Department of Social Anthropology
Open courses autumn 2024

Sensing, ocean and capitalism: Open courses autumn 2024

Do you want to learn more about how anthropologists approach the ocean? Or about how our senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch – can be experienced differently in different cultures? What about understanding how anthropologists theorize capitalism and how people resist against systems of inequality? Then you should take one or more of this fall’s elective courses at the Department of Social Anthropology, offered by researchers who are researching these topics right now!

Foto/ill.: Kjersti Simonsen, Tareq M. Hasan, Mari Korsbrekke, Ståle Knudsen, Iselin Å. Strønen, Anna Szolucha, Alessandro Zagato, Amalie Tveit, Nora Haukali, Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

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The Department of Social Anthropology offers elective courses on various topics, open to both our own students, students from other departments or faculties, and exchange students. These courses are taught in English. 

This gives you the opportunity to learn more about a topic that you are particularly curious about, and to gain a deeper insight into what research is going on at the institute right now. It can also open up a new field of interest that could become important for further studies and work, or perhaps it gives you ideas for a topic for your own master's thesis?

This autumn, we offer the following courses:

SANT285-9 Current Anthropological Research: Sensory Worlds Across Times and Cultures

From the course description: The capacity for sensing is a fundamental part of being human. Sensory anthropology works from the premise that the human sensorium - sight, sound, smell, taste, touch - is a biological resource that is also culturally shaped and mediated. Not only are the senses combined and prioritized differently in different cultures, but the significance given to each sense is also subject to wide variations. The valuation of the senses, and the ways they are summoned for classification and ideological work, clearly varies across history and place. Our embodied sensorium is always embedded in wider social structures, ready to be employed as perceptual technique, intersubjective marker, and as a classificatory tool to mark social distinctions and power relations. In the more phenomenological domain, the senses are intimately woven into our most basic experiences - of time, memory, space, and particular environments. Intimately bound up with emotion and affect, the senses drive our desires, imaginaries, curiosities, and the construction of our knowledge. Most significantly, the senses build communicative bridges to other species with which we interact and share the world.

To put it simply, approaching the senses from an anthropological perspective allows us to understand their vital role in people's everyday lives, both personal and public, across different social, cultural, and historical settings.

The course is conceived of as a journey through time and place. It is a journey that draws on diverse ethnographic examples from around the world and examines the sensory engagements afforded by rainforests, savannahs, slums, cities, multicultural markets, and the interiors of buildings. It is also a journey that incorporates sensory examples from the world of fiction, art, and the material forms that frame our contemporary lives. The journey will take us back to colonial times to recover aspects of our disciplinary history when anthropologists classified their subjects in foreign lands according to a sensory, evolutionary, hierarchical schema based on race. It will also take us back to medieval Europe where the senses were employed in making gender distinctions and other binary classifications. In both cases, the senses were pressed into service by structures of power which produced marginalization and inequality on a societal and global scale.

Together we will explore and analyze sensory worlds through a multi-media approach - consisting of lectures, texts, sound clips, film, photo, podcasts, and forays into the savory environs of food markets. Aside from those specializing in anthropology, this course will be of interest to students across the social sciences and humanities.

SANT285-12: Current Anthropological Research: The Class on Class: Towards an Anthropology of Capitalism

From the course description: This class offers a short introduction to the anthropology of capitalism by looking at its core relations of inequality and the classical forms of struggle against it. It will do so theoretically, globally, and historically, but also 'intimately' via ethnography; in other words, a combination of 'close up' and 'birds` eye view' that is a hallmark of social anthropology as an 'interdisciplinary discipline'. The course will offer a short overview of the competing histories of capitalism and the global system, focusing on the intersectional inequalities of class (class combined with race, gender, coloniality etc.) that underpin it, and looking at historical forms of resistance. We will discuss the diverse notions of class that have historically been around, including the ways in which global systemic inequalities express themselves in nationalism and post-colonialism. The course will also cover such topics as 'development', labor relations and digital technology/Artificial Intelligence.

The course is designed for students who like to acquire a good historical and theoretical oversight of capitalism, inequality, and social struggle, and who want to become familiar with social anthropological approaches to it.


SANT285-13 Current Anthropological Research: Ocean Anthropology

From the course description: The ocean is currently emerging as both a site of contemporary climate and biodiversity crisis, and as a space of hope for addressing and remedying these. While ocean science has typically been dominated by natural sciences, the social sciences and humanities have advanced their own theories and methods for studying the ocean(s).

This interdisciplinary course will provide in-depth understanding of how social scientists and humanities scholars are approaching the ocean, with a particular focus on anthropological perspectives. What does anthropology look like at sea? How are human relationships with sea creatures changing at a time of climate crisis? How can oceans be understood as social and cultural, as well as biological, spaces?

We will discuss how the ocean can be approached as a material as well as an imaginative entity. You will learn key theoretical concepts for thinking about what the ocean is and does (and for whom) from a wide array of perspectives, such as the Anthropocene, feminist, queer, and indigenous perspectives, and extractivism at sea. Particular attention will be paid to the multispecies/more-than-human dimensions of the ocean.

The course will also address methodological considerations about doing ethnographic fieldwork with and at sea, as well as exploring how we, as how social scientists and humanities scholars, can work interdisciplinarity and learn from those with different expertise, for example biologists and ecologists.

The course will also include one or two field trips in or near Bergen.