85493 - Social Anthropology

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Vanessa Grotti

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-DEA/01

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage (cod. 9237)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale

  • Course Timetable from Nov 10, 2021 to Dec 15, 2021


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing students abilities in cultural analysis with special reference to the making and representation of cultural diversity. 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

This general course in social and cultural anthropology is designed to give a first introduction to the historical and contemporary (institutional, regional, theoretical and methodological) transformations which have shaped the discipline over the course of the past century, in order to inspire students to think critically about humanity and human societies in general, and how knowledge about ourselves, other people and the social and natural world(s) we live in are produced and constructed. The course will equip students to approach today’s world from new perspectives. It will train students in ethnographic field research in order to design and conduct ethically-sound, participatory and theoretically-informed qualitative research with people in very different settings, including vulnerable subjects.

The course is organised around 10 lectures, each dedicated to one specific theme and grounded in ethnographic case-studies from around the world, in order to give students an overview of the historical and contemporary breadth of the discipline.


The ten lectures are organised as follows:

Lecture 1: Introduction: What is it Anthropology Today and What it is For?

Lecture 2: Anthropology and the Imperial Encounter (1): Schools, Histories & Peoples of the Discipline.

Lecture 3 (Practical Workshop): Ethnographic Fieldwork and Writing: Methods and Ethics.

Lecture 4: Material Anthropology and Museum Ethnography: Objects & their Agency.

Lecture 5: Humanity and Personhood.

Lecture 6: The Anthropology of Nature and the Anthropocene (1): Nature(s) & Culture(s) Revisited.

Lecture 7: The Anthropology of Nature and the Anthropocene (2): Crisis & Environmental Ruins.

Lecture 8: Anthropology and the Imperial Encounter (2): Politics, Gender & Race.

Lecture 9: Curses, Animals, Pathogens & Co: Anthropology, Health and Medicine.

Lecture 10: Student Presentations Session (on chosen monograph from course bibliography).


Each lecture is 3-hours long (with breaks), and consists of: (1) a one-hour lecture given by the teacher, followed by (2) student presentations and (3) group discussions (spontaneous debates to encourage students to think critically and express their opinions in public).


Student presentations in class will be based on readings listed in the bibliography of the designated lecture (please see Bibliography, Teaching Methods and Assesment Methods below for more detailed information). All readings and course materials will be uploaded and contextualised on Virtuale. One lecture of the course will have a different format and will be taught partly as a hands-on, practical workshop: Lecture 3 on Methods and Ethics which will be dedicated to methods, specifically to ethnography, qualitative data collection, data storage and protection, as well as ethics and ethical protocols anthropologists have to adhere to when they conduct field research and work with vulnerable research participants.



(1) General course monographs (i.e. full-length case-studies representative of the course)

All students have to read ONE monograph from the list below:


- Ben-Yehoyada, Naor (2017) The Mediterranean Incarnate: Region Formation Between Sicily and Tunisia since World War II. Chicago University Press.

- Davis, Dana-Aín (2019) Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth. NYU Press.

- Keck, Frédéric (2020) Avian Reservoirs and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts. Duke University Press.

- Ticktin, Miriam (2011) Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. University of California Press.

- Powell, Dana (2018) Landscapes of Power: Politics of Energy in the Navajo Nation. Duke University Press.

- Reese, Ashanté M. (2019) Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington D.C. University of North Carolina Press.

- Varma, Saiba (2020) The Occupied Clinic: Militarism and Care in Kashmir. Duke University Press.

- Vilaça, Aparecida (2010) Strange Enemies: Indigenous Agency and Scenes of Encounter in Amazonia. Duke University Press.


(2) Individual Lectures' Bibliography (these readings will be presented and discussed in class, both by the teacher and through student presentations - all of these readings will be available on Virtuale)


Lecture 1: Introduction: What is Anthropology Today and What is it For?

- American Anthropological Association (2015) 'AAA Statement on Humanity and Climate Change', http://s3.amazonaws.com/rdcms-aaa/files/production/public/FileDownloads/pdfs/cmtes/commissions/CCTF/upload/AAA-Statement-on-Humanity-and-Climate-Change.pdf

- Hansen, Brooke and Jack Rossen (2017) 'Activist Anthropology with the Haudenosaunee: Theoretical and Practical Insights from the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign', Anthropology in Action: Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice 24(3).

- Jobson, Ryan Cecil (2020). 'Year in Review: The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn: Sociocultural Anthropology in 2019'. American Anthropologist 122(2): 259-271. DOI: 10.1111/aman.13398

- Mathews, Andrew S. (2018) 'Landscapes and Throughscapes in Italian Forest Worlds: Thinking Dramatically About the Anthropocene', Cultural Anthropology 33(3).

- Rajković, Ivan (2020) 'Introduction: Against the Green Screen', in Series: Green Capitalism and Its Others, Cultural Anthropology, https://culanth.org/fieldsights/introduction-against-the-green-screen


Lecture 2: Anthropology and the Imperial Encounter (1): Schools, Histories & Peoples of the Discipline.

- Behar, Ruth & Deborah Gordon (eds) (1996) Women Writing Culture. University of California Press (intro). Additional, valuable resource: McGuirk, Siobhan (2018) 'AnthroBites: Feminist Anthropology.' AnthroPod, Fieldsights, March 15. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/anthrobites-feminist-anthropology.

- Dibley, Ben et al. (2017) 'Ethnology, Governance, and Greater France', in Ben Dibley et al. Collecting, Ordering, Governing. Duke University Press.

- Foks, Freddy (2018) 'Bronislaw Malinowski, “Indirect Rule,” and the Colonial Politics of Functionalist Anthropology, ca. 1925–1940', Comparative Studies in Society and History, 60(1), 35-57.

- Kuper, Adam (2018) 'Anthropology: Scope of the Discipline', in Hilary Callan (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. John Wiley & Sons, DOI: 10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1591.

- Pels, Peter (2011) 'Global 'Experts' and 'African' Minds: Tanganyika Anthropology as Public and Secret Service, 1925-1961', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17: 788-810.

-Turnbull, Paul (2008) 'British Anthropological Thought in Colonial Practice: The Appropriation of Indigenous Australian Bodies, 1860-1880', in Bronwen Douglas & Chris Ballard (eds) Foreign Bodies: Oceania and the Science of Race 1750–1940. ANU Press (Chapter 4).


Lecture 3: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Writing: Methods and Ethics.

- Alonso Bejarano, Carolina, Lucia López Juárez, Mirian A. Mijangos García and Daniel M. Goldstein, 2019, Decolonizing Ethnography: Undocumented Immigrants and New Directions in Social Science. Duke University Press. (Intro)

- Berry, Maya J., Claudia Chávez Argüelles, Shanya Cordis, Sarah Ihmoud, and Elizabeth Velásquez Estrada. 2017. 'Toward a Fugitive Anthropology: Gender, Race, and Violence in the Field', Cultural Anthropology 32(4): 537–565. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca32.4.05.

- Brightman, Marc and Vanessa Grotti (2019), 'The Ethics of Anthropology', in Ron Iphofen (ed.) Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity, Cham : Springer.

- Poets, Desirée (2020) 'Failing in the Reflexive and Collaborative Turns: Empire, Colonialism, Gender and the Impossibilities of North-South Collaborations', E-international relations, https://www.e-ir.info/2020/04/09/failing-in-the-reflexive-and-collaborative-turns-empire-colonialism-gender-and-the-impossibilities-of-north-south-collaborations/

- Yuill, Cassandra (2018) 'Is Anthropology Legal? Anthropology and the EU General data Protection Regulation', Anthropology in Action 25(2).


Lecture 4: Material Anthropology and Museum Ethnography: Objects & their Agency.

- Fausto, Carlos (2017) 'How Much for a Song? The Culture of Calculation and the Calculation of Culture', in Marc Brightman, Carlos Fausto & Vanessa Grotti (eds) Ownership and Nurture: Studies in Native Amazonian Property Relations. Oxford & NY: Berghahn.

- Gamberi, Valentina (2019) ‘Decolonising Museums: South-Asian Perspectives’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 29(2).

- Herle, Anita (2016). ‘Anthropology Museums and Museum Anthropology’. Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Anthropology. https://www.anthroencyclopedia.com/entry/anthropology-museums-and-museum-anthropology

- Peers, Laura & Alison Brown (2003) ‘Introduction’, in Laura Peers & Alison Brown (eds) Museums and Source Communities: A Routledge Reader. London & NY: Routledge.

- Rubenstein, Steven Lee (2007) ‘Circulation, Accumulation, and the Power of Shuar Shrunken Heads’, Cultural Anthropology 22(3).


Lecture 5: Humanity and Personhood.

- Brightman, Marc, Vanessa Grotti & Olga Ulturgasheva (2012) ‘Introduction: Animism and Invisible Worlds: The Place of Non-humans in Indigenous Ontologies’, in Brightman, Marc, Vanessa Grotti & Olga Ulturgasheva (eds) Animism in Ranforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. Berghahn.

- Fausto, Carlos (2007) ‘Feasting on People: Eating Animals and Humans in Amazonia’, Current Anthropology 48(4).

- Ulturgasheva, Olga (2017) ‘Ghosts of the Gulag in the Eveny World of the Dead’, The Polar Journal.

- Willerslev, Rane (2004) ‘Not Animal, Not Not-Animal: Hunting, Imitation and Empathetic Knowledge Among the Siberian Yukaghirs’, Journal or the Royal Anthropological Institute 10(3).


Lecture 6: The Anthropology of Nature and the Anthropocene (1): Nature(s) & Culture(s) Revisited.

- Cabral de Oliveira, Joana (2020) 'Vegetable Temporalities: Life Cycles, Maturation and Death in an Amerindian Ethnography', Vibrant 17.

- Cometti, Geremia (2020) ‘A Cosmopolitical Ethnography of a Changing Climate Among the Q’ero of the Peruvian Andes’, Anthropos -Freiburg-, Richarz Publikations-service GMBH, 2020, 115 (1), pp.37-52.

- Descola, Philippe (2009) ‘Human Nature(s)’. Social Anthropology 17(2).

- Moore, Amelia (2015) 'Anthropocene Anthropology: Reconceptualizing Contemporary Global Change', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22(1).

- Rival, Laura (2014) 'Encountering Nature Through Fieldwork: Expert Knowledge, Modes of Reasoning, and Local Creativity', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20: 218-36.

Lecture 7: The Anthropology of Nature and the Anthropocene (2): Crisis & Environmental Ruins.

- Besky, Sarah & Alex Blanchette (2019) ‘Introduction: The Fragility of Work’, in Sarah Besky and Alex Blanchette (eds) How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet. University of New Mexico Press.

- Crate, Susan A. (2008) 'Gone the Bull of Winter?: Grappling with the Cultural Implications of and Anthropology's Role(s) in Global Climate Change', Current Anthropology 49(4): 569-95.

- Langwick, Stacey Ann (2018) 'A Politics of Habitability: Plants, healing, and Sovereignty in a Toxic World'', Cultural Anthropology 33(3): 415-43.

- Latour, Bruno, Isabelle Stengers, Anna Tsing & Nils Bubandt (2018) ‘Anthropologists Are Talking – About Capitalism, Ecology, and Apocalypse’, Ethnos 83(3): 587-606.

- Roosth, Sophia (2016) '"Ruin." Theorizing the Contemporary', Fieldsights, https://culanth.org/fieldsights/ruin.

Lecture 8: Anthropology and the Imperial Encounter (2): Politics, Gender & Race.

- Bonilla, Yarimar and Jonathan Rosa (2015) '#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States', American Ethnologist 42(1): 4-17.

- Davis, Dana-Aín (2020) ‘Reproducing While Black: The Crisis of Black Maternal Health, Obstetric Racism, and Assisted Reproductive Technology’, Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online 11.

- Edmonds, Alexander and Emilia Sanabria (2014) 'Medical Borderlands: Engineering the Body with Plastic Surgery and Hormonal Therapies in Brazil', Anthropology & Medicine 21(2): 202-16.

- Reese, Ashanté (2017) ‘“We Will Not Perish; We’re Going to Keep Flourishing”: Race, Food Access, and Geographies of Self-Reliance’, Antipode 50(2).

- Saraswati, L. Ayu (2012) ''Malu': Coloring Shame and Shaming the Color of Beauty in Transnational Indonesia', Feminist Studies 38, no. 1.


Lecture 9: Curses, Animals, Pathogens & Co: Anthropology, Health and Medicine.

- Blanchette, Alex (2019) ‘Living Waste and the Labor of Toxic Waste on American Factory Farms’, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 33(1): 80-100.

- Gonçalves Martin, Johanna (2016) ‘Opening a Path with Papers: Yanomami Health Agents and their Use of Medical Documents’, The Journal Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 21(3). DOI: 10.1111/jlca.12235

- Keck, Frédéric (2018) ‘A Genealogy of Animal Diseases and Social Anthropology (1870–2000)’, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 3(1): 24-41.

- Petryna, Adriana (2013) ‘The Right of Recovery’, Current Anthropology 54(7).

- Singer, Merrill and Barbara Rylko-Bauer (2021) 'The Syndemics and Structural Violence of the COVID Pandemic: Anthropological Insights on a Crisis', Open Anthropological Research 1: 7–32.

- Varley, Emma & Saiba Varma (2019) ‘Attending to the Dark Side of Medicine’, Anthropology News, AND Varley, Emma & Saiba Varma (2018) ‘Hospital Hauntings: Spectral Ties Across the Line of Control’, Medical Anthropology.


Lecture 10: Student Presentations Session (on chosen monograph listed in Bibliography (1)).

Assessment methods

General Assessment for the course will be based on:

- (1) 2 written pieces: a 2,000 words review of the chosen monograph AND a report on a group assignment in audio-visual or material ethnography (students here are encouraged to be creative and submit text, but also images, etc.). The 2 written pieces have to be submitted 7 days before the date of the oral examination.

- (2) The oral examination, which will be a discussion of the 2 written pieces submitted, and how they connect to the course material.

- (3) Active participation in class, especially by volunteering to give student presentations after each lecture (one 15 min. presentation on one chosen reading from the bibliography for the day, with optional slides) but also by engaging (either orally or through the chat, or both) with fellow students and the teacher in spontaneous group discussions. Active, spontaneous participation will win extra points in the final mark for the course.

To summarise: The exam will be based on an oral discussion of the book review of the monograph the student chose from the list and a discussion of the assigned practical project (audio-visual or material ethnography) both to be handed in a week prior to the exam. Info on content, format and methods for the group project will be presented in Lecture 1. As the assigned practical project will be a group project, each individual contribution will be assessed during the oral exam. Extra points will be given to students who give oral presentations in class, either of a reading (from Lecture 2-Lecture 9) or their chosen monograph or assigned project (Lecture 10). Registration for oral presentations will be voluntary and open to all from the week before the start of the course, via a Google Doc accessible only to registered students on Virtuale.

Teaching tools

Student attendance and participation in class (either online or in presence) is highly recommended, in order to facilitate learning and prepare for the evaluations (written work and oral exam).

Teaching will be organised both as (1) frontal lectures (accompanied by slides, video clips, etc.) and (2) student-led learning (student presentations, written work and group discussions). Students will be asked to prepare for class by reading at least one of the designated readings for the day, even if they are not presenting in class. Active participation, questions, suggestions and spontaneous ideas in class are all encouraged and part of the learning experience and will win extra points.

Details of the course milestones, resources and assesment methods will be given during the first lecture. Special attention will be given to explaining student activities and assignments (oral presentations in class, small group project and book review, with instructions on how to organise the group project, how to write the project report, how to prepare for a class presentation and how to write the book review). So come well prepared (remembering to check resources and instructions already present on Virtuale) and ready to ask all the questions you want to ask!



Students with a disability or specific learning disabilities (DSA) who are requesting academic adjustments or compensatory tools are invited to communicate their needs to the teaching staff in order to properly address them and agree on the appropriate measures with the competent bodies.

Office hours

See the website of Vanessa Grotti