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Introduction to Anthropological Perspectives 2014

Introduction to Anthropological Perspectives

First Semester 2014

Graduate Diploma in Social Sciences

Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities

Instructors: Dr Mukta S. Lama (Tamang)

Course Description

This is an introductory course in social and cultural anthropology - the study of human cultures in all their various forms. The course is designed to expose the students to some of the key ideas of the discipline by examining selected theories and perspectives in anthropology. Through readings and lectures, it explores how wider socio-cultural processes shape individual lives and changes that occur around us influence our sense of self and subjectivities. The main rationale of the course is to engage students with basic anthropological concepts and introduce them the work of selected anthropologists.


Course Objectives


After successfully completing the course, the students will be able to appreciate the contribution of anthropological perspectives to make sense of cultures in their own terms and understand socio-cultural and political changes. The distinguishing features of anthropology are ethnographic fieldwork and especially participant observation; and it is comparative. Through the critical examination of the debate on problems about the field and ethnography – representation of the peoples ‘studied’, this course will provide a sense of general approach anthropologists take when they study culture and contemporary socio-cultural and political issues and changes. The course will thus, enable students to analytically pursue anthropological enquiry and questions. By the end of the course, the students will learn what anthropology as a discipline is about, and gain necessary background for advanced level courses.


Course Requirements


Class attendance and participation: There will be two classes per week, 90 minutes per class. Classes would be a combination of lectures (half an hour), 10 to 15 minute presentation by a student, discussion and summing up. It is expected that the students would have read the required readings before the lecture in order to understand and participate in the lectures (10%).


Written summary of readings: Students are expected to produce a paragraph summary of each reading. The main purpose of this assessment is to encourage the students to get habituated to reading and enhance their summarizing skills. Written summaries will account for 20% of the final grade.


Midterm essay (2500 words excluding references): Students are required to prepare on original essay in an anthropologically relevant topic. In the essay, the students are required to engage with theoretical ideas and ethnographic case studies on the chosen subject. The main purpose of this essay is to enable the students to engage on theoretical questions on the given subject and will account for 30% of the final grade.


Final paper: Students will be required to submit a final paper of approximately 3,000 words, topics to be decided in consultation with the instructor. The paper should be submitted latest by 3 p.m. seven days after the last class and will account for 40% of the final grade.



Detailed Course Outline


Week 1: Introduction to Anthropology

Introduction to the course

Required Readings

Spradley, James (2012) "Culture and Ethnography'" in Spradley, James & David McCurdy, Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology, New York: Longman. 14th EDITION, pp.1-5.

Godelier, Maurice (2009) "Introduction: Anthropology Today- What We Have Done and What Should We Do?" in In and Out of the West: Reconstructing Anthropology, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, pp. 1-43.

Week 2: Reading Ethnographic Cases from Nepal

Required Readings

Pfaff-Czarnecka, J. (1990) "Durga Puja Festival or Displaying Political Supremacy on Ritual Occasions," International Seminar on the Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalaya, Zurich, Ethnological Museum of the University of Zurich, pp. 270-286.

Guneratne, A. (2001) "Shaping the Tourist's Gaze: Representing Difference in a Nepali Village," Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol 7:527-543.

Holmberg, D., K. S. March, et al. (1999) "Local Production/Local Knowledge: Forced Labour from Below," Studies in Nepali History and Society 4(1): 5-64.

Bruslé, Tristan (2012)  “What Kind of Place is this?” South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [Online], 6 | 2012, Online since 28 December 2012, connection on 12 July 2013. URL : pp.1-25.

Week 3: Colonial Anthropology: Evolutionism

Required Readings

Darwin, Charles (1871) "General Summary and Conclusion," in The Descent of Man, London: Penguin Books, pp. 675-689.

Spencer, Herbert (1860) "The Social Organism," in McGee, R. J. and R. L. Warms (eds.) (2003) Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History, Boston: McGraw-Hill,  pp. 11-27.

Tylor, Edward B. (1881) "The Science of culture," in McGee, R. J. and R. L. Warms (eds.) (2003) Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History, Boston: McGraw-Hill, pp. 28-42.

Stocking, George W. (1968) “The Dark-Skinned Savage: The Image of Primitive Man in Evolutionary Anthropology,” in Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 110- 132.

Asad, Talal (1991) "Afterword: From the History of Colonial Anthropology to the Anthropology of Western Hegemony," in Stocking, G. and W. Madison (eds.) Colonial Situations: Essays on the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge, University of Wisconsin Press, pp.314-324.

Week 4: What is Society? Theorizing Social Collectivities

Required Readings

Simmel, Georg (1910) "How is Society Possible?," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 372-391.

Marx, Karl (1978) "Wage labour and capital," in Tucker, Robert C. (ed.) The Marx-Engels Reader, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, pp. 203 – 217.

Weber, Max (1922) "Class, Status, Party," in McGee, R. J. and R. L. Warms (eds.) (2003) Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History, Boston: McGraw-Hill, pp. 103-115.


Durkheim, Emile (1995) “Introduction” The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, New York: Free Press, pp. 1-18.

Mauss, M. (1923) "The Gift," in McGee, R. J. and R. L. Warms (2003) Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History, Boston: McGraw-Hill, pp. 90-102.

Freud, Sigmund (1930) “Civilization and Its Discontents,” in Erickson, P. A. and L. D. Murphy (eds.) in Readings for a History of Anthropology Theory, Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, pp. 95-105.

Week 5: British Structural-Functionalism and Critique

Required Readings

Malinowski, B. (1922) "The Essentials of Kula," in McGee, R. J. and R. L. Warms (eds.) (2003) Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History, Boston: McGraw-Hill, pp. 163-178.

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1940) "The Nuer of Southern Sudan," in Fortes, Meyer and E. E. Evans-Pritchard (eds) African Political Systems, Oxford University Press, pp. 69-79.

Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1952) [1924] "The Mother’s Brother in South Africa," in Structure and Function in Primitive Society, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 15-31.

Asad, Talal (1973) “Introduction” in Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter, London: Ithaca Press, pp. 9-19.

Rosaldo, Renato (1989) “Imperialist Nostalgia.” Representations, No. 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory, pp. 107-122.

Week 6: Structuralism

Required Readings

Saussure, F. D. (1966) "Nature of the Linguistic Sign," in Course in General Linguistics, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 65-70.

Levi-Struass, C. (1967) “Structural Analysis in Linguistics and Anthropology,” in Structural Anthropology, New York: Anchor Books, pp. 31- 54.

Douglas, M. (1966) "Secular Defilement," in Purity and Danger. London, Boston and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 36-50.

Leach, E. (1998) "Structuralism in Social Anthropology," in Erickson, P. A. and L. D. Murphy (eds.) Readings for a History of Anthropology Theory, Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, pp. 313-331.

Dumont, L. (1980) "From the System to Structure: The Pure and the Impure," in Homo Hierarchicus, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 72-95.

Additional Reading

Bennett, L. (1983) "Complementary Kinship Structures: The Dual Status of Women," in Dangerous Wives and Sacred Sisters: Social and Symbolic Roles of High-Caste Women in Nepal, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 124-164.

Week 7: Symbolic and Interpretive Approaches

Required Readings

Ortner, S. B. (1973) "On Key Symbols," American Anthropologist, Vol. 75, No. 5, pp. 1338-1346.

Turner, V. W. (1995) "Liminality and Communitas," in The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure, New York: Aldinede Gruyeter, pp. 94-130.

Geertz, C. (1973) "Deep Play: Notes on Balinese Cockfight," in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays," New York: Basic Books, pp 412-453.

Additional Reading

March, Kathryn S. (1998) "Women, Hospitality and Beer," in Counihan, Carole and Steven Kaplan (eds.) Food and Gender: Identity and Power, New York: Gordon and Breach, pp. 45-80.

 Week 8: Practice and Power

Required Readings

Gramsci, Antonio (1971) "State and Civil Society," in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, pp. 206-276.

Bourdieu, Pierre (1977) "Structure, Habitus and Power: Basis for a Theory of Symbolic Power," in Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 159-197.

Hall, Stuart (1986) "Problem of Ideology: Marxism without Guarantees, "Journal of Communication Inquiry, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 28-44.

Additional Reading

Holmberg, David. "Derision, Exorcism, and the Ritual Production of Power," American Ethnologist, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 927-949.

Week 9: Feminist Anthropology

Required Readings

Ortner, S. (2006) “So Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” in Rosaldo, M. Z. and L. Lamphere (eds.) Woman, Culture, and Society, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp. 68-87.

Leacock, Eleanor (1978/1981) "Women’s Status in Egalitarian Society: Implications for Social Evolution," Current Anthropology, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 225-259.


Alcoff, Linda (1988) "Cultural Feminism versus Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory," Signs, Vol. 13, No., pp. 405-436.


Sacks, Karen Brodkin (1989) "Towards a Unified Theory of Class, Race and Gender," American Ethnologist, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 534-550.

 Additional Reading

Tamang, Seira (2009) "The Politics of Conflict and Difference or the Difference of Conflict in Politics: The Women's Movement in Nepal, " Feminist Review, Vol.  91, No. 201, pp. 61-80.

 Week 10: Colonialism and Postcolonial Situations

 Required Readings

Loomba, Ania (1998) "Situating Colonial and Postcolonial Studies” in Colonialism/Post Colonialism, London: Routledge, pp.1-43.

Pels, P. (1997) "The Anthropology of Colonialism: Culture, History, and the Emergence of Western Governmentality," Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 26, pp. 163-183.

Biolsi, Thomas (2005) "Imagined Geographies: Sovereignty, Indigenous Space, and American Indian Struggle," American Ethnologist, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 239-259.

Shah, Alpa (2007) "'Keeping the State Away': Democracy, Politics, and the State in India’s Jharkhand," The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.129-145.

Additional Reading

Des Chene, Mary (2007) "Is Nepal in South Asia? The Condition of Non-Postcoloniality," in Studies in Nepali History and Society, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 207–223.

Week 11: Postmodernism and Crisis of Representation

 Required Readings

Rosaldo, Renato (1989) “The Erosion of Classic Norms,” in Culture and Truth, Boston: Beacon, pp. 25-44.

Clifford, James (1986) "Introduction: Partial Truth," in Clifford, J. and Marcus, G.E. (eds.) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 1-26.

Sangren, P. Steven (1992) "Rhetoric and the Authority of Ethnography" Current Anthropology, Vol. 33, No. 1, Supplement: Inquiry and Debate in the Human Sciences: Contributions from Current Anthropology, 1960-1990, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 277-307.

Additional Reading

Caplan, Lionel (1991) "‘Bravest of the Brave’: Representation of ‘the Gurkha’ in British Military Writings," Modern Asia Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 571-597.

Week 12: Ethnicity, State and Globalization


Required Readings

Alcoff, Linda (2004) "Against “Post-Ethnic” Futures," The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, New Series, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 99-117.

Bulag, U. E. (2010) "Introduction: Triangulating China’s Ethnopolitics," in Collaborative Nationalism the Politics of Friendship on China's Mongolian Frontier," Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp.1-27.

Sharma, A. and A. Gupta (2006) "Introduction: Rethinking Theories of the State in an Age of Globalization," in The Anthropology of the State: A Reader, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, pp.1-18.

Appadurai, Arjun (1996) "Global Ethnoscapes: Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology," in Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp.48-65.

Additional Readings

Pradhan, Rajendra (2002) "Ethnicity, Caste and a Pluralist Society," in Dixit, K. M. and S. Ramachandran (eds.) State of Nepal, Lalitpur: Himal Books, pp. 1-21.

Pfaff-Czarnecka, Joanna (1997) "Vestiges and Visions: Cultural Change in the Process of Nation-building in Nepal," in D. N. Gellner, J. Pfaff-Czarnecka, and J. Whelpton (eds.) Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu kingdom : The Politics of Culture in Contemporary Nepal, Amsterdam: Harwood, pp. 419-470.

Week 13: Resistance and Social Movements

 Required Readings

Ortner, Sherry B. (1995) "Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal," Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 173-193.

Sivaramakrishnan, K. (2005) "Some Intellectual Genealogies for the Concept of Everyday Resistance," American Anthropologist, Vol. 107, No. 3, pp. 346–355.

Hodgson, Dorothy (2002) "Introduction: Comparative Perspectives on the Indigenous Rights Movement in Africa and the Americas," American Anthropologist, Vol. 104, No. 4, pp. 1037-1049.

Gupta, Dipankar (2005) "Caste and Politics: Identity over System," Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 34, pp. 409-427.

Additional Reading

Gellner, D. N. (2003) "Introduction: Transformations of the Nepalese State," in Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences, New Delhi: Social Science Press, pp.    1-30.

Week 14: Ethnographic Field Work and Writing

 Required Readings

Geertz, Clifford (1983) “'From the Native’s Point of View': On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding," in Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology, New York: Basic Books. pp. 55-70.

Wacquant, Loïc (2004) "Following Pierre Bourdieu into the Field," Ethnography, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 387-414.

Bunzl, Matti (2004) "Boas, Foucault, and the “Native Anthropologist”: Notes toward a Neo-Boasian Anthropology, " American Anthropologist, Vol. 106, Issue 3, pp. 435–442.

Hannerz, Ulf. (2003) "Being there…and there…and there! Reflections on Multi-Site Ethnography," Ethnography, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 201-216.

Additional Reading

Lecomte-Tilouine, M. and P. Dollfus. (2003) "Introduction," in Ethnic Revival and Religious Turmoil: Identities and Representations in the Himalayas, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-22.

 Week 15: Review