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States and Citizens


Admission Requirements

The following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the bachelor programme CADS at Leiden University who have passed the propaedeutic phase.

  • Bachelor’s students from other academic programmes from Leiden University who have passed the propaedeutic phase of their programme and who want to follow this course as a level 300 elective. Please send a 100-150 word motivation to the course lecturer at least 20 days before the closing date of course enrolment.
    N.B.: Availability of this course for students outside Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology is limited and based on both motivation of the student and available seats.

Course Description

States shape the lives of people across the globe, and people become citizens, or non-citizens, in relation to those states. National states play a crucial role in the allocation of political and social rights, and in the governance of populations. However, these national arrangements combine with subnational and transnational ones in often frictional multi-scalar combinations of governance relations and configurations of rights and duties.

But what is ‘the state’? What institutions and imaginations make up that ubiquitous yet ephemeral entity? How do states relate to the various people in their territorial remit? And how are state authority and governance shaped in relation to other powerful actors and institutions, whether local community leaders or international organizations? What types of legal, political and social-cultural belonging are organized through official versions of citizenship, and what forms of belonging and mobilization exceed and contest such citizenship?

In this course, we discuss what anthropologists have to say about the state, and how they go about studying it. After examining approaches to the state which are now classics in anthropology, we explore the various dimensions of the state: authority, bureaucracy, territory and borders, population and citizenship. We also discuss how Michel Foucault’s key concepts of ‘biopolitics’ and ‘governmentality’ help us understand how states govern populations.

The course combines theoretical readings with case studies to provide students with the tools to understand and critically examine manifestations of the state and citizenship in today’s world. This course workshops those readings through online and in-class discussions. The various assignments are meant to stimulate students to apply their abstract readings to the world around them.

Course Objectives

The course will enable students to:

  • Understand and discuss core debates in the anthropology of the state.

  • Know how to study the state and its relation to citizens in an anthropological fashion.

  • Learn how to connect theoretical debates and case studies on states and citizens to current, actual cases.


For dates, see our website

Mode of Instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

  • Lectures/tutorials 12×3 hours = 36 sbu

  • Study of literature and response notes (+/- 600 pp) = 150 sbu

  • Four individual assignments = 56 sbu

  • One group presentation = 8 sbu

  • Take home exam (including preparation) = 30 sbu

Assessment Method

  • Four assignments (20% of final grade)

  • Group presentation (10% of the final grade)

  • One book essay (30% of the final grade)

  • Take home exam (30% of the final grade)

  • Participation: weekly contributions to online discussion forum and active participation in class (10% of the final grade)

The assessment of the course includes four assignments (20%), a group presentation that discusses a current case through the lens of the week’s literature (10%), a take-home exam (30%) and a book essay (30%).
Class attendance is mandatory, and active participation is welcomed. This is a reading-intensive course. In preparation for the weekly meetings, students are expected to upload at least one question and one comment on each of the assigned readings for that week. In order to complete the course, they have to have done so at least 9 out of 10 times. A participation grade assesses online and in class participation, and makes up 10% of the final grade.

The sessions will consist of a mixed format of lectures, tutorials (discussion of the literature) and presentations. Students are expected to read the assigned literature prior to the meetings.

A re-take of the take home exam or the submission of a revised book essay is possible, but only if the final grade is below 6.0, and if the student has participated actively in the course and submitted satisfactory responses to at least most of the assignments.

Registration in uSis

  • Registration in uSis is mandatory for the lectures for all participants. Please consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.

  • Registration for the exam is NOT necessary because this course does not have one final (classical) exam.

  • Exchange students: If you have officially been admitted for this course during the Admission Procedure, you will be registered for the lectures by the faculty’s Student Service Center.

  • 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 (changes to) the course are made in Brightspace. Students are advised to check Brightspace daily to remain informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and details of 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 your courses in Brightspace you need to be registered in uSis for these courses.

Course Literature

One ethnographic monograph (to be selected from a list) and articles/book chapters, which can be accessed in the Leiden University digital library.

The course syllabus and final reading list will be available on Brightspace by January 2021.


Dr. Anouk de Koning