduction to Social Anthropology and preparing them for Contemporary Trends in the Study of Society.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, students will:

  • have acquired a sense of the historical shifts in the discipline;
  • the ability to engage with and evaluate the debates and arguments that have made these shifts possible;
  • be familiar with a series of very important theoretical trends;
  • be equipped with key analytical concepts.

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 50%. Two pieces of coursework will count for 40% (20% each) towards the final mark, whilst Seminar Participation will account for 10%.

Suggested reading

  • Ingold, T. (ed.) 1996. Key debates in anthropology. London: Routledge.
  • Bloch, M. 1983. Marxism and anthropology: the history of a relationship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Clifford, J. & G. Marcus (eds.) 1986. Writing culture: the poetics and politics of ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Sahlins, M. 1995. How 'natives' think: about Captain Cook, for example. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Dumont, L. 1986. Essays on individualism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Foucault, M. 1977. Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. London: Allen Lane


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules