Anthropological Approaches to Ethnicity, Racism and Nationalism

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

The course takes place in a semi-intensive fashion over a number of weeks beginning in January and through Martch 2023, in Vienna. 

Over its twelve sessions we will examine the usefulness of certain key ideas drawn from the anthropology and sociology of nationalism. Through a series of ethnographic examples we consider problems of political relativism vis-à-vis the 'invention of tradition' literature and then the particular form 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. 

We then broaden the focus to consider what some once thought of as ‘aberrant’ forms of nationalism and considering the nature of ‘religious nationalism’ in South Asia, and 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 South Asia undermine their stance? Ethnographies of ethnic riot 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 an extended reflection on the comparative study of the history of racism and the nature modern racisms in the USA and Europe – a key component of human rights’ discourses. 

In the final sessions we turn to questions of race, stratification and ethnicity in Europe, focusing on the Roma case, but including discussions of Islamophobia and headscarf bans. The course concludes with a pair of broad discussions of fashionable notions of 'identity politics' and even more fashionable claims of ‘intersectionality’ asking what has been achieved when politics becomes a struggle for 'identity' and ‘voice’ in a world structured only by 'power'. We also examine the history of persecution of Roma in the mid twentieth century as well as new anti-Romany politics in many countries of the EU.

This course is complementary to courses offered in the Romani Studies program and may profitably be taken together. It is also offered to Sociology/ Anthropology students providing a detailed look both at the anthropology of ethnicity and the lived experience of Romani minorities.

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 ‘racism’, socio-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 by November 19th 2019 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 just after the the end of full term in December. This will allow students a couple of weeks after the course to complete this essay.

In each class, the discussion will be based around the AQCIs presented. Those who do not have to prepare an AQCI need not but may find it helpful nonetheless to do so in order to structure their reading and thinking. (Only two AQCI's will be marked per person.) AQCI's should be written on a single reading.