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Undergraduate course

Poverty, Welfare and Marginalisation: An Ethnographic Approach to Modern Urban Life

  • ECTS credits15
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codeSANT240
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

Main content

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

Today, more than half of the world's population live in cities, and the share is predicted to grow over two-thirds in the next three decades. Cities are accountable for 80% of the global GDP, but within them the distribution of wealth is extremely uneven. As a matter of fact, contemporary cities depend on such inequality thereby encouraging the ongoing polarisation of different social groups that develop their own distinctive ways of life.

By means of ethnography, the course focuses on topics related to those most affected by the unequal class relation cities are made of: the changing forms of poverty, the global growth of slums, the racialisation of urban life, policing and social control, the production of surplus populations and the welfare state. Therefore, the curriculum includes studies of homelessness, displacement, unemployment, informality, migrants, youth subcultures and the underworld of crime and drugs.

Marginalisation and poverty, though, relate both to dominant regimes of state surveillance (mental asylums, prisons) and to capital accumulation (factories, regeneration schemes). Hence, the course also focuses on the control of social exclusion by the urban elites (stigmatisation), the territorialisation of secluded class lifestyles (middle-class suburbia, gated communities), the privatisation and commoditisation of the city (touristification), the profit of urban development and rent gap formation (gentrification), and the financialisation of everyday life.

Learning Outcomes

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


  • trace the historical development of ideas concerning the city, as reflected in anthropological literature
  • critically evaluate theoretical approaches to understanding urban problems in relation to the social production of space


  • discuss how the city and its institutions can shape ways of life
  • analyse how the urban is shaped by political and economic processes

General competence

  • analyse the culture and social relations that can develop within cities and institutional environments
  • critically engage with academic texts and relate scientific theories to ongoing social processes
  • apply key concepts and perspectives from anthropology in an independently written work using empirical case materials

Required Previous Knowledge


Recommended Previous Knowledge


Access to the Course

This course is open to students at UiB

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and workshops

4 hours per week

7 weeks, approx. 26 hours in total

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Submission of one essay (1500 words +/- 10%). Only with an approved assignment will students be allowed to take the exam. Approved compulsory assignment is valid for 2 semesters.

Forms of Assessment

8 hours written exam

Grading Scale

Grading A-F

Subject Overlap

SANT230 10 credits

Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester and the following semester.

Reading List

The reading list will be ready before 1 June for the autumn semester and 1 Decemeber for the spring semester.

Course Evaluation

All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.

Programme Committee

The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.

Course Coordinator

Course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB.

Course Administrator

The Department of Social Anthropology at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme.


Department of Social Anthropology

E-mail: advice@sosantr.uib.no

Phone: +47 55 58 92 50