Structure and Agency in Everyday Life

Subject ANTH90005 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 6.25
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

August, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 16-Aug-2016 to 02-Sep-2016
Assessment Period End 03-Oct-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 19-Aug-2016
Census Date 26-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 16-Sep-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 12 hours - 4 x 3 hour seminars
Total Time Commitment:

85 Hours


Admission into 101AA Ph.D.- Arts or DR-PHILART Doctor of Philosophy in Arts.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Prof Andrew Dawson, Prof Michael Herzfeld


Andrew Dawson

Subject Overview:

One of the most important battles in social science theory has been that between “sociocentrism” and “methodological individualism.” Do people act as they do because they are highly motivated individuals, or is the old excuse that “society made me do it” a catch-all explanation? Anthropologists and others in the social sciences have, over the past two decades, moved towards a “militant middle ground” in which the key concept is “practice”. These questions are important for our daily lives as well as for the development of anthropology and other social sciences; we will explore the concepts of practice, agency, function, and structure, and examine how these terms have been used and what kinds of advances and limitations they represent. In addition to “classic” anthropological texts, we will read some ethnographic illustrations of the key issues, using materials from many parts of the world (including Europe, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa) and from a variety of intellectual traditions. We will ask why particular theoretical “takes” may have achieved scholarly popularity at specific times – in other words, how current political ideas affect the development of social theory. This subject will thus tackle some of the most fundamental issues in social theory, doing so from a specifically anthropological standpoint, and with a view to illuminating possible approaches to contemporary social problems.

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this subject, students should have:

  • enhanced knowledge of the topic or area of scholarship taught in the module;
  • an ability to reflect upon their own research work in relation to the content of the module; and
  • enhanced engagement with leading-edge research in Arts today.

1. A 500-word essay proposal (20%), due during the teaching period.
2. A 2,000-word essay (80%), due within four weeks of completion of teaching.

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 80% of classes in order to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts: None
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): Doctor of Philosophy - Arts
Ph.D.- Arts

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