Student Pages
Undergraduate course

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

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

Level of Study

Bachelor level

Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

Today, the majority of the world's population live in cities, and the share is predicted to grow to two-thirds over the next few decades. Many have criticised modern cities as sites of homogenisation, but cities have also been places for creating new forms of diversity. Modern cities have produced new social groups and subcultures with their own distinctive beliefs and values, with different groups seeking their own identity and place in urban areas.

The course will use ethnography to study: changing forms of poverty, the global growth of slums and ghettos, the racial-ethnic forms that class relations can assume, the welfare state and new forms of policing and social control. The curriculum will include ethnographic studies of the homeless, unemployed, drug addicts, migrant-ethnic groups, and youth subcultures. The course will not just study the poor and marginalised but also dominant institutions.

The changing affluent lifestyle of urban elites has produced new ways of privatising and fortifying urban spaces, new militarised forms of policing have emerged in response to growing class-racial inequalities. Modern cities have also involved the growth of new institutions (bureaucracies, schools, hospitals, prisons, mental asylums, police forces, factories) and these have their own internal life; their own ideologies, forms of knowledge, informal practices and policing regimes which can generate conformity, resistance and marginalisation.

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 and related issues, such as poverty and migration


  • discuss how urban spaces and institutions can shape identities and communities
  • analyse how urban spaces are shaped by sociocultural, 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


Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap

SANT230 10 credits

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

Updated: Change of assessment form autumn 2020 from written exam to 30 hours take home exam as part of the measures to limit the risk of corona infection.

Grading Scale

Grading A-F

Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester and the following semester.

Course Evaluation

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


Department of Social Anthropology


Contact Information

E-mail: advice@sosantr.uib.no

Phone: +47 55 58 92 50

Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Take home exam

    Assignment handed out
    05.10.2020, 09:00
    Submission deadline
    06.10.2020, 15:00
    Withdrawal deadline
    Examination system
    Digital exam