251 Anthropology of Economic Life

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This module provides an introduction to both classical and recent approaches in economic anthropology.

Moving away from narrow understandings of economy, it explores how economic life is embedded in social relations, cultural transformations and political action. This includes vital topics such as money and commodities, the gendering/racialising of labour, cultures of consumption, informal economies, indebtedness and finance. Finally, it will investigate how anthropologists are envisaging the future of economic life and alternatives to neoliberal austerity, and how an engaged anthropology can contribute to shaping alternatives.

Students will be given a foundation for studying global economic processes through a comparative and ethnographically-based anthropological lens, as well as a toolkit of approaches and theories to critically examine a range of economic activities.

The module will be useful for any students interested in global relations of power and in the social and lived experience of economic life, particularly those pursuing degrees in Anthropology, Economics and Development Studies.


For students entering 2022 and after, guided option for Year 2 students on:

  • BA Social Anthropology
  • BA Social Anthropology and...
  • BA Economics
  • BSc Economics
  • BSc Development Economics
  • BA Global Development

This module is also a School-wide Open Option (Year 2 or Year 3). No prerequisites.

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Bear, L. 2015. Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt Along a South Asian River. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press
  • Bear, Laura, Karen Ho, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako. 2015. "Gens: A Feminist Manifesto for the Study of Capitalism." Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, March 30
  • Graeber, D. 2014. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House
  • Hann, C. and Hart, K. 2011. Economic Anthropology. London: Polity
  • Hardt, M and Negri, A. 2001. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
  • Harvey, D. 2007. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Hickel, J. 2017. The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions. London: Windmill
  • Ho, K. 2009. Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street. Durham, NC: Duke University Press
  • Ouroussoff, A. 2010. Wall Street at War: The Secret Struggle for the Global Economy. Cambridge: Polity
  • Tsing, A. L. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.