• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Development Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, Criminology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

What is piracy? Is it: outright theft, a critique of exploitative pricing and labour systems, a culture outside of law? All societies define a boundary between sanctioned and illegitimate ownership, and this course considers the role of piracy in mediating those struggles. We explore these conflicting perspectives on piracy in a range of historical and contemporary settings in order to ask broader questions about the cross-cultural role of property, ownership, marginalization, and security today. In developing an anthropology of piracy, the course emphasises power, identity, and resistance as key thematics. From histories of slave revolts to the hacker collective ‘Anonymous,’ we track new political configurations and the rebels they engender. A vital aspect of the course involves applying anthropological theories of value to everyday forms of economic governance in families, communities, states and global institutions. Students will consider wider issues of sovereignty, intellectual property, race, colonialism, gender and sexuality, morality, mobility, and globalization.

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. Develop an advanced understanding of the cultural and historical transformation of property and interpret its variation across different societies.
  2. Draw upon and provide a theoretically informed analysis of primary sources. Apply advanced concepts in political, legal, and economic anthropology to real world examples of piracy.
  3. Identify major issues with modern property and piracy to reflect on their impact in anthropological theory and areas of social life including work, kinship, gender, morality, mobility, and globalization.
  4. Write essays that develop an original argument about struggles over property, and their relationship to social issues of power, identity, and resistance.

Indicative Assessment

Discussion leader, tutorial 10% [LO 1]

Two Applied practicums 1,500 words each (20%) [LO 2,3]

Biography of a "pirated" property 1,000 words (25%) [LO 3,4]

Annotated Bibliography 1,000 words (10 items, 10%) [LO 1,3]

Final Writing Project (3,000 words 35%) [LO 3,4]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 43 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 12 hours of lectures and 11 hours of tutorials and 20 hours of film screenings and discussions; and
b) 87 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ANTH2136

Preliminary Reading

Dawdy, Shannon Lee. "Why pirates are back." Annual Review of Law and Social Science 7 (2011): 361-385.

Dua, Jatin. "A sea of trade and a sea of fish: piracy and protection in the Western Indian Ocean." Journal of Eastern African Studies 7.2 (2013): 353-370.

van Velzen, Diura Thoden. "The world of Tuscan tomb robbers: Living with the local community and the ancestors." International Journal of Cultural Property 5.01 (1996): 111-126.

Coleman, Gabriella. Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy: The many faces of Anonymous. Verso Books, 2014

Musaraj, Smoki. "Tales from Albarado: The materiality of pyramid schemes in postsocialist Albania." Cultural Anthropology 26.1 (2011): 84-110.


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
2020 $3570
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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