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Anthropology of Difference


Admission requirements

Required courses:

  • Global Challenges: Diversity

  • Social Theory in Everyday Life is required for Human Diversity students


This course introduces classical and contemporary anthropological approaches to society, community, and diversity. It grounds the analysis of social difference in anthropology’s conceptual archive, and engages with disciplinary debates on cultural forms and political arrangements. The varieties of social habitation, navigation, distinction, and translation will be examined across time and space. As such, this course addresses human difference through a comparative perspective. Small-scale and complex societies, western and non-western communities, historic and contemporary taxonomies, are scrutinized together, unsettling what is understood as obvious, natural, or inevitable. The focus is on ethnographic approaches that illuminate everyday practices as well as political forms at the heart of social life.

Students will discuss a number of issues that pertain to contemporary global society. These include the role of colonialism, technology, urbanization, and modernity in shaping cultures; the practices, institutions, and worldviews by which communities are differentiated; the historical lineages and emergent processes that undergird globalization; the influence of political economy and world-system processes in conditioning mobility and opportunity; the bureaucratic and spatial forms that have developed for managing settlement and interaction; and the symbolic and administrative logics which produce categories such as natives, strangers, aliens, and refugees.

Course Objectives

Students will learn how to utilize the conceptual vocabulary within socio-cultural anthropology and apply it to other disciplinary arenas. They will enhance their comprehension of interpretive and comparative social science inquiry, and, through their writing, improve their analytical capacities. Finally, an emphasis on class discussion will improve verbal argumentation abilities.

After engaging with the course lectures and readings, students can expect to:

  • Become familiar with historic and current anthropological approaches to the study of diverse social forms, as well as widespread processes of social reproduction, economic exchange, and political conflict.

  • Be able to conceptualize the relationship between political conceptions, spatial scales, representational forms, and administrative logics that shape culture.

  • Evaluate anthropology in the context of related fields - such as history, geography, sociology, and political science – and be able to analyze their salient differences in approaching society, community, and diversity.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction


Assessment Method

  • 50% portfolio comprised of weekly reflections and summary statement on course readings and themes

  • 50% final essay (including submission of draft with feedback beforehand)

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,