Materiality: Environment, Place and Economy

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

How people interact with their spatial and material surroundings is a central concern of social anthropology. This course gives a comparative insight into how spatial and material conditions form, and are formed, by social and cultural contexts. The course focuses on social anthropological approaches to ecology, economy, things, and space, and connects the material and ideal aspects of human life via several themes, such as: landscape, place and body, regimes of production, technology, environment and resource management, gift exchange, market and consumption. Emphasis is placed on conveying the social and cultural diversity found around the world, amid uneven projects of globalization and modernization, and relations of power and governance.   

Learning Outcomes

A candidate who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • Be familiar with the central theories, methods, the disciplinary history and the distinctiveness of the social anthropological study of materiality, environment, economy and place.
  • Have broad knowledge of the different cultural practices and understandings of several areas of life related to human forms of acquisition and social organization.


  • Be able to account for central anthropological debates about the connections between material conditions, social organization and cultural meaning.
  • Be able to apply anthropological knowledge, concepts and perspectives to concrete empirical cases and to theoretical issues concerning material dimensions of human life and activities.
  • Be able to reflect over disciplinary-related issues that are relevant for the thematic of the course.

General Competence:

  • Be able to apply social anthropological concepts and perspectives to the understanding of materiality, environment, economy and place.
  • Be able to make critical use of analytical concepts and perspectives in order to understand local and global processes in society.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
This course is open to students at UiB
Teaching and learning methods
Lectures, workshops, comments on written assignments, ethnographic film.
  • 3-4 hours of lectures per week
  • 7-8 weeks of classes, approximately 26 hours of lectures in total
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Essay (1500 words +/- 10%). Only with an approved assignment will students be allowed to take the exam. Approved compulsory assignment is valid for 4 semesters.
Forms of Assessment

8 hours school exam

The exam will be given in the language in which the course is taught.
The exam can be submitted in English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

Grading Scale
The course is graded with letter grades A-F
Assessment Semester

Exam is offered in the teaching semester and the following semester (ordinary exam for students with valid approved compulsory assignment)


Regular exams are offered in both semesters for this course.

Students who meet the requirements for a re-sit exam (according to UiB regulations § 5-6) are referred to the next regular exam.

Reading List
The reading list will be ready before 1 July for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester. 
Course Evaluation
All courses are regularly evaluated according to UiB's quality assurance system
Examination Support Material
Course Administrator
The Department of Social Anthropology at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme