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Department of Social Anthropology

Boats from above, Malawi

SAN2: The foundations of social life

The paper deepens students’ training in the comparative theory, methods, and subject matter of social anthropology by examining the foundational issues that have been central to four major anthropological subdisciplines: political anthropology, economic anthropology, the anthropology of religion, and the anthropology of kinship.

The paper examines theories and debates in the anthropology of politics, religious life, social organization, and economics, as well as the overlaps and intersections between these areas. Topics covered in the anthropology of politics include theories of the state and civil society, political ritual, nationalism, language, power, resistance, violence, and security. On the subject of religion, the paper covers major anthropological debates on theories of religion, ritual, symbolism, classification, cosmology, and religious movements. In the kinship and economics sections, we examine classical debates about the relationship of biology to kinship, about the contrasting characteristics of gift and commodity transactions, about the merits of formalist versus substantivist paradigms for the analysis of economic processes, about the nature of property, and about relations of kinship and economics to gender. In addition we examine contemporary anthropological engagement with questions around globalization, special characteristics of contemporary economic institutions and practices, the relation between kinship and new reproductive technologies, and developments in the relation of states to kinship and economics.

Further information including a list of lecture courses and background reading can be found in the Paper Guide in the Paper Resources section to the right of this page.

Image:Boats from above, Malawi, Thandeka Cochrane

Paper Resources

SAN2 Paper Guide 2023-24

For lecture reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam questions and exam reports please see the SAN2 Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on SAN2 will automatically be enrolled on the SAN2 Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and you wish to view the reading lists, past exam questions and exam reports then you can access the SAN2 Moodle Course as a guest. For more information on how to access Moodle Courses as a guest please see Moodle Help.