This half of the module continues to provide comprehensive training in social and cultural anthropology, emphasising the discipline's contribution to the comparative study of human beings in their diverse social and cultural formations. Building on the themes of Term 1, TECA introduces students to core ethnographic topics and comparative analysis in social anthropology via the lens of religion, politics, kinship and economics.


    This list links to essential readings ONLY. Course information and full reading list can be found on the Moodle page.


    1. Cultural anthropology: a contemporary perspective - Roger M. Keesing, Andrew Strathern c1998

      Book  (a broad and very well put together introduction)

    2. Anthropology and anthropologists: the modern British school - Adam Kuper 1996

      Book  (good as an introduction to the development of social anthropology in Britain).

    3. Culture: the anthropologists' account - Adam Kuper c1999

      Book  (useful, though polemically critical, account of the development of cultural anthropology in the US)

    4. An introduction to theory in anthropology - Robert Layton 1997

      Book  (good on theoretical approaches in anthropology)

    5. Assessing cultural anthropology - Robert Borofsky c1994

      Book  (useful, if a little dated, collection of key writings by key anthropologists)

    6. Questions of anthropology - Rita Astuti, Jonathan P. Parry, Charles Stafford c2007

      Book  (a more recent collection of introductory essays on key topics by British anthropologists)

    7. Key debates in anthropology - Tim Ingold 1996

      Book  (collection of annual debates on anthropological topics held in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s – excellent as introductions to each topic. For more recent debates visit )

    8. Encyclopedia of social and cultural anthropology - Alan Barnard, Jonathan Spencer 2002

      Book  (extremely useful encyclopaedia on key terms and topics, updated regularly – look for most recent editions)

    1. PLACES TO VISIT ONLINE: (a popular international anthropology blog)

      (a forum for work by postgraduates students and young anthropologists)

      (often interesting blogs, open access papers and online seminars)

      (vibrant and very rich forum for contemporary anthropology, focusing on what the editors call 'ethnographic theory')

      (mainly reviews of recent books)

      (vibrant blog on 'material culture studies', involving many of our colleagues in the Material Culture part of the department)

      (the webpages of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth)

      (the webpages of the Royal Anthropological Institute)

      (the webpages of the European Association of Social Anthropologists) 

      (the webpages of the American Anthropological Association)

  5. Economics (Seminar 10-11) 9 items
    1. Seminar 10: Scarcity, affluence and exchange - the anthropology of economy 3 items
      What does Anthropology have to say about Economics? This week we will try to understand whether all human beings share the same economic behaviour or not. In particular, we will introduce the debate between and Formalists and the Substantivists. The Formalists are scholars who believe that, when it comes to economy, humans always try to achieve the maximum gain and are in competition for resources. In contrast, the Substantivists are scholars who believe that notions like competition and maximum gain are purely Western concepts, and that in some non-Western contexts, economy is understood and practiced in utterly different ways. We will examine this through exploring how anthropologists have approached sharing and exchange. This will include a discussion of property and personhood in a hunter gatherer context. This will also bring us to reevaluate and unpack concepts like ‘scarcity’ and ‘affluence’ in an attempt to understand whether these notions have the same meaning cross-culturally. It will also allow us to consider the connection between religion and economics.
      1. Required reading: 3 items
        1. The spirit of the gift - Marshall Sahlins

          Chapter Essential We are unable to digitise more than one chapter from this book. Please photocopy this chapter from the print copy. There are multiple copies available, plus a short loan copy.

        2. The original affluent society - Marshall Sahlins

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading

    2. Seminar 11: Exploitation and Consumption 6 items
      This week we will focus on how people produce and consume, and on the implications of specific styles of production and consumption on human societies. In the past, when trying to make sense of these dynamics, anthropologists have attempted to apply one of the most important economic theories of the 19th and 20th century: Marxism. Philosopher Karl Marx believed that economic relationships are the very basis of human culture, as they shape religion, traditions and beliefs. He also told us that, at least in modern times, economic relationships tend to have a common trait: the elite monopolises the means of production and exploits lower classes forcing them to be at the margins of the market, to work and buy – rather than produce -in order to survive. Marxism, however, is a European philosophy, and we will see that, when looking at non-Western societies, anthropologists were forced to ask themselves whether Marxist theory actually works or not, and how/if the theory could be modified. We will also see how anthropologists have directly or indirectly challenged Marxism. In doing so, we will discuss the notion of ‘debt’ but we will see how some social scientists have focused on consumption – rather than on production – and proposed that buying and shopping might be important aspects for the construction of personhood. We will also ask ourselves whether this approach might reflect the consumerist nature of contemporary neo-liberal societies.
      1. Required reading: 6 items
        1. Who are the exploited? - Claude Meillasoux

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading.

        2. A Summary of the Argument - Daniel Miller

          Chapter Essential We are unable to digitise more than one chapter from this book. Please photocopy this chapter. There are multiple copies available, plus copies in short loan.

        3. Shopping as Sacrifice - Daniel Miller

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading

        4. Marxism and British and French anthropology - Maurice Bloch

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading.

  6. Politics (Seminar 12-13) 10 items
    1. Seminar 12: States of statelessness and political anthropology 3 items
      This week’s session is devoted to examining an originary moment in the development of political anthropology as a distinctive subfield within the discipline, namely the classical debate about how societies supposedly ‘lacking’ formal state structures nevertheless manage to maintain order and reproduce themselves socially over time. In this connection, we focus on what is perhaps the most classic of classics in the British tradition of social anthropology, namely Evans-Pritchard’s ethnographic monograph on the Nuer of Sudan. We look at Evans-Pritchard’s notion of ‘segmentation’, on which his ‘structural’ analysis of the political organization of the Nuer is built. We then examine a more a recent account of the Nuer, by Sharon Hutchinson, which concertedly re-interprets Nuer politics by laying much greater emphasis on question of history, colonialism and postcolonialism, and the political economy of power. In addition to engaging with the core anthropological debate about so-called stateless societies, examining the shifts in the ways anthropologists have approached the study of politics in such contexts will also allow us to ask, from the point of view of cross-cultural anthropological research, what might count as ‘politics’ in the first place.
      1. Required reading: 3 items
        1. The political system - E. E. Evans-Pritchard

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading

        2. Nuer dilemmas: coping with money, war, and the state - Sharon Elaine Hutchinson c1996

          Book Essential

    2. Seminar 13: Power and Authority 7 items
      Much anthropological debate on politics turns on major questions in social and political theory regarding the nature of political power, authority and legitimacy. The signature move that anthropologists have often made in relation to these debates has been to use ethnographic accounts of politics in various parts of the world to question some of the basic assumptions that underlie influential theories of politics advanced by philosophers and other social theorists. In this session we examine some key philosophical accounts of political power and authority, particularly in relation to the question of how ‘kingdoms’ and ‘states’ relate to ‘subjects’, in order then to go on and see how anthropologists have sought to present alternative ways of thinking about these issues, based on accounts of politics in different parts of the world. Is ‘power,’ for instance, a notion that can be theorized universally? How are leaders made? Is charismatic authority different from traditional authority? How? What is the relation between leaders and followers? How does it take different forms in different socio-cultural systems? What is the role of the monarchy in contemporary democratic system? How is the figure of the president different from the figure of the king? What are the virtues to have an hereditary vested authority versus an elected one? How might the ethnography of politics in contexts other than modern ‘liberal democracies’ allow us to expand our imagination of what might be politically possible, or indeed desirable?
      1. Required reading: 3 items
        1. Sovereignty Revisited - Thomas Blom Hansen, Finn Stepputat 10/2006

          Article Essential

        2. From Max Weber: essays in sociology - Max Weber, Hans Gerth, C. Wright Mills c2009

          Book Essential

      2. Plus, one of the following: 2 items
      3. Further reading 2 items
        1. Language and power: exploring political cultures in Indonesia - Benedict R. O'G. Anderson c1990


  7. Kinship (Seminar 14-15) 8 items
    1. Seminar 14: Kinship as Lineage and Solidarity 4 items
      Anthropologists have always been interested in kinship. Some have even argued that the role of the study of kinship in Anthropology is as pivotal as that of logic in Philosophy in that it is a fundamental aspect of the discipline. Kinship colours and shapes social relationships in deep ways. As such since the beginning of anthropology kinship has been perceived as the fundamental ground for social organisation. Early anthropological reflections– particularly within the Structural Functionalist approach of Radcliffe - Brown – articulated kinship as that which keeps society together, fostering solidarity and social cohesion. In this perspective, anthropologists have concentrated on the relationship between siblings and parents/children showing how having the same blood – being part of the same lineage through descent – seems to be the most important aspect of kinship. Bearing this in mind, we will look at different lineage systems - patrilineal and matrilineal - but we will also ask ourselves whether the relationship between parents and children is always the same cross-culturally. In doing so, we will begin to challenge the assumption that kinship is purely about lineage and descent.
      1. Required reading: 4 items
        1. Radcliffe-Brown - Adam Kuper

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading *Please read section X from pages 56-61*


          Chapter Essential Please read pages 40-47 up to the section 'Marriage'

      2. Plus, one of the following: 0 items
    2. Seminar 15: Kinship as Alliance and Exchange 4 items
      Is Kinship only about lineages and descent as we have seen on the previous week? Anthropologists have challenged this assumption, and have argued that seeing kinship simply in terms of shared blood and kin is reductive. Kinship, they argued, is also about creating alliances between non-kin individuals, alliances that are often formed through marriage. Thus, if the previous week the focus was on children and siblings, this week the focus is on spouses and on the imperative need to marry someone who is not your sibling, parent or child. Why is marriage – and marriage with a non-kin - so ubiquitous in social life? In this session we will think about why people get married and for what reasons. We situate these questions in relation to classical anthropological assumptions about marriage in Claude Levi-Strauss’s work on ‘alliance theory’ as well as Marcel Mauss’s theories of reciprocity and exchange. In doing so, we will consider marriage as a political act used to further reciprocity as well as reflect on whether marriage is simply about heterosexual exchanges and patriarchy.
      1. Required reading: 4 items
        1. The elementary structures of kinship - Claude Lévi-Strauss, Rodney Needham 1969

          Book Essential ** Read chapter 5 The principle of reciprocity **

  8. Religion (Seminars 16-17) 11 items
    1. Seminar 16: Witchcraft, Rationality, Causation 5 items
      Why do bad things happen when they do? In this seminar, we will consider anthropological accounts of witchcraft and sorcery from the perspective of what has become known as the ‘rationality debate’. What is the relationship between belief, interpretation, and action? Is witchcraft ‘rational’? Do all societies have witches? What is the relation between witchcraft and authority?
      1. Required Readings: 5 items
        1. The notion of witchcraft explains unfortunate events - E. E. Evans-Pritchard

          Chapter Essential Digitised reading

        2. Witchcraft, oracles, and magic among the Azande - E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Eva Gillies 1976

          Book Essential Chapters 1-4. Chapter 2 is digitised and available online (see link right above). 8 copies in library PLUS short loan collection

    2. Seminar 17: Rituals and Rites of Passage 6 items
      Anthropological accounts of what has become known as ‘religion’ often focus on the practice of ritual – that is, the performance of apparently non-instrumental, symbolic action. In this seminar, we will examine anthropological theories of ritual through a focus on rites of passage, and will consider such questions as: what constitutes a successful ritual? Do rituals reinforce or subvert traditional authority? Are rituals about meaning or about action? What ‘secular rituals’?
      1. Required Readings: 6 items
        Read at least 3 of the 4
        1. Prey into hunter: the politics of religious experience - Maurice Bloch 1992

          Book Essential **read Chapters 1&2**

        2. Secular ritual - Sally Falk Moore, Barbara G. Myerhoff 1977

          Book Essential **Read introduction** | We are unable to digitise this chapter. Please photocopy it from the short loan collection.

        3. Sacred Elections - Mukulika Banerjee 2007

          Article Essential

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