Home 603Seminar in the Anthropology of Power


Week 2 Vincent, Focault, Marx

Week 3 Vincent II

Week 4 Kertzer-Anderson

Week 4 Essay 1

Week 5 Kertzer

Week 6 Anderson

Week 7 Scott

Week 8 Vincent III

Week 9 Said

Week 10 Crehan

Week 10 Essay 2

Week 11 Vincent IV

Week 12 Vincent IVb

Week 14 Swartz

Week 14 Mohanty Analytic Summary

Resource Links



The Anthropology of Politics and Power
ANTH 583
Fall 2005

Profesora Ramona Pérez
NH 333
Office Hours: Tuesday, 2:00 to 4:00
                        Thursday, 11:30 to 12:30
                        Wednesday, By Appointment


“… within a state society consensual power and power by force are so intertwined that
there may be something artificial in separating them for analysis” (Lewellen 1992:105).


Required Texts:         Vincent, Joan. The Anthropology of Politics: A Reader in Ethnography, Theory and Critique. (2002)
Kertzer, David I. Ritual, Politics and Power. (1988)
Pérez, Ramona. Reader in The Anthropology of Politics and Power. 2005. Available from Mozena Publishing.
Optional Texts*:       Said, Edward. Orientalism. (1978 Original Publication, 1994 Reprint)
Scott, James. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday forms of Peasant Resistance. (1985)
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. (1983)
Swartz, David. Culture and Power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. (1997)
Crehan, Kate. Gramsci, Culture and Anthropology. (2002)
Mohanty, Chandra and Russo, A. and Torres, L. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. (1991)

*All students will be required to read at least one of the Optional Texts for presentation
to the class.  See below.

Goals and Objectives:  The field of political anthropology has been wrought with the complexities of creating a single, precise definition of what anthropologists are looking for when they speak of the “anthropology of politics”.  Yet the reality of power as an underlying and primary force in human relations has pushed the discipline to place the study of the institutions, effects, and relationships of power in society as a core area of inquiry.  The primary goal of this course is to provide you with a working knowledge of how anthropology investigates, analyzes, and writes about the political machinations of the societies with whom we work so that you too can engage in the anthropology of politics.  By the end of the course you will be able to: (1) discuss the early works in the anthropology of politics and their significance to contemporary studies; (2) describe how colonialism and imperialism have created systems of power, inequality, and struggle in contemporary societies; (3) describe how power manifests in and is perpetuated through symbols, ritual, and indirect force; (4) discuss contemporary theorists and their bodies of work as they relate to explorations of power and society; and (5) accomplish the above objectives in writing and in oral presentation.

Grading:   This is a graduate level course that allows senior level undergraduates to participate.  As such, knowledge will be measured through your ability to evidence the above referenced objectives.  Each week, beginning in Week Two, you will submit a summary of the assigned readings along with three questions to be discussed in class. The summary should be no more than three pages in length. The intent of the summaries is twofold: to provide me with evidence that you are keeping up with the assignments and to provide you with key data that can be used in the essay assignments. Weekly summaries are worth 10 points each.  No summary is due the first week or the week you present to the class.  You must still produce a weekly summary on the week you hand out your analytic summary to the class (see below). Total points for weekly summaries is 130.

You will write two essays on topics that I will assign one week before they are due. The essays will correlate with transitions in topical focus.  I have no page minimum or maximum so don’t ask.  I expect that you will produce an essay that addresses the topic thoroughly and completely, citing the readings, films, lectures, and class discussion where relevant. As a guide you can assume that more than fifteen pages are indicative of a grand specialization in the topic and quite possibly your thesis topic, i.e., save your verbosity for the thesis.  Each essay is worth 100 points and will be graded according to a standard that will escalate as we move through the semester and you gain mastery of the topic.  Yes, you must continue to produce weekly summaries on the weeks your papers are due.

The heaviest weight for a single assignment will be based on an analytic summary and class presentation of one of the texts listed under Optional Text above.  You will be assigned a text according to demand and your rank ordering of preference.  In the second week of class you will be asked to rank the texts in order of preference. This should give you plenty to time to review the texts on line or at the bookstore to decide which ones interest you the most.  I will assign no more than five students to any one text so you may not get your number one preference.  The week before you are assigned to present, you will supply the class with a copy of your analytic summary.  This should be a thorough enough discussion of the text to allow your student colleagues to participate in a discussion that you will facilitate along with the other students assigned to the text.  This means that each student facilitated text will require that the rest of the class read all of the summaries and come prepared with questions and issues for you and your student colleagues just as they have for every other week.  The students assigned the text will more than likely produce very different readings and this will produce controversy, debate, and concurrence.  You will also be required to write out five questions or topics that you wish to discuss based on your reading of the text.  You will be graded based on the analytic summary (150 points), your five points for discussion (50) and your facilitation and ability to defend your summary on the week assigned to your text (100).  If you fail to have your analytic summary available for the class the week before you are assigned to discuss it, you will take a 0 out of 150.  If you are absent on the day you are to facilitate the discussion you will take a 0 out of 150. You may not make up either assignment.

The total points for this class are 630 in assignments out of a total of 700 (see attendance section below).

Attendance and Class Etiquette: First and foremost, each student will respect other students as well as the instructor at all times. You will not agree with everything that transpires in class but you will respect the right of others to have their own opinions, ideas, and the opportunity to discuss them.  Do not cheat; learn to cite appropriately and develop your own interpretations of the material you read.  If I discover that you have used materials that are not your own I will automatically fail you for the course and recommend to the University that you be removed from the program.

As for attendance, come to class.  This is a seminar that rests on your interpretation of the assigned materials and defense of your opinions in a collegial setting.  If you are not in class I cannot give you credit for accomplishing the goals and objectives of the course.  I reserve approximately 10% of the total points of a class to measure your attendance and participation.

Course Outline

The Early Work and Influences in Political Anthropology

Week One (Sept. 1):  Review syllabus and course.
Film:  Karl Marx and Marxism. TV6159V. 52 minutes.

Week Two (Sept. 8): Vincent, pp. 1-25
Film:  Strangers Abroad: Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard – Strange Beliefs.
TV 6937V. 52 minutes.
In class assignment:  Rank your preferences for the Optional Text.

Week Three (Sept. 15): Vincent, pp. 29-126.
Film: Indonesia: Riding the Tiger – Kings and Coolies. TV 7254V. 52 minutes.
Essay One assigned.

Power and Society: Understanding how we normalize politics

Week Four (Sept. 22): Kertzer, pp. ix-101.
Reader: Anderson, pp.
Film: With God on our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. TV7412VR. 55
Essay One due.

Week Five (Sept. 29):
Kertzer, pp. 102-184.
Reader: Scott, pp.
Film: Nationalism: Blood and Belonging: Mirror, Mirror, Northern Ireland.
TV6157V. 50 Minutes.
Analytic summaries on Anderson due to students.

Week Six (Oct. 6):  Presentation on Anderson.
Analytic summaries on Scott due to students.

Week Seven (Oct. 13):  Presentation on Scott.
Reader: Said, pp.

Week Eight (Oct. 20): Vincent, pp. 129-254.
Film: Edward Said on Orientalism. TV 7470V. 40 minutes.
Analytic summaries on Said due to students.

The Naïveté of the concept of the Global Village

Week Nine (Oct. 27):  Presentation on Said.
Reader: Crehan, pp. 98-127.
Analytic summaries on Crehan due to students.
Essay Two Assigned.

Week Ten (Nov. 3):  Presentation on Crehan.
Essay Two Due. 

Week Eleven (Nov. 10):  Vincent, pp. 257-355.
Film: Globalization and Human Rights. TV8269V. 57 minutes.

Week Twelve (Nov. 17):  Vincent, pp. 356-437.
Reader: Swartz, pp. 65-94.
Analytic summaries on Swartz due to students.

Week Thirteen (Nov. 24): Thanksgiving Holiday
Reader: Mohanty, pp.

Week Fourteen (Dec. 1): Presentation on Swartz.
Analytic summaries on Mohanty due to students.

Week Fifteen (Dec. 8):  Presentation on Mohanty.
Vincent, pp. 438-460.


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last updated on October 9, 2010