85492 - Cultural Anthropology and Migration Processes

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing students abilities in cultural analysis with special reference to the making and representation of cultural diversity (Part 1), and to contemporary migration processes in their historical and political aspects (Part 2). The course aims at improving students participation, providing the gain of a specialistic terminology and of a critical attitude toward social and cultural facts.

Course contents

The course introduces students to basic theories and research methods in Social and Cultural Anthropology, with a special focus on contemporary societies, including ethnographic fieldwork and the analysis of cultural dimension. In its focus on the details of everyday activities across a number of communities, it is meant to provide a bridge between sociocultural anthropology and ethnography through the introduction of concepts and analytical techniques that privilege observation, participation, recording and transcription of spontaneous interaction. Topics include cultural theory, practices of ethnography, memory, time, travel and mobility, imagination, the power of communication, agency and aspiration, and universal and culture-specific properties of human condition.

Students are expected to arrive on time, attend all lectures, and complete all readings as scheduled on the syllabus, i.e., prior to the class meeting. The class participation grade is based on participation in discussions as well as on attendance in both lectures and study questions.


Cultural Anthropology and Migration Processes


I Part (V. Matera)

LECTURE 1 (20 feb)

Introduction: Imagined Identities. The Emergence of Modern Mimetic Subjectivities in Global Imaginative horizons.

Reading for Lecture 2 and 4:

  1. Matera V., 2016, Understanding Cultural Diversity. Culture, cultural traits and cultural change between global and local frames, in Panebianco, Serrelli (eds.), Understanding Cultural Traits, Springer, pagg. 21-42.

    LECTURE 2 (28 feb)


    Reading 1 first part: discussion and study questions

    Readings for Lecture 3:

  2. De Haas, Vezzoli, 2013, Migration and Development on the South-North Frontier: A Comparison of the Mexico-USA and of Morocco-EU cases, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 39, 7: 1041-1065
  3. Menin L., 2016, Men are not scared: Luck, destiny and the gendered vocabularies of the clandestine migration in Central Morocco, Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo, 18, 1: 25-36.

    LECTURE 3 (1 mar)


    Readings 2 and 3: discussion and study questions

    LECTURE 4 (7 mar)


    Reading 1 second part: discussion and study questions

    Reading for Lecture 5:

  4. Geertz C., 1973, Thick Description. Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture, in The Interpretation of Cultures, Basic Book, Ch. 1 (pagg. 3-30).

    LECTURE 5 (14 mar)


    Reading 4: discussion and study questions

    Reading for Lecture 6:

  5. Duvell F., 2012, Transit Migration: A Blurred and Politicized Concept, Population, Space, and Place, 18: 415-427.
  6. Menin L., 2016, “Anti-black racism”: debating racial prejudices and the legacies of slavery in Morocco, SWAB-WPS, 2.

    LECTURE 6 (15 mar)

    ANTI-black RACISM

    Reading 5 and 6: discussion and study questions

    Reading for Lecture 7-8:

  7. Markowitz, 2004, Talking about culture. Globalization, Human Rights and Anthropology, in Anthropological Theory, 4: 329-352.
  8. Sahlins M., 1999, Two or Three Things that I Know about Culture, in The Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute, 5: 399-421
  9. Marcus G., 2007, “How Short Can Fieldwork Be?”, in Social Anthropology, 15: 353-367.

    LECTURE 7 (20 mar)


    Reading 7: discussion and study questions

    LECTURE 8 (21 mar)


    Reading 8-9: discussion and study questions

    Reading for Lectures 9 – 10:

  10. Marwan M. Kraidy, 2005, Hybridity or the Cultural Logic of Globalization, Tempe University Press, Preface and Ch. 1.
  11. Appadurai A., 2004, The Capacity to Aspire, in Culture in Public Action, Stanford University Press.

LECTURE 9 (27 mar)


Readings 10-11: discussion and study questions

LECTURE 10 (28 mar)

Mid-Term test

Cultural Anthropology and Migration Processes


II Part (M. Brightman)

LECTURE 11 (3 April): Mobility as a way of life

Claudio Aporta and Eric Higgs 2005. Satellite Culture: Global Positioning Systems, Inuit Wayfinding, and the Need for a New Account of Technology. Current Anthropology, Vol. 46, No. 5, pp. 729-753

Politis, Gustavo. 1996. ‘Moving to produce: Nukak mobility and settlement patterns in Amazonia’. World Archaeology 27(3): 492-511.

LECTURE 12 (4 April): Slavery and colonialism

Testart, Alain 2002. The extent and significance of debt slavery. Revue française de sociologie 43-1 pp. 173-204, available at https://www.persee.fr/doc/rfsoc_0035-2969_2002_sup_43_1_5570

Price, Richard, 2010. Uneasy Neighbors: Maroons and Indians in Suriname. Tipití 8 (2). Available at http://www.richandsally.net/index.htm

LECTURE 13 (10 April) European borderlands

Green, Sarah 2013. Borders and the Relocation of Europe. Annual Review of Anthropology. 42, p. 345-361

Pelkmans, Tobias 2012. Chaos and Order along the (Former) Iron Curtain, in A Companion to Border Studies (edited by Wilson and Donnan), available at


LECTURE 14 (11 April) Borders and alterity

Brightman, Marc and Vanessa Grotti 2014. 'Securitization, Alterity and the State: Human (In)Security on an Amazonian Frontier', Regions and Cohesion 4(3).

Andersson, Ruben. 2014. ‘Time and the migrant Other: European border controls and the temporal economics of illegality’. American Anthropologist 116(4): 795-809.

LECTURE 15 (17 April) Humanitarianism and the ethics of migration

Ticktin, Miriam 2014 “Transnational Humanitarianism [https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5RX4kUysDHKTnd5UHBNTllaMTg/view?usp=sharing] ” (pdf) Annual Review of Anthropology, 43: 273-289.

Lucht, Hans 2010. Violence and Morality: The concession of loss in a Ghanaian fishing village. The Journal of Religious Ethics 38 (3): 468-78

Ilesanmi, Simeon O. A response to Hans Lucht’s “Violence and Morality: The concession of loss in a Ghanaian fishing village. The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 38, No. 3 (September 2010)

LECTURE 16 (2 May) Hospitality and cosmopolitanism

Candea, Mattei and Giovanni da Col 2012. ‘The return to hospitality’. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.), S1-S19.

Ben-Yehoyada, N. 2015. “‘Follow Me, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men’: The Moral and Political Scales of Migration in the Central Mediterranean.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

22 (1): 183–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467- 9655.12340 [https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-%209655.12340]

LECTURE 17 (8 May) Circulation of people and things

Appadurai, Arjun 1998. ‘Introduction: commodities and the politics of value’. In The social life of things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/435b/590e7347103b1bd5a755cdc5df374bd4dfb1.pdf

LECTURE 18 (9 May) Materiality of migration

* Hamilakis, Y. 2017 [2016] Archaeologies of Forced and Undocumented Migration . Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 3(2): 121-139.

(and either) De León, Jason 2012. “'Better To Be Hot Than Caught': Excavating the Conflicting Roles of Migrant Material Culture." American Anthropologist 114(3):477-495.

(or) Soto, Gabriella 2018. Object Afterlives and the Burden of History: Between “Trash” and “Heritage” in the Steps of Migrants. American Anthropologist 120, No. 3, pp. 460–473,

LECTURE 19 (15 May) Death and migration

Langford, Jean 2018. Gifts intercepted: Biopolitics and Spirit Debt. Cultural Anthropology, 24(4), pp. 681–711.

Wagner, Sarah. 2015. A curious trade: The recovery and repatriation of Vietnam MIAs, Comparative Studies in Society and History 57(1): 161-190.

Available at:


LECTURE 20 (16 May) Second test

Further reading:

Driessen, Miriam 2015. Migrating for the bank: Housing and Chinese labour migration to Ethiopia. The China Quarterly, 221, 143-160.

Ferguson, James, 2013. Declarations of Dependence: Labor, Personhood, and Welfare in Southern Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19:223-242. PDF [http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9655.12023/pdf]

Fioratta, Susanna 2015 ‘Beyond remittance: Evading uselessness and seeking personhood in Fouta Djallon, Guinea’ American Ethnologist, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 295–308

Hart, Keith. 2014 Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization. The Memory Bank.

Hart, Keith (n.d.) ‘Movement as a human right’


Jackson, Michael, 2013. Ethics, migration and the question of well-being. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kusimba, Sibel, Yang Yang, and Nitesh Chawla, 2016. Hearthholds of mobile money in western Kenya. Economic Anthropology 3: 266–279.

Teaching methods

Lectures, discussions, tests based on study questions.

Assessment methods

    • Attending students:
    • First Test (Midterm).
    • Second Test (last week of classes).
    • Final short essay and oral presentation.
    • Modalities concerning the final short essay will be discussed in class.
    • Non attending students have to prepare an oral exam studying all the papers listed on the syllabus.

Office hours

See the website of Vincenzo Matera

See the website of Marc Andrew Brightman