401A Concepts in Anthropology (A)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Final Year
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This final-year, Term 1 module offers students an advanced exploration of contemporary theoretical concepts and perspectives in anthropology and neighbouring disciplines. Anthropology 401A consists of two different but interlinked blocks. Block 1 considers the question, does anthropology just need to be about humans? This is the provocative question that will lead us into five weeks on the ontological and post-human turns in anthropology. What would an object-centred anthropology look like? What power do non-human actors (be they animals, objects, spirits, gods, ideas) have? Can we go one step further and approach ethnography from the perspective of the non-human? We will examine material culture theory in anthropology, the social life of things, actor-network theory, perspectivism, and the new materialism. The block will equip students with tools to decentre the human in their ethnographic research and readings, whilst also critiquing the ontological and posthuman turns using feminist, marxist and postcolonial theories.  In the second block, after reading week, there will be an introduction to one of the broader thematic sub-disciplines of contemporary anthropology, namely the anthropology of the political economy, including the anthropology of the contemporary state and contemporary capitalism. The questions here are: is something like an “anthropology of the state” even possible considering how different states are from one another in their specific local forms?; What is the ‘state’ as an ethnographic entity?; and how do we look at contemporary political and economic macro-issues using an anthropological lens?


Compulsory for all final-year students on:

  • BA Social Anthropology

For 2022/23 and 2023/24, guided option for final-year students on:

  • BA Social Anthropology and…

From 2024/25, compulsory for all final-year students on:

  • BA Social Anthropology
  • BA Social Anthropology and…

Module open only to students on the above degrees.

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Appadurai, A. 1986. Introduction to The social life of things: commodities in cultural perspective, Cambridge: University Press
  • Barad, K. 2003. `Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter
    Comes to Matter’. Signs. 28 (3): 801-31
  • DeLoughery, E. & Flores, T. (2020) Submerged Bodies: The Tidalectics of Representability and the Sea in Caribbean Art. Environmental Humanities 12 (1): 132-165
  • Keane, W. (2018) On Semiotic Ideologies. Sign and Society 6 (1): 64-87
  • Latour, B. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Miller, D. 2009 Stuff. London: Polity
  • Tinsley, N. O. (2008) Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage. GLQ 14 (2-3):191-215
  • Tsing, A. L. (2005) Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton UP)
  • Viveiros de Castro, E. 1998. Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism. JRAI. 4 (3): 469-488
  • Winegar, J. (2016) A Civilized Revolution: Aesthetics and Political Action in Egypt. American Ethnologist 43 (4): 609-22


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules