SA532: Theoretical Perspective in Anthropology (T.U.syllabus)

M.A. Anthropology

Course Objective:

The objective of this course is to inculcate an understanding of anthropological perspectives on human nature, behaviors and practices-i.e., culture in general. It examines the differences and continuities of theoretical approaches over time. The course aims to locate history of anthropology as a discipline by examining the relationship between the modes of knowledge and forms of political-economic dominance. The course aims to provide students with more balanced comparative perspective drawing from the ‘classical’ and ‘contemporary’ theoretical perspectives and approaches in anthropology.

I. Historical Development of Anthropology

1. Foundation of Anthropology:

A. What is Anthropological Perspective?

B. History of the Discipline

  • Intellectual contexts (enlightenment, positivism, influence of Durkheim, Weber and Marx, and others)’
  • Political and economic context : relationships between the political-economic domination (Western colonialism, capitalism and racism) and the forms of knowledge production/intellectual traditions

2. Overview of the development of Anthropology in the world contet with particular reference to US, Britain, France, Germany, South Asia, and Nepal

II. Major Classical Theoretical Approaches

1. Culture theories and the “science” of culture

A. Evolutionism: the contexts, theoretical and methodological approaches: critical reviews of the contribution of E.B. Tylor and L. H. Morgan

B. Diffusionism: the contexts, general theoretical assumptions, methodological approaches and critiques

C. Historical Particularism and idea of cultural relativism: Critical reviews of contribution of Franz Boas

D. Linking theories to the idea of time, space and universality of human history and cultural differences (the ‘West and the “Others”)

2. Functional and structural-functionalism (British Social Anthropology): Critical review of the contributions of B. Malinowski, A.R. Radcliffe Brown, Evans-Pritchard. Linking theories with ethnographic fieldwork, holism and the idea of “non-western, non-capitalist, simple societies”

3. Structuralism (French anthropology): Critical reviews of Levi Strauss’s contributions and his influence in anthropology

4. Anthropology and Moral Economies: Marcel Mauss’s ‘The Gift’ and Marchal Shalins’ ‘Stone Age Economy’.

5. Culture and Personality: Critical review of the contributions of Ralph Linton, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict

6. Symbolic and Interpretative Approaches: Crituical reviews of the contributions of Clifford Geertz, Victor Turner, David Schneide, and Mary Douglas

7. Ecological approaches: contributions of and critical reviews of Leslie White, Julian Steward, Roy. A. Rappaport and Marvin Harris

8. Marxism and anthropology

A. Anthropological Impetus in Marxism (Marx and Engels)

– Mode of Production: means of production, relations of production

– Simultaneous existence of multiple modes of productions

– Commodity and commodity fetishism

B. Marxian Theory of Value: Economic and anthropological approach to value

C. Alienation: Marxian and Anthropological approach

D. Application of Marxian approach in the study of non-cap9italist societies and cultures

III. Crisis and Critical Turns in Anthropology (1970s-1980s)

– The intellectual and political-economic contexts: “crisis” in anthropology

– Anthropology and colonial encounter (Talad Asad and others)

-Anthropology and the making of the “Others” (Edward Said and others)

– Feminist and native critiques (see the required readings)

– Questioning the idea of “culture” and the “field” (see the required readings)

IV. Contemporary Theoretical Trends and Debates

1. Practice, Power, Agency and Resistance

A. Theory of Practice: Critical reviews of P. Bourdieu and others

B. Capillary Power and governmentality critical reviews of Michele Foucault and his influences in anthropology: (overview of some ethnographic works)

C Hegemony, resistance and agency: concepts and application (Gramsci, James Scott and others: overview of some ethnographic examples)

2. Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, Subaltern Studies Indigenism and Anthropology

A. Postmodernism and anthropology

– Overview of poststructuralism and its influence in anthropology

– Postmodernism: concepts and debates

-postmodernism and anthropology (reviews of George Marcus, James Clifford, and R. Rosaldo)

– Postmodernism and ethnography

– Critiques

B. Post colonial and subaltern studies and anthropology

– Overview of intellectual and poli9tiacl contexts

– Influences of postcolonial and subaltern studies anthropology

C. Indigenism and anthropology

– Indigenism (concept): overview

– Indigenism, ‘culture rights’ and anthropology: relationship and challenges

3. Anthropology: Global-Local Interface, and Anthropology of Nepal

-Refocusing anthropological lens: globalization, transnational connections and everyday life

– Global-local interface, and ethnographic approach: reviews of some ethnographic examples

– Locating anthropology of Nepal in the context of theoretical developments, crisis and shifts in anthropology

– Future of anthropology with particular reference to Nepal (discussion)

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