Politics, power and resistance

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

In social anthropology, it is central to understand how power relations permeate social life and shape the distribution of social, cultural and economic privilege in society. In this course, students are introduced to central perspectives within political anthropology, with an emphasis on important concepts for analyzes of power. Concepts such as authority, legitimacy, ideology, sovereignty, biopolitics, hegemony - counter-hegemony, discourse and resistance are deepened through engagement with fields where social anthropologists make important research contributions to the understanding of power relations. Examples of such fields are the state, nationalism, ethnicity, identity politics, organized violence and conflict, international migration, minority politics, political and social movements, and globalisation. The course aims to develop the student's abilities to recognize and critically analyze power relations in everyday social relations and social and political structures. Through the course, the students will also get the opportunity to reflect on their own position in power structures. Knowledge/power relations within anthropology are problematized in the light of critical perspectives within, for example, feminist, postcolonial and decolonial theory.

Learning Outcomes

A candidate who has completed the course should be able to:


  • provide an overview of key debates and have a command of central concepts in anthropological studies of power and the field of political anthropology.
  • discuss different ways power and resistance manifest in various societies and types of social relations.


  • apply key concepts and perspectives in the anthropological study of power in an individual essay.
  • discuss in what ways relations of power permeate social life and influence the distribution of social, cultural and economic resources.
  • reflect on relations of power/knowledge in anthropology in light of critical disciplinary perspectives.

General competence

  • apply anthropological concepts and perspectives in order to understand power and the field of political anthropology.
  • discuss the main features of qualitative research methods.
  • read and write academic texts within specific academic genres.

Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
Open to students at the University of Bergen
Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, literature seminars, ethnographic film, and comments on written assignments.

3-4 hours of lectures per week

7-8 weeks, approximately 26 hours of lectures

Students are expected to prepare themselves and participate in lectures and literature seminars.

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 written 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
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.

Course Evaluation
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
Examination Support Material
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
Course Administrator
The Department of Social Anthropology at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course.