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Unit information: Anthropology and Contemporary Capitalism in 2021/22

Unit name Anthropology and Contemporary Capitalism
Unit code ARCH20065
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Cooper
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Whether waiting in long queues, extracting oil or offering money to ghosts, an anthropological lens can reveal unexpected insights into the mundane and extraordinary workings of economic life. This unit offers an anthropological approach to the contemporary economic context of capitalism, placing particular emphasis on lived experiences in different economic settings. Grounded in core theories of economic anthropology, the unit explores these approaches through a range of ethnographic case studies from around the world. The broader theme of the unit will enable students to engage with some of the latest themes and thriving debates within the discipline, including the topics of money, consumption, bureaucracy, digital capitalism, finance, the Anthropocene, resource extraction and cosmo-economics. Lectures and class discussions will promote critical thinking and challenge students to interrogate many of their assumptions about capitalism, globalisation and economic life.

Unit aims:

  • To introduce students to a range of anthropological approaches to economic life, capitalism and globalisation.
  • To introduce students to key theoretical approaches and analyse them through ethnographic cases.
  • To develop an understanding of the relationship between social life and global processes.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completing the unit, successful students will be able to:

  1. Utilise anthropological approaches to assess contemporary economic issues.
  2. Demonstrate an ability to question cultural assumptions about economic life.
  3. Apply cross-cultural perspectives to key debates on capitalism and economic anthropology.
  4. Employ anthropological methods to research economic life.
  5. Through the medium of a blog post, write about an aspect of economic life and analyse it using literature from across the unit.

Teaching Information

Weekly lectures

Weekly seminars that include a show and tell activity.

Assessment Information

  1. Coursework essay, 2,500 words (60%). ILOs 1-3.
  2. A blog post of 1,500 words based on student-led ethnographic activity (40%). ILOs 2-5.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ARCH20065).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.