Overview – click here for course website
This course provides a critical overview of the historical development of anthropological theory in Europe from the eighteenth century to present. This undertaking is largely chronological by design. However, in that anthropology cannot be neatly demarcated off from other disciplines and is, in fact, at the heart of the human scientific endeavour, this course will also be addressing and engaging with the philosophical thought of Enlightenment thinkers (Darwin, Rousseau, Comte, Marx) as well as more contemporary theorists (Ortner, Bourdieu, Jackson). This approach will not only deepen your understanding of what anthropological theory is and why schools of thought such as evolutionism, functionalism, (post-)structuralism or postmodernism came about (and disappeared) at certain points in time but it will also provide you with the basic tools to better understand and relate to other courses in anthropology and/or the social sciences.
For the most part, social scientific theory can appear to be rather complex, abstruse and distant from the human subject that it is supposed to edify. In that theory-making is not an easy undertaking and deals with elements of the human condition which may seem at first to defy explanation or even language, this course is replete with exercises that you will be required to complete and reflect on in order to put theory in perspective and give it a real-world application. These experiences are designed to bring the theory to life and enable you to get a better handle on its significance. By the end of this course you should expect to have a firm grasp of the historical development of anthropological theory within Europe (and beyond), a critical awareness of how theory informs ethnographic practice and a broader understanding of theoretical arguments within the discipline.