Anthropological Theory

Engraving depicting the death of Captain James Cook at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii.

The death of Captain James Cook at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii. (Archival photograph by Sean Linehan, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)


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As Taught In

Spring 2003



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Course Description

Course Highlights

This course includes a general guide to reading social sciences texts effectively, located in the study materials section.

Course Description

This course introduces students to some of the major social theories and debates that inspire and inform anthropological analysis. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate a range of theoretical propositions concerning such topics as agency, structure, subjectivity, history, social change, power, culture, and the politics of representation. Ultimately, all theories can be read as statements about human beings and the worlds they create and inhabit. We will approach each theoretical perspective or proposition on three levels: (1) in terms of its analytical or explanatory power for understanding human behavior and the social world; (2) in the context of the social and historical circumstances in which they were produced; and (3) as contributions to ongoing dialogues and debate.

Related Content

Susan Silbey. 21A.110 Anthropological Theory. Spring 2003. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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