AN 371: POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY (with AN 771)
CAS 432, Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00 A.M. to 12:20 P.M.
Professor Augustus Richard Norton
Phone: 353-7808 (direct), 353-9278 (dept.)
Courseinfo page: http://courseinfo.bu.edu/courses/05sprggrsan771_a1/
POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY: THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD
Do “modern” politics differ from premodern politics? How did colonialism and industrial capitalism transform non-Western societies? Is democracy a uniquely Western phenomenon or is it generalizable to non-Western societies? Is nationalism a social disorder or an integral part of being modern? How do we come to define ourselves as citizens of a given state? How does the state establish and sustain its control over its citizenry and how do citizens collectively or individually resist the state’s controls? What are human rights? What social conditions seem to be conducive to democratic governance and which conditions promote tyranny, intolerance and civil violence?
This course examines these and other questions in political anthropology as part of a broader effort to understand the origins and development of the modern political world. In general terms, we are interested this semester in exploring three problems: 1) the origins of modern politics, its institutions, and cultures, both Western and non-Western; 2) the political conditions that have worked at times to create unprecedented human liberty and at other times unparalleled tyranny; and, 3) the prospects for democracy and tolerance among and within the world’s diverse civilizations.
Though our primary focus in this course is on the forces that have shaped the modern era, we seek to understand them comparatively. Among other things, this means that we must analyze premodern patterns of political organization, and the forces that have promoted their destabilization and change. Our discussion will thus examine traditional forms of authority, domination, and resistance; the “rise of the West” and the impact of colonialism on the non-Western world; nationalism and ethnic violence; the role of politics in the development of market capitalism; and the prospects for democracy, freedom, and civil society in the diverse cultures of the modern world. The theme that unites all these concerns is the concept of “integrative revolution”: the political, economic, and cultural processes that have incorporated once autonomous regions into an increasingly interconnected world. These political processes created the modern world; our goal this semester is to understand their origins and implications for our future.
Texts: We will be reading several books this semester, as well as a few important articles. The books are available at the BU bookstore, except as noted. The required books are: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism; Whitney Azoy, Buzkashi; Abner Cohen, Two Dimensional Man (Cohen is out of print but you can find cheap used copies on the web and there is one copy on reserve, HM131.C7417; please try and buy a used copy on the WWW or in a local used book store); John Gledhill, Power and its Disguises: Anthropological Perspectives on Politics; Ted Lewellen, Political Anthropology (2nd. ed.; GN492 .L48 1992); A. R. Norton, Civil Society in the Middle East, vol. 2; and, Robert Weller, Alternate Civilities.
Graduate students: an additional reading list will be provided.
Requirements: There will be two scheduled quizzes in the course. Each quiz will be comprised of short essay questions that require the student to draw upon the assigned readings, as well as class discussions. There is also a mid-term examination in this course. Students in this course are expected to do all the readings for this course in advance of class. In each class session, at least one student will be asked to comment on the assigned reading.
A grade for course participation will take account of attendance as well as the student’s contributions to the classroom discussion, especially when called upon to comment.
Each student is required to prepare two incisive papers during the semester (see attached). Each of the two papers is a case study focusing on a distinct level of political organization (e.g., bands, tribes, chiefdoms or states). The second paper must focus on a different region, society and level of political organization than the first paper.
Each student is assigned to a three person group, which then makes a graded formal presentation to the class drawing on their course papers.
Attendance: Attendance is required. Unexcused absences and lateness will be considered in calculating the grade for participation. An attendance sheet will be circulated with an addendum for late arrivals.
The CourseInfo page is an excellent device for conveniently providing course
materials, schedules, grades and announcements.
Access is limited to enrolled students in the course. Class members are urged to check the page
twice weekly using the
Routine communications and announcements will be made by email. If you use an email address other than your email@example.com address, please be sure to provide that email address to the professor (by email to firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Consultation and office hours:
AN 371: TOPICS AND
Note on the
WEEK 1 (Jan 18/20): THE NATURE OF POLITICS: PREMODERN AND MODERN COMPARISONS
Read: Geertz, “An Inconstant Profession” on the courseinfo page.
Lewellen, Political Anthropology, chaps. 1-6.
WEEK 2 (Jan 25/27): THE BIRTH OF NATIONALISM
WEEK 3 (Feb 1/3): NATIONALIST REVOLUTION AND REACTION
Read: Imagined Communities, pp. 67-140; peruse the remaining pages.
Lewellen, chaps. 7-11.
WEEK 4 (Feb 8/10): MAN AND WOMAN IN COMPLEX SOCIETIES
Read: Cohen, all (on reserve).
Topic due, February 8.
WEEK 5 (Feb 15/17): Ethnicity and Identity
Read: Barth, “Ethnic Groups and Boundaries” (on courseinfo page)
Feb 17: QUIZ I on all readings through Barth.
WEEK 6 (Feb 24): GAMES, RITUALS AND POLITICAL AUTHORITY I
(Due to revised holiday schedule there is no class on the 22d.)
WEEK 7 (Mar 1/3): GAMES, RITUALS AND POLITICAL AUTHORITY II;
POWER RELATIONS IN THE
Read (March 1): Azoy.
Read (March 3): Gledhill, pp. 1-126.
WEEK 8 (March 15/17): LOCAL POLITICS, GLOBALIZATION AND THE NOTION OF POST-MODERNITY
Read: Glenhill, pp. 127 to end.
Paper I due, March 17.
WEEK 9 (March 22/24): RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM, RITUAL AND POLITICAL IDENTITY
Mar 22: QUIZ II on all readings through Gledhill.
Read: Norton, “‘Ashura in Nabatiyya” (Mugar reserve/CourseInfo page), Turner, The Ritual Process (on reserve)
WEEK 10 (March 29/31): CIVILITY, ASSOCIATIONAL LIFE AND THE QUESTION OF CIVIL SOCIETY
WEEK 11: (April 5/7): fissures, borders and commonalities
Read: Norton, ed., intro and chaps. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8.
WEEK 12 (April 12/14): The context of late modernity
Read: Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations” (Mugar reserve)
April 13: In addition to regular class meeting, there is a required lecture at the Castle, 5 p.m.
WEEK 13 (April 19/21): MID-TERM EXAMINATION AND STUDENT
April 19: Mid-term exam: Essay format; all reading and lectures will be covered.
April 21: Presentations begin.
WEEK 14 (April 26/28): STUDENT PRESENTATIONS
WEEK 15 (May 3): COURSE WRAP-UP
AN 371: Political Anthropology
Summary of Deadlines:
February 8 Topic for paper I due.
February 17 Quiz I
March 17 Paper I due
March 22 Quiz II
April 13 Required lecture, 5 p.m.
April 19 Mid-term examination
April 21 Presentations commence
May 3 Paper II due
Grade calculation: Grades are posted on the CourseInfo page. You may gain access to your grades by using your unique BU alias and kyberos password. The components of the course grade are as follows:
Quizzes (2): 10% each
Topic I 5%
Papers (2): 15% each.
Mid-term exam 25%
Grade scale: A (95% or above), A- (92% or above); B+ (88% or above); B (85% or above), B- (82% or above), C+ (78% or above), C (75% or above), C- (72 or above), D (65% or above).
on the course readings will be given on February 17 and March 22. The format will be short answer, ob
Each student participates in a ten to twelve minute presentation to the
class as part of a research group designated based on paper topics. The presentations will be scheduled for
April. Papers will be grouped by sub
Papers: There are two required short papers as described below. The papers are due on March 17 and May 3. The papers should be four to five pages in length (approximately 1,000 words and no more than 1,200 words—please include a word count on your cover sheet). The Department of Anthropology publishes a short and inexpensive style manual that you may find helpful:
Parish, Steven M., The
Student’s Practical Guide: Writing Term Papers for Anthropology (and Related
The bible for style is the Chicago Style Manual, or the Turabian Guide, which derives from the CSM.
Topics for papers:
Each of the two papers should treat a single type of political system
(i.e., band, tribe, chiefdom or state).
You must choose a different political system in a different world region
for the second paper. Thus, if you
choose a Latin American tribe as your first topic, you must choose a band,
chiefdom or state outside of
Topic for first paper: NLT than February 8, submit your topic for the first paper.
Late papers: Unless there is a bona fide emergency or otherwise authorized exception, late papers will be docked half a letter grade per day.
The class readings do a good job of introducing the
basic themes and concepts of political anthropology. Choose a theme that interests you and apply
it to the political system that you are treating. Thus, you may write about conflict resolution
in a Bedouin tribe, leadership among the !kung of the Kalahari, the blood feud
in Corsica, or religious legitimation in Pharaonic
Conflict and conflict resolution
Mediation and mediators
Rituals of conflict resolution
How the poor or the disempowered resist
Social stratification and political specialization
Succession among shamans
Totemism and social hierarchy
Symbolism and ritual
Taboos and the realm of the profane
Social stratification and political specialization
Interaction of traditional and modern legal systems
Clientelism and patronage
Economic exchange systems
Taxation and tributary systems
Property and ownership
Patriarchy and matriarchy
Politics of Identity
Representations of the other
Inter-sectarian or inter-ethnic politics
How identity changes?
Symbolic aspects of identity