Anthropological Approaches to Ethnicity, Racism and Nationalism – with special reference to Roms and Romany peoples

Course Description: 

The course provides an overview of anthropological and ethnographic approaches to one of the great issues of our time - ethnic and national convlict.

Beginning from an examination of the relevance of the sociology of nationalism, we move through a series of ethnographic examples to consider problems of political relativism vis a vis the 'invention of tradition' literature and the particular local forms nationalist movements and conflicts take. At this point we take our first look at the Romani case – considering tradition, history and the commemoration of WW2. The focus of the course then broadens to look at the nature of ‘religious nationalism’ in South Asia, and consider the fit or lack of fit of received theoretical models: both Gellner and Anderson link nationalism to the disenchantment of the world/secularism - does the experience of S Asia undermine their stance? Ethnographies of violence are then considered as a field in which empirical, field or historical research profoundly alters a priori wisdom. This part of the course concludes with a reflection on the comparative study of modern racisms in the USA and Europe.

In the second part of the course – in February -  we turn to questions of race, class and ethnicity in Europe, focusing on the Roma, but including discussions of islamophobia and headscarf bans. The course concludes with a pair of broad discussions of the fashionable notion of 'identity politics' asking what has been achieved when politics becomes a struggle for 'identity' and we examine the new anti-Romany politics to be found in many countries of the EU, not just among the 'bad-boys' of the east.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

-       Determine the usefulness of certain key ideas drawn from the sociology and anthropology of nationalism when considering the situation of Romany populations

-       Assess the balance of ‘race’, economic position and ethnicity in shaping the experience of Romany populations today

-       Critically discuss the 'politics of identity' and assess what happens when politics becomes struggle for 'identity' both with reference to minorities and new populist xenophobic movements

-       Draft concise but comprehensive precis of academic texts as well as write in a scholarly fashion in other modes than essay (e.g. film review).


Marking for the course will be based 35% on the two AQCI's handed in; 15% on a two page film review of one of the films screened during the course to be handed in ten days after the last session in February and 50% on an essay of 2,500 words length on a topic related to the course and title to be agreed by Professor Stewart. The deadline for handing in the essay will be the SECOND MONDAY after the end of full term in the spring. This will allow students several weeks after the course to complete this essay including one full week of holiday.