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Race, Culture and Classification: the Anthropology of Discrimination


Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

  • Students who have been admitted to this course as part of their pre-master programme for the MA in CA-DS

Please see below a description of the registration procedure.


Everybody categorizes. ‘We’ belong to one group, ‘they’ belong to another. These categorizations are social, that is, they occur in the context of relationships between individuals and groups. Such categorizations can also take on bureaucratic and legal aspects: some are classified as ‘autochtons’, others as ‘allochthons’, some can get legal citizenship, others don’t. Anthropologists also categorize, not only in their social relationships, but also in their scientific work. They distinguish, for example, ‘anthropology of religion’ from ‘anthropology of politics’. Some anthropologists claim that they study ‘other’ cultures. Moreover, categorization is an important aspect of research: researchers code and categorize aspects of their qualitative interview data, and use categories to quantify and generalize.
Aspects of these issues of categorization have been discussed in courses in the first and second year of the BA, including ‘Cultuur en Vergelijking’, and courses about research methods.
In this course, we will build on this knowledge, and provide students with a deeper understanding of how categorization is not just a fundamental human motivation, but is also used to describe and shape the world. We will start the course addressing the relevance of this topic, discussing, for example, the social need to belong, aspects of inequality and discrimination, and the distinction between ‘citizens’ and ‘terrorists’. Then we will discuss relevant aspects of the history of science, and how certain categories can take on the appearance of ‘objective reality’. Another important theme in the course will be the development of the concept of ‘culture’, and how this concept relates to other concepts, in particular ‘race’ and ‘biology’. In this context, we will discuss gender, sexism and racism. In the last one or two lectures, we will use the knowledge we gained to think about ‘everyday essentialism’, current forms of sexism and racism and the ‘return’ of ‘scientific’ racism. Last but not least, we will confront students, who have been thinking about ethnocentrism and methodological cultural relativism during their studies, with the question whether they are a patriot or a worldly citizen.

  1. Learning goals

After successful completion of this course, students are expected to:

  • Have knowledge of the development of the concept of ‘culture’, in relation to the concepts of ‘race’ and ‘biology’;

  • Be able to recognize how such issues of social categorization are relevant today;

  • Be able to take part in critical discussions about racism, sexism and discrimination;

  • Be able to recognize aspects of ‘everyday essentialism’, and take part in critical discussions about these aspects;

  • Be able to take part in critical discussions about aspects of categorization in social research; and critically assess how categorizations are used to both describe and shape people’s life-worlds in general.


Every Wednesday from 11th of February 2015 until 6th of May 2015, 14.00 -17.00 hours, in room 1A09.

Mode of instruction

Total of 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • Lectures: 10×2 hours (30 sbu)

  • Seminar/discussions: 10×1 hours (20 sbu)

  • Student presentations: 10-15 mins (10 sbu)

  • Literature: approx. 990 pages (165 sbu)

  • Final paper: 4.000 words (55 sbu)

Assesment method

  • Weekly assignments about literature: 50% of final grade

  • Final paper: 50% of final grade

  • Nota bene: passing grades must be obtained for all weekly assignments and the final paper

  • Presence in class (at least 8 out of 10 sessions must be attended)

Re-do is only possible if the final grade is below 6, if student has actively participated in the course and submitted most of the assignments / papers / presentations.


  • Registration in Usis is obligatory for the lectures (H) for all participants.
    Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.

  • Registration on Blackboard is obligarory for all participants.

  • NB: Exchange students: You can only register for this course if you had officially been admitted during the Admission Procedure.


Blackboard module will be active.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

Literature will be announced on Blackboard (all literature is electronically available)

Contact Infromation

Prof.Dr. Peter Pels 071-527 3458,
Drs. Igor Boog 071-527 6606,