Political Anthropology

Offered at the University of California, Riverside, in Winter 2009, Spring 2011 and Spring 2012

This course examines politics and power through an anthropological perspective. The first section of the course examines the field of political anthropology as it was practiced roughly through the 1960s, when anthropologists were primarily concerned with politics in so-called primitive societies, institutions of rule in societies in which the state seemed absent, and the evolutionary and historical emergence of the state. It then examines the implications of anthropologists' recognition of the importance of colonialism and global capitalism on the societies they studied. The second section considers the way anthropologists have rethought the concept of power, influenced by transformations in the societies they studied, changes in the global political economy, and ideas from thinkers outside the field of anthropology. In doing so, it examines both "formal" politics and everyday forms of power, domination and resistance. finally, we consider politics and power in an age of "globalization"--questioning that term even as we examine its implications for identity, the state, and political action, and emphasizing the ways ethnographically grounded anthropological research can shift from the micro-level to illuminate large-scale, national, transnational and global processes.

A few notes

With some serious misgivings, I have decided to host materials for this course on iLearn (UCR's Blackboard installation) rather than on a public site. Feel free to contact me with questions.

My syllabus draws upon many others, but two that were particularly useful were John Gledhill's Anthropology of Power and Resistance in a Changing World and Glenn Bowman and John Corbin's Political Systems.