• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Political Sciences, Social Work, Sociology, Pacific Studies More...
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Francesca Merlan
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2018
    See Future Offerings

This course asks: How can we conceptualize `states’?  And how can one study ethnographically something as vast and difficult to grasp as a `state’? These are two different but related aspects of our approach to `states’ in this course: conceptual and ethnographic, both necessary and important to relate to each other. We will examine concepts, and look at examples of practices and processes in a number of significant domains, in order to comprehend states, in their variety, in a distinctively anthropological manner. Most of our central readings are by anthropologists, and involve the relating to each other of concepts and ethnography. Central topics through which we will look at this conjunction will include everyday practices; culture and state ritual; law and regulation; personhood and agency; hidden and overt mechanisms of power; and persistent structures and emergent forms. Along the way we look at examples of some of the rubrics currently most often applied to states: the `stable’ state; the `would-be’ state (`Islamic state’?), the `failed’ state. Ethnographically, we will especially (but not exclusively) focus on what are considered developing states, by which is meant here: those which offer fewer entitlements and have penetrated less completely into the daily lives of their citizens, than is customary in the state systems of better-off countries. Thus the course is for students of the social sciences and related areas of practice such as development studies and social research.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Discuss different understandings of the concept ‘state’ from anthropology and cognate disciplines
  2. Understand the nature of institutions regularly considered definitive of (if not always exclusive to) states, such as ‘legitimate violence’, citizenship, bureaucracy, census, taxation, education, security and sovereignty
  3. Analyse the effects in everyday life, of specific examples of state processes and practices.
  4. Interpret and evaluate a sample of major theoretical debates in anthropology in terms of which state practices and processes have been examined.
  5. Identify, locate and evaluate primary sources relating to a particular instance of state practice/process, or issues arising around it.

Indicative Assessment

Tutorial discussion and participation (15%) (LO 1-5)
Research paper proposal and initial annotated bibliography, 1500 words excluding references (30%) (LO 4-5)
Journal entries, 3 x 350 words (5% each for a total 15%) (LO 3-5)
Final essay 2500 words excluding references (40%) (LO 1-5)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from: a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of tutorials; and b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Prescribed Texts

  • Sharma, Aradhana and Akhil Gupta 2005. The anthropology of the state : a reader. Wiley-Blackwell.~
  • Trouillot, Michel-Rolph 2003. Global Transformations: Anthropology and the modern world. New York: Palgrave.
  • Krohn-Hauser, Christian and Knut G. Nustad 2005. State Formation: Anthropological Perspectives. Pluto Press.

Preliminary Reading

Indicative readings are the three texts above. Trouillot is especially appropriate as an introductory reading. Krohn-Hauser and Nustad in on the library internet and thus available at any time to enrolled students.

Areas of Interest

  • Anthropology
  • Political Sciences
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Pacific Studies
  • Security Studies




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $2820
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $4320
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4738 19 Feb 2018 27 Feb 2018 31 Mar 2018 25 May 2018 In Person N/A

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