• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Development Studies, Gender Studies, Asia Pacific Studies, European Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Ta Ta
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2022
    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; persistent structures, emergent and mixed (state-private and other) forms of governance. 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:

  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, e.g.: `legitimate violence’, citizenship, bureaucracy, census, taxation, education, security, sovereignty;
  3. analyse the effects in everyday life, of specific examples of state processes and practices;
  4. discuss 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; and
  6. examine how traditions of studying the state relate to research.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Tutorial, participation and discussion (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Quote Entries, 3 x 300 words (5% per entry, total 15%) (15) [LO 3,4,5]
  3. Research paper topic proposal and initial annotated bibliography (1000 words) (35) [LO 4,5,6]
  4. Final Essay (4000 words) (40) [LO 4,5,6]

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.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ANTH2134.

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 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.

Assumed Knowledge

Basic practical understanding of nation-state system of contemporary world; no specific region or locale presupposed.


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2022 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $5700
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

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
3411 21 Feb 2022 28 Feb 2022 31 Mar 2022 27 May 2022 In Person View

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