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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Julie V Brugger
ANTH 437
Seattle Campus

Political Anthropology and Social Change

Study of politics from different anthropological perspectives, specially processual approaches to political change. Focused examination of cultural aspects of modern state formation in local and regional contexts. Themes: colonialism and nationalism, regime and transitions, local politics and global processes, social construction of bureaucracy. Prerequisite: one 200-level ANTH course.

Class description

This course explores what it means to approach the study of democracy anthropologically. We will not begin with an a priori definition of democracy as a specific set of ideas or practices, but assume that it means different things to different people in different places and at different times, that it is always being imagined and enacted in a particular set of circumstances, and that it is always contested and always changing. We begin by examining some approaches to the study of democracy from other fields, such as political science, philosophy, economics, and cultural studies. Then we examine ethnographic approaches to the study of democracy, paying particular attention to the specific sites, methods, concepts, and theories the researcher uses and the insights these make available. We consider how the anthropology of democracy fits into the broader sub-field of political anthropology. During the course, each student will conduct their own ethnographic study of democracy as a way to apply and reflect on the approaches to the study of democracy we encounter in this class and to expand their understanding of what it means to think “anthropologically.”

Student learning goals

General familiarity with the field of democratic studies.

More specific knowledge of a wide range of recent ethnographic work on democracy.

Experience combining ethnographic methods, theory, and insights from others’ research in one's own ethnographic research.

A new perspective on democracy.

General method of instruction

During class we will engage with the course material – readings, films, and student projects – primarily through discussion aimed at recognizing underlying assumptions and theories, the relationship between theory and methods, key concepts, and arguments, and at formulating critiques. Discussion of student projects will play a prominent role in developing our understanding of an anthropology of democracy.

Recommended preparation

At least one upper division course in sociocultural anthropology.

Class assignments and grading

Close reading and critical assessment of the assigned texts are necessary in order to contribute thoughtfully to class discussion, to complete the required written work, and to design and carry out the ethnographic project.

Class participation (20%), 2 Midterm Take Home Exams (3-5 pages each) and other short writing assignments (40%), and Ethnographic Project/Presentation (40%).


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Julie V Brugger
Date: 04/24/2008