BASS Social Anthropology and Philosophy / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Political and Economic Anthropology

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOAN20821
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course examines how social anthropology critically approaches the entanglements of politics and economics in diverse locations around the globe and how these entanglements are inflected in everyday life. The course explores how anthropologists continue to develop new directions in anthropology that provide us with analytical tools to explain and understand current events affecting people's lives around the world.

The lecture course will cover the following themes:

  • Week 1: Locating ‘the Political’ and Power: Introduction to Political Anthropology
  • Week 2: European Expansion and the Modern World System
  • Week 3: The Modern State
  • Week 4: Militarism and War
  • Week 5: Cynicism, Irony and Politics
  • Reading Week
  • Week 6: Variations in Value: Introduction to Economic Anthropology
  • Week 7: Capitalism, Money and the Market
  • Week 8: The Financial Crisis
  • Week 9: Labour, Post-Industrial Economies and ‘Precarity’
  • Week 10: Anthropological Approaches and Contemporary Contexts: Course revision and final essay preparation 


  • Identify different anthropological approaches to the study of political processes and power in the everyday.
  • To identify how anthropological analysis embedded in history can explain political and economic phenomena today

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Identify a range of anthropological approaches to the study of political economy.
  • Distinguish anthropological approaches to the crises of industrial and financial capitalism and the key social science concepts that these engendered.
  • Recognise the diverse set of historical conditions around the world that render making a living in late capitalism a contested domain of human interaction.
  • Critically mobilise different theoretical approaches to analyse the workings of power in their everyday forms. 


Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and tutorials

Assessment methods

  • Book club (worth 30%);
  • 3000 word final essay (worth 70%)



Feedback methods

Students will receive feedback via:

• Discussions in lectures and seminars, and during presentations

• Mid-semester essay

• Final essay

Recommended reading

  • Carrier James. 2012. A Handbook of Economic Anthropology. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
  • Hann Chris. & Keith Hart. 2011. Economic Anthropology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Llewellyn Ted. 2003. An Introduction to Political Anthropology. USA: Praeger Publishers.
  • Narotzky, Susana. 1997. New Directions in Economic Anthropology London. Pluto Press.
  • Vincent, Joan (ed.). 2002: The Anthropology of Politics: A Reader in Ethnography, Theory and Critique. Oxford: Blackwell.



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michelle Obeid Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Length of course: 10 weeks

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