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Second Semester Courses

SAN1013S The Anthropology of Development and Difference

We hope you enjoy the SAN1013S course ‘Development and Difference’. The aim of the course is to introduce you to key concepts and theoretical approaches used by social and cultural anthropologists to understand development, change and social and cultural difference in a variety of sites of the world. Taught by Susan Levine and Andrew ‘Mugsy’ Spiegel, the course critically considers conventional ideas about economics, families, gender, health, labour, politics, religion and the ways differences in practices in those social contexts affect development interventions. It also introduces the ideas of some key theorists in anthropology and demonstrates theoretical paradigms such as symbolic anthropology, interactionist, marxist and political-economic approaches. Its main goal is to show how an anthropological perspective allows one to challenge the familiar and the conventional and thereby to develop a critical perspective on the world and events around one.

Welcome to the Department of Social Anthropology’s course on “Power and Wealth”. The aim of this course is to explore concepts surrounding the accumulation of wealth, the production of power in society, and the relationship between power and wealth. A range of questions will be asked of the anthropological record - for example: How is value produced, exchanged, and consumed? How do power and authority come together with ideas of wealth in different societies? What is citizenship in our globalised world? How might the anthropological record inform our understanding of contemporary crises of inequality, poverty, and racism? How might utopian projects of development, democracy and equality be re-imagined in the non-Western, or non-global spaces of the world today?

Importantly you will engage with these issues in very practical ways. The classroom will become a laboratory for examining the politics of knowledge and you will be required to disrupt the traditional power relationship between lecturer and student. You will be required to engage with different pedagogical tools that facilitate learning in alternate ways. Finally your research project will actively promote skill development and provide you with alternative ways of living your lives through the theme ‘another world is possible’.


SAN2024S Belief and Symbolism

Welcome to the Social Anthropology Department’s course Belief and Symbolism (SAN2024S). The aim of this course is to introduce you to some general concepts developed by anthropologists in order to understand what people believe, how and why they come to hold and communicate those beliefs and finally, how those beliefs have an impact on social, economic and political events and structures. The central concepts considered are those of meaning, symbol, ritual, cosmology, narrative, performance, emotion, and conviction.


SAN3015S Anthropology Through Ethnography

This course examines the relationship between theory and practice in social anthropology through a close reading of a selection of ethnographies developed through the 20th century and through students’ development of group-based ethnographic research projects. The course considers the production of ethnographic research and writing by drawing on contemporary debates, including those around the genre itself, on critiques of ethnographic production, and on contemporary trends in writing about culture.


SAN4001S Societies in Transition

Societies are always in process of transition. Social and cultural change thus occurs constantly, and not only at those apparently cataclysmic moments that are recorded as significant dates in history texts. The present course considers the more mundane processes of social change and focuses on their effect on the everyday and the cultural.

The course undertakes a kind of archaeological-historical exploration of how ethnographers have, since the early 20th century, analysed the nature of social change and societal transition in southern Africa. It does so by requiring that students begin the course by having to read and critically discuss Fiona Ross’s recent book Raw Life, New Hope: Decency, housing and everyday life in a post-apartheid community (2010) which builds upon and implicitly critiques much of that earlier literature. We then return to the earlier literature during the remainder of the course in order to see what materials more recent authors have drawn on and critiqued, to consider those materials in the context of the times they were written and the development of anthropology as a discipline. Another recent text that, more explicitly than Ross’s, critiques much of that earlier work is Leslie Bank’s (2011) Home Spaces, Street Styles, and students are thus advised to read that text so that eventually they can assess whether Bank’s critiques are contextually justified.


SAN4016S Visual Anthropology

Visual Anthropology is concerned with the production and consumption of visual media, with the politics of representation, and the ways in which anthropologists use visual methods in ethnographic research. This course considers the major theoretical contributions to the discipline of visual anthropology, and while it is not production based, students will have the chance to produce a work in visual ethnography using photography, video, or on-line technologies. We will watch a number of documentary and ethnographic films, which focus on a range of anthropological themes including cultural translation, reflexivity, narrative, sexuality, activism, and ethics. We will consider the construction of the ‘other’ in documentary film, and consider what role vision has played in the history of anthropology. SAN 4016S is an Honours course that requires having completed an undergraduate degree in either anthropology or media studies. Permission to register for the course may be granted at the discretion of the course coordinator.

Seminars will include discussions of the films screened and assigned readings. Throughout the course we will interrogate the boundaries between different modes of ethnographic representation, looking for points of intersection between written and visual ethnography, and working towards a critical visual anthropology in South Africa.


SAN5016S Contemporary theory in Anthropology

The course aims to explore core debates about identity, power and production in contemporary moment in Anthropological and Ethnographic writing.

By the end of the course, participants should be able to:

  • Critically engage with contemporary debates about ethnographic writing.
  • Understand how local and global processes connect and with what consequences for the production of ethnographic texts.
  • Use the tools offered in the course to reflect critically on contemporary debates about power and agency.
  • Develop critical tools in understanding and applying models.
  • Present materials in an accessible way in class and produce high quality written assignments.

SAN5025S Ethnographic Problematiques

This course offers students an opportunity to engage in close readings of ethnographic texts, requiring students to develop an historical synthesis of ethnographic work pertaining to a selected anthropological research problem or theme. In particular, the course seeks to sharpen the critical ability of students to develop research questions and rigorously to engage existing scholarship in a chosen area of inquiry, using five carefully selected published ethnographic texts. To enable this, students are to formulate a research question that seeks to establish and/or draw on: the theoretical assumptions or frameworks informing the approach taken in each of the ethnographies, and also how generally familiar with on-going theoretical debates the author is; the methodological approach of the author, and the extent to which further insights could have been gained with an alternative or complementary approach; the originality, coherence, clarity and consistency of author’s main argument, and the extent to which it is supported by the data at his/her disposal; the contribution to social anthropological knowledge of the work (gaps covered, new insights, elucidation of existing theories, breaks new grounds theoretically etc.)