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This subject explores how people come to value things as they do, critically engaging with a range of theoretical and ethnographic literature to ask how value may be created, enhanced and realised in different ways. Students will be introduced to ways that anthropologists analyse and interpret variation in economic behaviour and economic systems. The first part of the subject examines the assumptions about human behaviour that inform classical, political and moral approaches to economics, and asks where these different approaches locate the source of value. Ethnographic examples from systems of different complexity will be used to explore topics such as: division of labour; 'gift' and 'commodity' economies; formal and informal economies; consumption, identity and 'consumer society'; the meaning of 'money' and its effects. Students should become familiar not only with how local economies work, but also with implications of the emerging global economy and the ways it is transforming local and regional economic logics.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject students should be able to :
- demonstrate a thorough understanding of the different approaches within anthropology to analysing economic behaviour and systems
- critically analyse ethnographic literature on the dynamics of production, consumption and exchange in systems characterised as "domestic", "tributary" and "capitalist"
- articulate key debates in economic anthropology regarding processes that are seen as central to the emergence of 'modern' society, such as specialisation, liberalisation, and commodification
- apply critical and comparative analytical skills to understanding the implications of changing economic systems for subsections of society defined by age, gender and class, and for developing societies in a globalising world
- systematically evaluate a body of empirical data and identify its theoretical context
- communicate effectively in a variety of oral and written formats
Last updated: 30 July 2023