Urban Anthropology

Course content

This course introduces students to the vitality of urban anthropology within socio-cultural anthropology, and explores the core themes and methods that led to the development of the field. The course content is designed to enable students to review and analyse urbanization processes as local and global phenomenon. We will look at various human vulnerabilities in the city, and explore the strategies used by urban populations to adapt, cope with and resist the multiple demands posed by urban social, political and fiscal economies. The primary focus of the course will be on the politics of inclusion and exclusion in the city, and we will uncover how the agency of people in slums, ghettoes and other formal and informal settlements impact and shape urban processes. The course material will investigate research themes on: the city as an ethnographic site; the complexities of studying post-colonial and industrial cities; issues of migration, ethnicity, environment, race and violence; questions of urban citizenship, and gender and sexuality in the city. The aim of this course is to look at the ways in which urban anthropology can uncover the interaction between significant structural forces, and culturally produced meaning and action on the ground, in a variety of cities across the globe.

Learning outcome


The course will help students in

  • Understanding how the study of urbanisms, urban processes and population movement in the city is relevant in socio-cultural anthropology

  • Understanding how the field of urban anthropology helps address broader questions about structures of power, humanity, poverty and marginalization, particularly through cross-cultural perspectives of the city

  • Understanding how ethnographic material from different urban contexts helps develop key concepts and ideas in the field of urban anthropology.


The course will enable students

  • To communicate anthropological knowledge through critical reading, writing and oral presentations

  • To reflect on contemporary urban poverty, and examining their own understandings about community and everyday practices in the city

  • To foster societal responsibility by understanding sustainable forms of living, human diversity and dignity, and social, political and economic inequalities in the city


The course will facilitate students

  • To understand individuals, communities and urban life in various historical and socio-political contexts

  • To learn how to conduct ethnographic research in the city, through understanding research methods used by anthropologists in geographically different urban settings

To demonstrate their ability to identify and analyse formal and informal economies in the city, which will increase their future employability in a range of academic and non-academic institutions concerned with the future of cities

The seminars will involve lectures, discussions groups, speed-reading and writing sessions, oral presentations, films and documentaries. The Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen has an outstanding breadth of scholarship related to urban anthropology. For some of the weeks, we will have urban research scholars from the department offering us 45 minutes ‘interventions’: which will involve showcasing an aspect of their research, a film or a powerpoint or an anecdote (for 25 minutes), followed by a discussion on the topic.

The students will be divided in groups at the start of the semester and each group will be expected to do maximum two readings per week which will be uploaded on absalon. These groups will also form the basis of the fieldwork, presentation and report. The students will be given a reading for the week and related tasks at the start of each teaching week.

BSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature.

MSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature + 200 pages literature chosen by students.

Course literature will be available in Absalon on the course website

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

(a) Tutor and peer-group feedback during the course (b) written and oral feedback after the final submission of the portfolio

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio exam:
Length: The portfolio exam can be taken individually or in groups of maximum four students. The portfolio exam consists of 3 submissions:
(a) Twenty minute group presentation on a group-based fieldwork project (will be given a group mark)
(b) Five-page group field report (will be given a group mark)
(c) Individual essay on a topic of choice and problem statement developed by the student
The total length of all of the submissions must not exceed 30,000 keystrokes for a single student. For groups of two students the maximum is 40,000 keystrokes. For groups of three students the maximum is 45,000 keystrokes and for groups of four students the maximum is 50,000 keystrokes.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See description of learning outcome. Formalities for Written Works must be fulfilled, read more: MSc Students/ BA students (in Danish)/ exchange and credit

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 4
  • Seminar
  • 12
  • Preparation
  • 116
  • Exam
  • 37
  • Exam Preparation
  • 26
  • Lectures
  • 4
  • Practical exercises
  • 8
  • English
  • 207