Options

This is a list of option papers that will be available in 2018-2019. Please note that these options are not guaranteed to be offered in future years.

List A: The Social Anthropology of a Selected Region

A2. JAPANESE ANTHROPOLOGY (Prof. Roger Goodman)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term; 12 classes in Hilary and Trinity Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

This course has two main aims: (a) to provide an introduction to Japanese society from an anthropological perspective and (b) to show how the study of Japan can contribute to mainstream anthropological theory. Major themes which will be covered include notions of personhood, rituals and symbols, time and space, structure and agency, continuity and change, and the construction of ethnic, gender, sexual and minority identities. It will be possible to study a number of contemporary social institutions in depth, including the Japanese educational, legal, medical, welfare, company, household and kinship systems, new religions, and the worlds of traditional arts and popular culture. At the micro level, the details of these operations and the ideologies which support them will be examined, while at the macro level the course will explore their relation to other social institutions and the wider political and economic arena both inside and outside Japan.

A3. LOWLAND SOUTH AMERICA (Dr Elizabeth Ewart)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 5,000 words essay

The course introduces students to one of the most exciting and recently studied ethnographic regions of the world, lowland South America. Defined broadly, this cultural area comprises the lowland tropical and subtropical regions east of the Andes, the coastal and foothill regions on either side of the Andes, and other lowland geographic regions, including urban and peri-urban frontier regions.

A5. ANTHROPOLOGY OF SOUTH ASIA (Dr Nayanika Mathur)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

Anthropology as a discipline has a problematic history due to its long-standing romance with primitivism and alterity as well as its close imbrication with colonialism. Nowhere is this better reflected than in the concepts and tropes that define the standardised Anthropology of South Asia. This course constitutes an attempt to decolonise and subvert such a study of this region. It does so by critically questioning the canonical literature and discarding the normative frames through which South Asia has historically been studied and taught. We will retain a reliance on the ethnographic method as a primary tool to understand South Asia, but will expand the usual ‘canonical’ reading list and reformulate some of its themes. Gender, Religion, and Caste will be integrated into every lecture rather than featuring as stand-alone separate sessions. Similarly, the nation-states comprising contemporary South Asia will be included in each lecture session to the extent possible. Academic books will be read alongside fiction, art, blog posts, and films.

A6. THEMES IN AFRICAN ANTHROPOLOGY (Drs David Pratten, Thomas Cousins, Oliver Owen and Ramon Sarró)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

This course provides an empirical foundation and conceptual framework for the academic study of Africa and its peoples. The course also aims to introduce students to a critical understanding of ethnographic writing on Africa. The course is organized around a series of lectures and readings which introduce theoretical issues that have developed in the anthropology of Africa. These will be presented in weekly classes held in conjunction with a film series that introduces a range of ethnographic and wider issues in African culture and society.

List B: Topics in Visual, Material & Museum Anthropology

B2. OBJECTS IN MOTION: DEBATES IN VISUAL, MATERIAL AND ECONOMIC ANTHROPOLOGY (Dr Inge Daniels)
Nine lectures and nine film screenings in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

This option explores key anthropological debates about the production, circulation and consumption of commodities through the lenses of markets, religion, and travel. Drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world, but with a particular focus on East Asia, the aim is to critically examine contentious issues surrounding commodification, globalisation and cross-cultural circulation of people and things. Topics discussed include the exchange of commodities within gift economies; the impact of commercialisation upon spiritual forms; tourism and notions of authenticity; money, markets and the ethics of global trade; advertising and visual economies, the Internet and mobile technologies, and disposal and the second-hand economy. All these topics will be explored through a mixture of written texts, photography and film.

B3. MUSEUMS, MATERIAL CULTURE AND KNOWLEDGE (Dr Gemma Angel)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

This course will provide students with grounding in anthropological approaches to working with material culture and artifacts in a range of museum contexts, as well as introducing interdisciplinary themes and techniques. The course draws upon multiple traditions to consider the object, the archive, the system of collecting, the museum, and the embodied experiences of people who interact with artifacts; to arrive at a deeper understanding of how material objects are enmeshed in complex political, social and knowledge practices. The course focuses on the institutional, social and cultural values associated with the public visibility of individual objects as well as their definition within larger systems of display. As such, it is both issue-based and site- or case-study specific and will examine themes and topics such as colonialism and the repatriation of artifacts to source communities, private vs. institutional collecting practices, power and the body, eugenics, human remains, and object biographies.

B4. KEY DEBATES IN THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF ART AND VISUAL CULTURE (Prof. Clare Harris and Dr Elizabeth Hallam)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 5,000 words essay

This course explores key debates in the anthropology of art and visual culture, drawing on studies of art, artists, museums, and displays from around the world. It will begin with an overview of anthropological approaches to art and aesthetics. We will then examine a range of specific theoretical concerns with regard to art: distinctions between art, artefacts and organisms; processes of production and circulation including art markets, collecting, exhibiting, and the attribution of value; constructions of authenticity and ‘primitivism’, theories of agency, and we will consider how anthropologists might study the burgeoning contemporary transnational artworld. The course will include sessions led by Dr. Hallam on sketching as a method and an analytical tool within anthropological research. Students will have the opportunity to experiment with this methodology and to make presentations on other topics for the seminar group and within the galleries of the Pitt Rivers Museum. They will also be encouraged to make active use of the collections and displays at the Museum of Natural History, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, the Museum of the History of Science, and Modern Art Oxford. It is likely that we will make a fieldtrip to visit museums in London depending upon what is on display in spring 2019.

B5. ANTHROPOLOGY AND FILM (Prof. Marcus Banks)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 5,000 words essay

This option explores the various ways in which the discipline of social anthropology and the theory and practice of filmmaking have come together over the past century and more. The first encounter was at the end of the nineteenth century, when marine biologist turned anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon took a film camera to the Torres Strait Islands in 1898 and shot a few minutes of local people dancing. Since then, film has been coopted methodologically by social anthropology as a medium of record. However, documentary film theory shows us that there is no such thing as neutral objective record of a social event: all film records are social constructions, including Haddon’s 1898 footage. The option will critically explore the growth and development of the genre of ‘ethnographic film’ and its associated media presence through television broadcasting and bienniel festivals, as well as anthropological investigations into film production and film semiotics. The class does not include a practical component, but participants will be expected to use the internet to research film genres and to present film clips as well as critical readings in their class presentations. The option is examined by assessed essay (4,000 words) and a film review (1,000 words) and it is expected that film clips (as digital files submitted on CD-ROM or as hyperlinked files) will be included as part of the submission.

List C: Themes in Anthropology

C1. SENSORY EXPERIENCE IN THERAPEUTICS (Prof. Elisabeth Hsu)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

In this course we discuss ethnographies of ‘ritual healing’ from a medical anthropological perspective with a focus on the sensory experiences that people develop during this process. Touch, taste, vision, hearing and smell are all examined, as well as kinaesthesia and proprioception, and all-encompassing acute pain episodes. One of our hypotheses is that ritual generates moments of “cultural synaesthesia” (D. Young 2005). In other words, ritual is a process during which culturally-specific techniques are skillfully deployed to produce sensoryl effects that affect patients and their carers in ways that enhance well-being. Students will learn about the anthropology of the body, notions of embodiment and the habitus, the body politic and the body ecologic, and become familiar with ethnographic topics as diverse as bloodletting and body painting, cannibalism and capoeira, obesity and olfaction, possession and placebo.

C3. ANTHROPOLOGY OF MUSLIM SOCIETIES (Dr Mohammad Talib)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

This option will draw on material generated from the study of different regions of the Muslim world, as well as the diaspora of Muslim communities in the post-modern / globalized settings of industrialized societies. The topics selected have a comparative and cross-cultural significance. Together they build up a picture of the larger universe of the Muslim world, thereby highlighting the problems and challenges which anthropological representation offers. Different themes in the option will be interlinked to examine methodological and representational orientations in the existing literature. This approach is intended to initiate students into issues in theory and research in anthropological writings on Muslim societies.

C4. REPRODUCTION MIGRATIONS: WITH A FOCUS ON THE ASIA PACIFIC (Prof. Biao Xiang)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

This option course explore how biological and social reproduction—activities that maintain and reproduce human life on a daily and generational basis—is becoming a main driving force of migration. Reproduction migrations (RMs) include the migrations of domestic helpers, students, retirees, medical patients, marriage partners (especially of the commercially brokered transnational unions, which differ from conventional family reunion migration), “birth tourism” (would-be parents move a country to give birth in order for the new born to gain certain legal status), and investment migrants who move for the access to high-quality education, care and retirement life.

RM is encouraged by policy makers firstly because of the shortage of reproductive labour in the receiving country. Some nations have to reply on foreigners in order to reproduce themselves. RM is encouraged also because reproduction activities, for instance commercialized education, care and entertainment, are becoming a new engine of growth. Advanced countries are remaking themselves from centres of production into global hubs of reproduction. The reproduction of life, instead of the production of goods, may shape the world division of labour in the 21st century.

This option is timely as it explores an emerging trend that has not been thoroughly investigated.  The theme of “reproduction migration” and the geographical focus on the Asia Pacific are lacking the current curriculum of the degree.

C6. MOBILITY, NATION AND THE STATE (Dr Dace Dzenovska) 
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

Contemporary life is hardly imaginable without mobility—of capital, things, ideas, images, and people. However, the effects of these forms of mobility and their desirability are variously distributed and perceived across historical and political contexts. For example, while the desirability of capital flows is hardly questioned by modern polities, migration is increasingly thought to undermine political communities and the institutions associated with them.

This course will investigate mobility-related political tensions of the current historical moment—for example, the tension between the unbounding of nations and the assertion of territorial sovereignty, or the tension between the recognition of multiplicity of identities and the re-assertion of various communities of value. The course will engage with different theories and ethnographies of sovereignty, nation, and the state, as well as consider whether and how practices of mobility open possibilities for imagining alternative political forms.

Firmly grounded in anthropology, the course will draw insights from other disciplines and fields of study, such as history, political theory, cultural studies, and geography. The course will include ethnographies from different regions, while at the same time questioning conventional regional divisions, instead emphasizing relational constitution of people and places.

C7. ANTHROPOLOGY OF CAPITALISM (Dr Claudio Sopranzeti)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

This option course offers an introduction to anthropological engagements with capitalism. It is structured in two sections. The first looks at the historical emergence of capitalism both as primary accumulation and as an intrinsically racialized project, one that was experimented with in Caribbean colonies and then imported to the British metropole. The second part, by contrast, focuses on a typology of capitalism as a locus of the creation of surplus value. The course moves from extractive capitalism to industrial capitalism, exploring production, marketing, and consumption, and concludes with a focus on financial capitalism. In each phase, theoretical debates will be weaved in with ethnographic analysis.

C10. INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDIES (Dr Javier Lezaun)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

This course offers a postgraduate-level introduction to the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). STS is a thriving interdisciplinary field, with a strong ethnographic tradition, that explores how new scientific and technical knowledge is produced, and its impact on society. STS has multiple empirical and theoretical synergies with anthropology, and has become an engine of new insights for the social sciences and the humanities. It is, in particular, a key resource for a new “anthropology at home,” the careful exploration of the practices that characterize modern Euro-American institutions and their global influence.

The course focuses on some of the key areas of theoretical innovation in STS, and on key domains of empirical investigation in the field. It is not designed (exclusively) for those with a specific interest in the anthropology of science and technology, but for all students who seek a better understanding of the processes by which societies generate new knowledge and instruments, and transform themselves in the process.

C11. ANTHROPOLOGY OF ENVIRONMENT (Dr Sophie Haines)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

Human-environment engagements are at the heart of anthropological concerns with how humans live and relate with their physical surroundings. Anthropology of environment is a recognised sub-field, which has long reflected core disciplinary questions and challenges, and contributed to the development of anthropology and its relevance to other disciplines and the world at large.

This option course offers a postgraduate-level introduction to core themes in anthropology and environment. It addresses key theoretical concepts and empirical topics that will be useful to students planning anthropological fieldwork in different geographical regions and speaks to relevant and timely concerns in anthropological theory and practice, including questions of nature and culture, resource politics, feminist and postcolonial political ecology, interdisciplinarity, and diverse ways of knowing and experiencing environments.

C12. INTERSECTIONALITIES: GENDER, SEXUALITY, RACE AND MOBILITY (Dr Ana Gutierrez)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: Written paper sat in June

This option course considers the relationship between migration and gender. We will examine how gender informs the migration process, produces new relationships and how women and men navigate their lives as migrants. The aim is to provide a critical understanding of the connections that exist between the feminisation of migration and its intersections with class, race, and sexuality. It begins by providing students with a theoretical grounding in the literature on gender and migration and the ways in which the state, work, family as well as intersectional identities shape gender. It explores the links that exist between these analytical categories through an anthropological analysis of intimate labour markets, legal statuses, middle-class migrations, love and romance, queer migrations and masculinities. The course will engage with postcolonial, queer and race studies in order to approach the study of gender and migration in a critical way. Adopting a comparative approach, this course will draw on ethnographic examples from various regions in the developed and the developing world.

C13. ANTHROPOLOGY OF VIOLENCE AND SOCIAL SUFFERING (Dr Ina Zharkevich)
Eight lectures in Hilary Term
Examination: 4,000 words essay and 1,000 words book review

This option course offers an introduction to core themes in the anthropology of violence and social suffering. It will engage with some of the major debates in anthropological theory, including on body and embodiment; power and domination; sovereignty and politics of life; symbolic/structural/everyday violence; the role of anthropologists in the public domain- engaged anthropology vs. impartial observation (including the work of anthropologists for the military). Drawing on insights from political and medical anthropology and linking ethnographic studies of social suffering/violence to critical social theory, it will explore how violence and social suffering are produced and experienced, both individually and socially, paying particular attention to the relationship between individual bodies and the body politic, between the self and society. It will explore why violence has been marginal to the constitution of anthropology as a discipline and reasons behind an explosion in anthropological studies of different forms of violence over recent decades. Through in-depth reading of key ethnographies (and visual material, documentaries), the module will foreground questions of researching (methods), writing and representing violence/social suffering.

Who must do what:

Social Anthropology M.Sc. and first-year M.Phil. students:

Two options from any of Lists A, B or C.

Medical Anthropology and VMMA M.Sc. and first-year M.Phil. students:

One option from any of Lists A, B or C.

Social Anthropology and VMMA second-year M.Phil. students:

One option from any of Lists A, B or C, except that or those in which you were examined in your first year.

NB: options not available for:

M.Sc. students in Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology

Medical Anthropology second-year M.Phil. students

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