Undergraduate course

Current Anthropological Research: The Anthropology of Oil

Level of Study


Teaching semester

Spring 2018

Objectives and Content

This course gives a comprehensive introduction to a specific area of contemporary anthropological investigation. Current research trends and recent theoretical developments are explored through critical discussions with emphasis on anthropology's evolving engagement with the selected field. The course offers a unique opportunity to be acquainted with diverse aspects - methodological, epistemological and theoretical - of the research process, aspects that lie at the very basis of anthropological analysis and practice, and of ethnographic production.

Course theme spring 2018

The controversy around oil drilling in Lofoten, the Dakota Access Pipeline, fracking for shale gas in Britain, and non-the-least the never ending talk about oil prices and the prediction of oil peak, every newspaper almost daily reports on heated topics about oil. Oil pervades every aspect of our life, but what is the 'real price of oil' that we pay? Oil is the prime mover of modern life and because of this its discourse shapes and affects areas like economy, politics, environment, gender, believes, traditions, human and indigenous rights. This course gives an introductory broad anthropological and historical perspective on the research on oil (hydrocarbons) presenting both theoretical standpoints and building on case studies drawn from diverse global contexts. Through ethnographic examples, the course aims also to reason around the paradoxes surrounding oil: its non-renewable and finite nature, the dramatic irreversible consequences that the use of hydrocarbons have on our ecosystem and on our social life. This course wants to invite the student to reflect critically around the powerful role of oil in boosting social, cultural and political change and on the complexity of the relationships among states, corporations, institutions and communities affected or touched by oil production, distribution or consumption.

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • provide an overview of the field of study addressed in the course, with particular reference to its history and theoretical and methodological debates in social anthropology


  • explain the current state-of-art of research in the field of study addressed in the course
  • explain the various methodological and theoretical considerations that must be taken in order to further develop the field of study

General competence

  • apply key concepts and perspectives from the course and its field of study independently, in the understanding and analysis of local and global processes
  • apply an understanding of the correlation and difference between empirical data, theory and analysis in text production

Access to the Course


Teaching and learning methods


Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

The course has the following compulsory requirements:

  • Participation in lectures/seminars (minimum 75%)
  • Participation in one fieldtrip, with written assignment

Only students with approved compulsory activities will be allowed to take the exam.

Forms of Assessment

Take home exam, 5 days. Words: 3000 (+/- 10%)

Grading Scale


Assessment Semester

Spring 2018


Department of Social Anthropology


Contact Information

Department of Social Anthropology

Fosswinckelsgate 6

5007 Bergen

E-post: advice@sosantr.uib.no

Home page: http://www.uib.no/antro/

Phone: 55 58 92 50

Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Take home exam

    Assignment handed out
    04.04.2018, 09:00
    Submission deadline
    09.04.2018, 14:00
    Withdrawal deadline
    Examination system
    Digital exam