This list relates to the 2016-17 which ended on 31/07/2017
This list has been archived
  1. Week One 26 items
    1. Lecture 1 – What is economic anthropology? 9 items
      At its most basic, economics can be seen as the study of the relationship between people and objects as occurring through production, circulation, and consumption. Most of the theories which comprise the modern field of economics were developed to describe Western capitalist systems. Earlier this century, anthropologists began to use their cross-cultural studies to question economic assumptions about human behaviour. In this lecture we will look at Malinowski’s foundational study of the Kula gift exchange among the Trobrianders to consider how economic anthropology is different from economics. What is ‘the economy’? How have anthropologists analysed economic life in non-capitalist settings? And how can we understand the relationship between culture and economics?
      1. Required readings: 4 items
        1. Malinowski - Adam Kuper


        2. Essential extracts from Argonauts of the Western Pacific are also available in the following book:

        3. Economic anthropology: readings in theory and analysis - Edward E. LeClair, Harold K. Sneider 1968


      2. Supplementary readings: 5 items
    2. Lecture 2 – Consumption of Oil and the American Dream 8 items
      Since oil was first struck in 1859, it has enabled and defined our economic, social, and political landscape across the world. In its transformation of how we go about our daily lives, oil has become the single most consumed commodity and our consumption continues to rise. However, the idea that the mass consumption of oil was foundational to a particular way of life did not emerge ‘naturally’. Anthropologists have shown how in the US during the Great Depression this particular understanding was produced out of a wider set of struggles and crises related to capitalism. In this lecture we will look at what anthropological theories of consumption can tell us about how objects become such uniquely desirable commodities. What is the relationship between oil and culture? What is so particular, spectacular or mythic about oil? And in what ways has it become fundamental in shaping our collective imaginaries of the world?
      1. Required readings: 2 items
        1. Lifeblood: oil, freedom, and the forces of capital - Matthew T. Huber, Ebooks Corporation 2013 (electronic book)

          Book  Read: Huber, Matthew T. 2013. Refuelling Capitalism: Depression, Oil, and the Making of 'The American Way of Life'.

      2. Supplementary readings: 6 items
        1. The social life of things: commodities in cultural perspective - Arjun Appadurai 1988

          Book  Read: Appadurai, Arjun. 1988. “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value”. Available in the library and as an e-book.

        2. The Choice of the Necessary - Pierre Bourdieu


        3. The world of goods: towards an anthropology of consumption - Mary Douglas, Baron Isherwood 1996

          Book  Read: Ch. 1: 'Why People Want Goods' by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood. Available in the library and as an e-book.

        4. Living oil: petroleum culture in the American century - Stephanie LeMenager 2014

          Book  Read:LeMenager, Stephanie, “The Aesthetics of Petroleum” Available in the library and as an e-book.

        5. The audacity of hope - Barack Obama 2008, c2006

          Book  Read: 'Prologue'.

    3. Lecture 3 – Production of petrodollars and commodity fetishism 9 items
      The production of oil gives rise to enormous wealth. In some countries, such as Venezuela and Norway, oil production is closely tied to national social welfare agendas, whilst in others it is an overtly messy and conflict-endorsing venture. The staggering influx of oil monies often readily captures people’s imagination and gives rise to intense associations of petrodollars with freedom and opportunity, if not domination and doom. For many, it becomes a ‘fantastic form’ that seems capable of generating certain outcomes in and of itself, as if the petrodollar had a life of its own independently of the process of production. For anthropologists, this kind of commodity fetishism provides a vantage point from which we can see not only how petrodollars and other monies contribute to social integration and disintegration, but also how economic life is intertwined with cosmological understandings. What is the value of money? How is it determined? And why does it seem so urgent in economies that are premised on natural resource extraction?
      1. Required readings: 2 items
      2. Supplementary readings: 5 items
        1. The magical state: nature, money, and modernity in Venezuela - Fernando Coronil 1997

          Book  Read: Ch. 9: Harvesting the Oil: The Storm of Progress.

        2. Capital: a critique of political economy, Vol. 1 - Karl Marx, Ernest Mandel, Ben Fowkes 1990

          Book  Read: Marx, Karl. Chapter 1. Section 4: The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret.

        3. The philosophy of money - Georg Simmel 2004 (electronic book)

          Book  Read: Chapter 4: Individual Freedom

        4. Border fetishisms: material objects in unstable spaces - Patricia Spyer 1998

          Book  Read: “Introduction”. pp. 1-12.

      3. Film – A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. 2 items
        2006. Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack. Artificial Eye production. 82 mins
        1. A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash - dir. Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack 2006 (dvd)

          Audio-visual document 

        2. We wrap up with a film that ties together many of the ideas we have encountered this week and signals some of the topics we will discuss next week. This documentary explores the implications of cheap oil running out – implications for our economies, ways of life, and various kinds of valuations.


          From the distributors' description: "A shocking wake-up call that is set to do for energy what Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' did for the environment, 'A Crude Awakening' is an urgent warning that the age of abundant oil is over. Featuring testimonies from the world's top experts, this startling documentary reaches an ominous yet logical conclusion – the Earth's oil supplies are peaking, threatening our ill-prepared, fossil-fuel addicted civilization with a crisis of global proportions. Highlighting the critical need for sustainable alternative energy sources, Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack's startling documentary is an intelligent and utterly compelling call to action".

  2. Week 2 31 items
    1. Lecture 4 – Creating markets and the importance of materiality 7 items
      Financial markets might appear abstract and immaterial, so all-encompassing yet distant. Indeed, the notion of ‘market failure’ would suggest that markets have a logic and dynamism of their own. Anthropologists have shown how this distanced view of economic processes that deny entanglements in socio-political relations can be highly appealing to oil company executives as a way of abdicating responsibility in the location of oil extraction. There can be issues such as environmental disasters, deep poverty, and despotic rulers. But is this separation and abstraction ever possible? How are markets made? And what is the relationship between the material and immaterial in such creations?
      1. Recommended readings: 2 items
        1. Trading on Numbers - Caitlin Zaloom


      2. Supplementary readings: 5 items
        1. Materials of the Market - Caitlin Zaloom


    2. Lecture 5 – Global capitalisms and ambitions 7 items
      Whether it is a Wall Street investment bank or a transnational oil company, the desire to ‘be global’ is central to many business expansion strategies today. Apart from highlighting a view of the world as accessible, marketable and profitable, these global proclamations can also become actual goals with precarious outcomes for the employer and the employees. Alongside the desire for corporate responsiveness and efficiency, the ambition of having a ‘global presence’ also entails greater demands and responsibilities, be it submitting to national laws, observing basic human rights principles, or engaging in voluntary corporate social responsibility activities. By directly engaging with globality as a specific cultural formation, anthropologists demonstrate its particular meanings so that global projects cannot simply be taken as a dominant norm or at face value. What is the relationship between capitalism and corporate ambitions on a global scale? Who creates ‘the global’? And for whom?
      1. Required readings: 2 items
      2. Supplementary readings: 5 items
        1. Carbon democracy: political power in the age of oil - Timothy Mitchell 2013

          Book  Read: Chapter 5: "Fuel Economy".

        2. Arbitraging Japan: dreams of capitalism at the end of finance - Hirokazu Miyazaki c2013

          Book  Read: "Introduction".

    3. Lecture 6 – Climate change and alternative energy futures 7 items
      Climate change has become one of the most pressing issues of our time. Increased air and ocean temperatures, altered precipitation and storm patterns, and rising sea levels are affecting the world with profound social, political, and economic consequences. New forms of knowledge are being produced and new forms of action are being sought. However, despite the proclaimed and perhaps desired novelty, these radical departures are historically, culturally and socially constituted, whether it is REDD policies in Mexico or renewable energy development in Orkney. How do people understand and deal with future uncertainty? To what extent are alternatives possible? And how can we bring them about?
      1. Required readings: 2 items
      2. Supplementary readings: 5 items
        1. Ebban an' flowan - Alec Finlay, Laura Watts, Alistair Peebles 2015


        2. Oil and Climate Change: Voices from the South - Joan Martinez-Alier and Leah Temper 2007


        3. The economics of climate change: the Stern Review - N. H. Stern 2007

          Book  Read: “Introduction” and “Summary of Conclusions”. (Available in the Library and online)

        4. The mushroom at the end of the world: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins - Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing 2015

          Book  Read: “Ch. 1: Arts of Noticing”, pp. 17-26. On order.

    4. Lecture 7 – Energy Ethics 1 item
      In this final lecture I will talk about my own research, which started with gold miners in Mongolia, via monks in Buddhist monasteries, to oil executives and rig workers in the US oil fields. I will reflect on what anthropological attention to economic life has brought to my understanding of the human predicament and our discipline more generally.
      1. Required readings: 1 item
    5. Tutorial 2 -- Necessary Extraction or Matter out of Place? 4 items
      In this tutorial we will take the discussion further by considering the issue of hydraulic fracturing, which is a technology that enables the extraction of oil and natural gas from previously inaccessible deposits. Of particular interest for this tutorial is the ability to drill horizontally for more than a mile underneath the ground. This means that above ground there might be agricultural fields (as in the article below), National Parks (as in the UK) or even schools and airports (as in Texas). To what extent do you feel that this ‘mixing’ of industrial and other environments is problematic? If it is ‘matter out of place’, what cultural understandings of place, purity and purpose underpin your discomfort? And if it is just necessary extraction, what cultural understandings underpin your ease?
      1. Required Reading 2 items
      2. Supplementary Reading 2 items
    6. Tutorial 3 – Alternative lifestyle experiments 5 items
      For this final tutorial we will be exploring alternative lifestyles of low carbon living and the kinds of assumptions that undergird these experiments. One of the experiments is the One Tonne Life project based in Sweden where a family tried to live a comfortable life using only one tonne of carbon per person per year. The project aimed to give a family an equivalent quality of life that the average Swedish family now has, only with much lower emissions. The other experiment is the 100 Days Without Oil carried out by a 25 year-old woman in the US. Her goal was to understand the extent of oil dependence in American society today and use that understanding to identify the many systems that will have to be modified in a world without cheap oil. To what extent do these experiments transcend local histories and cultural practices? Do people cross-culturally face the same predicament when there is no longer an abundance of cheap oil? And how do you think people’s economic lives will look in the future?
      1. Required readings: 3 items
      2. Supplementary readings: 2 items
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