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Diversity and Power


Admission Requirements

This course is open to:

  • Students enrolled for the bachelor’s programme CADS

  • Students enrolled for the minor CADS

  • Premaster’s students who have completed the admission procedure for the CADS master’s programme and who have been formally admitted to the course as part of a premaster’s programme.

  • Exchange students admitted for this specific course during their application procedure

Please see the registration procedure below.

Language of Instruction

Lectures are given in English.
Exams (assignments) can be written in Dutch or English.

Course Description

This course aims to introduce students to the anthropology and sociology of diversity. The starting point must obviously be how anthropology has studied differences between human beings over the past two centuries, and the extent to which the humanist principle of equality has determined policies designed to manage such differences. This course therefore directs attention primarily to race, culture, nation, class, gender, and sexuality, although similar lessons can be applied to religion, ethnicity, age and disability. The anthropology of diversity begins with the observation that race, class and gender are, in the first instance, socio-cultural classifications, and that such categories connect power and diversity because they give shape to the infrastructures that make up societies – the division of labour and wealth between different classes of citizens and between social spheres such as government, the public, the economy, and the household.
The first part of the course (weeks 15 to 17) deals with the nature of social classification, and continues to discuss how classifications of difference between humans have been treated since the early nineteenth century as descriptions of biological differences. In the course of the twentieth century, such nature-based descriptions have been criticized, not least because of the introduction of the anthropological concept of culture – although the conception of both race and gender as socio-historical constructions did not become orthodox until the 1980s.
The second part of the course (weeks 18 to 20) will then address the question of the social construction of human differences through the study of gender and sexuality, addressing how they relate to class and race, and why we need the notion of intersectionality to do so.
Finally, the third part of the course (weeks 21 and 22) builds on the preceding insights in order to deal with how intersections of the classification of race, gender and class connect in constructing and intervening in power inequalities. We address the questions of how the notion of “diversity” was constructed, whether and how its promotion requires interventions such as creating equal employment opportunities or affirmative action, the need for ‘decolonization’. The course considers the possibilities and limitations of personal agency in the face of racist culture.

Course Objectives

  • This course teaches students that the anthropology of diversity begins with the particular classifications and categorizations of human differences used within specific societies, and that those categories can be studied not only as descriptions and definitions of those differences, but also as time-bound social and historical constructions and as interventions in social relations that institutionalize inequalities – and that each aspect might give those classifications different meanings.

  • Students develop tools to analyse and explain how people classify race and gender, how they use such classifications to construct and intervene in hierarchical social discrimination, and how similar analyses of social causes and effects can be applied to classifications of religion and ethnicity.

  • Students acquire intellectual familiarity with the genealogical and reflexive methods of ethnography used to study and understand the present-day concept of diversity– that is, the expertise that uncovers the socio-historical process expressed by local uses of “diversity” and that observes how it intervenes in situations in which the researcher participates.


This course will consist of two meetings per week. Timetables will be published on the website.

Mode of Instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures 12×3 = 36 hours * 1,5 = 54 sbu

  • Written assignments (ca. 4,000 words) = 54 sbu

  • Additional study of literature (approximately 1,200 pages in total) = 172 sbu

Assessment Method

Students will submit two types of assignment:

1. Short summaries of the literature they have been instructed to read that week; summaries will be assessed as either “pass” of “fail”. Summaries assessed as “fail” may be re-submitted once. All summaries must achieve a “pass” assessment before the end of the course.

2. A written assignment based on essay-questions about the content of the course determines students’ final grades. The completed assignment must be handed in in June, on a date to be announced at the start of the course. The lecturers will hand out questions to allow all students to work on the final assignment while the course is in progress. To pass the course, answers to the questions in the assignment must be assessed at an average grade of 6,0 or above. Only assignments given a grade of 5,5 or lower may be re-submitted.

Only the final grade will be registered in uSis.


Registration in uSis is mandatory for all participants. Students should consult course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions. Students need not register for the examination through uSis, because this course does not include a single final examination.

  • The registration closes five days before the start of the course.


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. Brightspace gives access to course announcements and electronic study material. Assignments will also be submitted in Brightspace. Announcements about and changes to courses are given via Brightspace. Students are advised to check Brightspace daily to keep informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and all details regarding assignments. Lecturers assume that all students read information posted on Brightspace.

  • How to login

The homepage for Brightspace is: Brightspace

Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.

For access to courses in Brightspace students must be registered for those courses in uSis.

Course Literature

The reading list will be available on Brightspace before the start of the course.


Prof. dr. Peter Pels and Dr. Jasmijn Rana