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Бакалаврская программа «Социология и социальная информатика»

Social and Economic Anthropology

Учебный год
Обучение ведется на английском языке
Курс обязательный
Когда читается:
2-й курс, 3 модуль


Кормина Жанна Владимировна

Круглова Анна Борисовна

Хонинева Екатерина Александровна

Course Syllabus


This is an introductory course in social and cultural anthropology. The goal of the course is to familiarize sociology students with anthropological approach to researching social life, and with anthropology as a particular genre of writing in social and historical sciences. By the end of the course, the students will be equipped with the basic analytics, skills and research principles used by anthropologists in international settings. The course is subdivided into two blocks. First part is dedicated to the history of emergence of anthropology as the knowledge of the Other. In this part, the goal is to interiorize the key concepts and the specifics of anthropological optic, and to understand the general logic of development of the discipline’s theory and methods. Second part is an introduction to some classical themes and topics that continue to be productive for anthropologists working in every part of the world. We shall explore the ways in which the insights and debates originating in very specific and localized contexts, can contribute to our understanding of humanity as a whole, and vice versa. The course is especially useful for those who intend to specialize in long-term qualitative, theoretically inspired and empirically grounded research, and interested in the creative side of scientific writing.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • Providing students with the basic theories and paradigms used by transnational, contemporary academic anthropologists (as exemplified by the international top-10 journals in the discipline)
  • Teaching students to use basic methods and analytical tools specific to the anthropology as a discipline, with special attention to their difference and complementarity to those in sociology.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Know the historical development of the field of anthropology
  • Know the main frameworks and optics of anthropological analysis
  • Be able to apply anthropological analysis for studying any aspect of social life
  • Be able to discern the advantages and disadvantages of anthropological optic
  • to see the problems of contemporary life in their anthropological interconnectedness, in cultural and historical contexts
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Anthropology, Origins and Key concepts
    Anthropology and colonialism. Meeting the Other. Comparison. General (universal) and particular (local). The problem of human universals. Focus on difference. Cultural relativism. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The need for translation. Attempts/claims to de-ideologize (decolonize) knowledge. Anthropology and philosophy. Anthropology and sociology. The notion of Culture. Culture (“symbolic”, “meaning”) and Society (“social”, “power”). Community and Society. Playing the scale. Empiricism. Anthropology and history. Franz Boas: limits of comparison and historical particularism. Context. Holism. Anthropology – art, craft, or science? Anthropology and/versus psychology. Personhood. Egocentric, sociocentric and relational personhoods. Cartesian subject. Historical change in the Western personhood?
  • Theory and Methods
    How to ask questions in anthropology. Generalization vs abstraction. Emic and etic knowledge. Basic theories: Functionalism, structuralism (social and symbolic), and interpretivism. The uneasy relationship of subject, object, and context. Inductive empirical comparative research. Ethnography – process of research (doing ethnography) and a text (writing ethnography). The structure of emic knowledge, or “native” reflexivity. Explicit and tacit knowledge. Procedural knowledge as a type of tacit knowledge. Epistemological status of native theories. Participant observation. Bronislaw Malinowski. The importance of long-term study and building rapport. How to do fieldwork in the city? Positionality. Polyvocality. Studying up and down. “Going native”. Native anthropologist: working in one’s own milieu. Blindness to familiar. Poetics and politics of ethnographic text. The problem of representation. The problem of the ethnographic present (absence of history). Ethnocentrism. Naïve realism. Fieldwork politics and ethics: anthropologist as a spy. The controversy of anthropologists employed by US army in the Middle East.
  • Identity. Constructing social and cultural boundaries
    Primary identities: human, age and gender. “Tools” for identity. Categories vs groups. Culture/Religion vs. Race vs. Ethnicity vs Class. Degrees of identification. Simmel’s rule. Security vs. freedom. Not identity but the process of identification. Situational and relational approaches to identity. Fr. Barth. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (1969). Invention of tradition. Benedict Anderson. Imagined community (1983). Nationalism. Ethnicity as commodity. Comaroff J. and J. Ethnicity Inc. (2009) The problem of class, race and ethnicity in Russia. Politics of identity vs. politics of solidarity.
  • Reciprocity. Value.
    Bronislaw Malinowski: the Kula Ring. Marcel Mauss: “The gift”. Kula and Potlach. The ambivalence of gift’s “purity”: an act which both is, and is not, gratuitous. Is gift exchange an anthropological prototype of all social relations? Social temporalities of gift and barter. “Hau” as the “soul” of the gift. Gift as a metaphysical agentic object. “The poison of the gift.” Reciprocity and political critique. Traffic in human organs, Nancy Scheper-Hughes. Classical relational anthropological approach to value: value and social distance. Marshall Sahlins. Generalized, balanced and negative forms of reciprocity. Political-anthropological approach to value: ways to organize society. Karl Polanyi: reciprocity, redistribution, market. David Graeber. Communism, reciprocity and hierarchy. Productivist and object-centred approach to value: labour theory of value. “Rational economic actor” and Chayanov’s rule. Transformation of value. The social life of things. In/commensurability approach to value: segregation of spheres of exchange. Laura Bohannan and study of Tiv. Annette Wiener: Inalienable possessions. Commodification and the power of money to transform social relations. From economy to axiology. How value is created in human societies, and societies are created through value? “Moral economy”. Connection to discussions on corruption and informal economies in sociology.
  • Kinship and family.
    Is kinship a basic principle/prototype of social and political organization (i.e.power)? Social and biological dimensions of kinship. The Virgin Birth Debate. Sanguinity and affinity. Descent and alliance. Women as “super-gifts”: Levi-Strauss and his feminist critics. Kinship and/as political organization. Early anthropology of kinship. Edward Evans-Pritchard: The Nuer. Segmentary oppositions. Lineage, clan and tribe. Family organization. Monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, polygyny. Levirate and sororate. Clifford Geertz, “Life without husbands or fathers”. Localization of marriage. Family as structure and agency. Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of matrimonial strategies. Kinship studies and new biotechnologies. The crisis of nuclear family.
  • Ritual action
    Early stages of ritual research: types of ritual, elements of ritual. Emile Durkheim. Ritual as a mirror for society. Ritual as structured symbolic action. Rituals in animal kingdom: communicating intent. Performativity. Speech acts. The problem of “belief” in ritual. Don Handelman. Models, presentations and re-presentations. Structuralist symbolic anthropology. Rites of passage. Victor Turner. Tripartite structure of ritual. Structure and anti-structure. Liminality and Communitas. Separation of political and sacred power. Anti-structure agents: tricksters and sacred clowns. Performativity in USSR. Does the role of ritual diminish in contemporary world? Ritual in science. Ritual and populism. The change in the economy of ritual?
  • Rationality. Magic, science and religion
    How natives think? Azande: magic as rationality in context. Magic as law and epistemology. The living and the dead: the logic of ancestral cults. Malinovsky’s “Baloma”. Emic classifications. Mary Douglas. Purity and danger. Taboo. Classification anomalies. Claude Levy-Strauss. Totemism. “Savage mind”. Concrete and abstract thinking. Technologies and rationality. Perspectivist animism in Amerindian ontology. Eduardo V. de Castro.
  • Nature and culture.
    What is “nature”? Three “natures” in anthropology: internal, external, constructed. Constructed nature. “Nature” as a particular Western construct? The connection between “representation” (Platonism), Christianity, modernity, science, and “nature”. Cartesian model of personhood (body and mind divide) as a version of nature-culture division. “Naturalising” as a (Western) mode of power. Provincializing the West, decolonizing knowledge: single culture, multiple natures in the worlds of Eduardo V. De Castro. Body as an example of the problem of “nature” in anthropology. Body as representation: symbolism of the body. Body concepts in India and Europe. Body mapping as a method of data collection. Attempts to overcome the mind-body, culture-nature divide in social theory. Michel De-Certau. Embodiment. Marcel Mauss. Techniques of the body. Pierre Bourdieu. Habitus. Michel Foucault. Body politics. The problem of visual turn, and the call for the more sensory ethnography. “External” nature. Roy Rappaport: cultural ecology. Leslie White. Material and ecological turns in recent social theory. Tim Ingold. Object-oriented approach (ethnographies of mushrooms, oil, fat, sugar, gold, etc.)
  • Globalization. Imitation and power.
    Diffusionism as an early interest in anthropology, and the rise of globalization in the 1980s. Imitation in human activity. Shamanism, animism, and magic of similarity. The paradoxes of imitation. Michael Taussig. “Mimesis and alterity.” Modernity and the logic of authenticity. Glocalization. Globalization and modernization vs localization and tribalization. Cargo-cults and millenarian movements in Papua New Guinea. African expressions of modernity: fashion swaps and the movements of sapeurs. James Ferguson. The controversy “On membership and mimicry”. Globalization as meetings of rationalities in context: syncretism, hybridity, and cultural appropriation as examples of practical political analysis of global encounters.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • blocking Final exam
    Final grade is calculated based on the results for the midterm exam and final exam: G final for the course = 0,40*G midterm test + 0,60*G exam The grade decimals are rounded according to math rules, with the exception of G final exam < 4 which is not rounded and is a fail grade. For example 3,999 is rounded to 3, but 4,51 is rounded to 5.
  • non-blocking Mid-term test
    Mid-term tests cannot be re-taken. If a student missed the mid-term test on account of illness or other circumstances stipulated in HSE rules as valid reasons to miss an examination, there will be an opportunity to take a make-up test within two weeks of the original test date. All tests are taken online, on Google forms. The questions for the make-up test will come from a pool of questions different from the original test.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    0.6 * Final exam + 0.4 * Mid-term test


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Bourgois, P. I., & Schonberg, J. (2009). Righteous Dopefiend. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=407430
  • Eriksen, T. H. (2015). Small Places, Large Issues - Fourth Edition : An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (Vol. 4th ed). London: Pluto Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1057037

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Buriticá López, I. C., & Kulick, D. (2008). Travesti: sex, gender and culture among brazilian transgendered prostitutes. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.93D56AE5
  • Patico, J. (2009). For Love, Money, or Normalcy: Meanings of Strategy and Sentiment in the Russian-American Matchmaking Industry. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, 74(3), 307–330. https://doi.org/10.1080/00141840903053097