Undergraduate course

Current Anthropological Research - The Shape of Time: An inquiry into theories of temporality and materiality

Level of Study


Teaching semester

Spring 2020

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.

'Time' and 'matter' are terms that at first glance may seem both common sense and commonplace, albeit rather abstract. Upon closer scrutiny, however, 'time' and 'matter' and the ways in which they are embedded and transform, happen to be one of the oldest and most complex subjects of philosophical reflection, artistic representation and aesthetic discourse. 'Time' and 'matter', and the multiple forms and processes they give rise to, underpins virtually all aspects of life, both the experiences of the everyday but also those experiences that accumulate over a life-course, and across the generations. 'Time' and 'matter' structure the entire physical world and shape the specific milieus humans share with other species. 'Time' and 'matter' are also powerfully at work in imaginaries, cosmologies, religions and futures. Historical and cross-cultural analysis of these concepts show them to be as changeable and various as they are grand and important. The shaping of 'time' and 'matter' are shot through with issues of power and hegemony, being at stake in much political struggle both in the past and the present.

In this course we explore together how scholars across the humanities and social sciences have conceptualized, researched and represented this enigma of time, matter, form and fluidity. We will examine the temporal regimes embedded in the work of Darwin, Bergson, Whitehead, and Deleuze, and explore how matter is analysed in contemporary schools of thought such as 'Object Oriented Ontology', 'New Materialism' and 'Post-humanism'. We will critically engage these theories from an anthropological perspective by bringing ethnographic examples into the discussion. We will take a closer look at the analytical contributions to this scholarly field by anthropologists, geographers, archaeologists, and historians.

The course is premised on the active participation of the students. The educational outcome hinges on students coming to class well prepared in terms of course readings, and their willingness to contribute to the topical discussions.

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

Required Previous Knowledge


Access to the Course


Teaching and learning methods


Compulsory Assignments and Attendance


Forms of Assessment

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

Grading Scale


Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester.


Department of Social Anthropology


Contact Information


Phone: +47 55 58 92 50

Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Take home examination

    Assignment handed out
    08.06.2020, 09:00
    Submission deadline
    12.06.2020, 14:00
    Withdrawal deadline
    Examination system
    Digital exam