Introducing Anthropology and its Subjects: History, Poverty and Social Transformation

  • ECTS credits15
  • Teaching semesterAutumn
  • Course codeSANT304
  • Number of semesters1
  • Language


  • Resources

Objectives and Content

Concerns about poverty - who are the 'poor'; why are they poor; and what can be deemed proper responses to their condition - have long been at the core of discourses about society and its 'others'. European views of the poor were exported throughout the empires, in this process shaping perceptions of indigenous societies and colonial policies directed towards them. European ideas about gender, class and race continue in the post-colonial world in various transmutations, to effect discourses of development. The course explores how local and global ideas of social inequality interact. It focuses on the implications of such encounters for the social identities of the poor and for interventions into their lives by states, mission and transnational aid agencies.

Although a category like "the poor" seems too abstract and generic to generate much specific ethnography, it does in fact consist largely of the classical subjects of anthropology. Indeed, the discipline of anthropology itself grew out of the 19th century global reconfiguration of "poverty", "the state" and the "public sphere". Poverty continued to be addressed in anthropological scholarship, although intermittently, after the second world-war to become crystallised as the problem matter in the recent sub-field of the Anthropology of Development.

By following the history of the heterogeneous category of "the poor" from an anthropological perspective, this course is designed as an introduction to both mainstream and development anthropology on the master level.

The course aims to provide students with the basic analytical tools for addressing critical issues of change and globalization, by linking method and theory in anthropology with the detailed case material and thematic studies that emerges from field research. By focusing on poverty, the course aims to develop students┬┤ grasp of the ways in which anthropologists have theorised social and economic change, and sensitise students to the ethical implications of anthropologists┬┐ practical engagement with development intervention both during the colonial and post-colonial era.

Teaching Methods and Extent of Organized Teaching

Lectures and seminars

4-6 hours each week

6-8 weeks

Approx. 26 hours in total (Depending on students requirements, special seminars may be given)

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Mandatory presence in class, well prepared in terms of syllabus, active participation in discussions, oral presentations

Semester of Instruction

Autumn 2014, thereafter every 4th semester

Level of Study


Access to the Course

The course is available to students at the Master's Programme in Anthropology of Development

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course the student should be able to:

  • discuss advanced anthropological theory and method associated with the study of history, poverty and social transformation.
  • outline how local and global ideas of social inequality interact.
  • apply central concepts associated with poverty research in an independently written work.
  • identify the biases and assumptions that underlie representation - including their own - of social phenomena like globalization, development and poverty.

Required Previous Knowledge

The participants must have a good Bachelor or Master degree in a social science discipline or other disciplines relevant to the course content

Assessment Semester

Course semester and subsequent semester

Forms of Assessment

School exam, 6 hours

Grading Scale

Grading A-F

Course Evaluation

All courses are regularly evaluated according to UiB's quality assurance system.


Department of Social Anthropology


Contact Information

Department of Social Anthropology

Fosswinckelsgate 6

5007 Bergen

Homepage: http://www.uib.no/antro

E-mail: advice@sosantr.uib.no

Phone: +47 55 58 92 50

Fax: +47 55 58 92 60