Political Anthropology, Advanced Course: International Relations and Diplomacy

Course content

The aim of this Advanced Course in Political Anthropology, Anthropology, International Relations and Diplomacy is to investigate relations between the fields of political anthropology and international relations through the study of the current global political system.

The course will introduce students to the study of international relations and diplomacy through an anthropological lens, focusing on how human political (inter)actions and everyday negotiations shape state politics and impact on current developments on the global political scene. We will look at global institutions and discuss theories by drawing on contemporary problems, such as the WHO’s response to the corona (COVID 19) virus, the EU’s approach to the refugee crisis etc.

The purpose is to explore both how political anthropology can contribute to the body of international relations studies and how, in turn, the study of international relations and diplomacy can inspire the thinking and professional practice of anthropologists. The course will be highly focused on practical application, striving to prepare students for internationally oriented careers by discussing concrete, contemporary issues and developing competences through the use of interactive elements (see below).

International relations (IR) is a well-established academic discipline studying relations and interactions between national governments, NGO’s, international organizations and multinational corporations. Students will gain an understanding of some of the central elements of IR such as international security, state power, diplomacy and human rights. At the same time, they will explore how the study of foreign policy and sovereign states can be grasped anthropologically, approaching global changes through the study of local phenomena and applying central concepts from political anthropology including rituals, authority and negotiation.


The teaching in spring 2021 will be online until the 1. of April due to the Covid19 situation.

As soon as it is permitted and justifiable, it is up to the individual lecturer whether to transition to a blended format or wish to continue with full online teaching for the rest of the semester.

The individual lecturer will inform you of the above choice in the Absalon room for each course.

Courses with oral exams will be held online if the relevant restrictions have not been lifted at least four weeks before the individual exam. This will be notified in Absalon.

Courses with written exams will not experience any changes in relation to the normal exam form.

Learning outcome

After completing the course, the students should be able to:


  • demonstrate knowledge of the functioning and structure of the contemporary global political system.
  • demonstrate awareness of how political anthropology and international relations studies respectively approach global political problems.



  • critically discuss and communicate interrelations between the academic disciplines of political anthropology and international relations.
  • reflect on how political anthropology can contribute to the field of international relations and vice versa.



  • independently identify and analyze a current international problem by drawing on theories, concepts or approaches from political anthropology.

The course will consist of 14 three-hour weekly seminars, including class lectures, group discussions, student presentations as well as interactive elements such as a UN negotiation simulation. The purpose of the interactive element is to give students a possibility to apply concrete tools and strengthen professional skills that can be put to use in subsequent careers.

As part of the applied element of the course, practitioners with experiences from the field of IR and diplomacy will be invited as guest lecturers to share concrete experiences and lessons learned from the field. Experts from related disciplines, such as political science, might also be invited to share insights.

Course literature includes anthropological theory as well as literature from the field of IR and diplomacy.


The teaching is on campus during autumn semester 2020. However, due to the covid19 situation all classes are available online too for students who are not able to attend classes on campus because of their covid-19 risk.

Always remember to check Absalon for the latest updates.

BSc students and MSc students: 500 pages obligatory literature

The teacher will publish 200-300 pages of supplementary literature.

Course literature will be available through Absalon.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Essay length: 21,600–26,400 keystrokes for an individual submission. 6,750–8,250 keystrokes per extra member for group submissions. The maximum number of students who can write an essay in a group is four. For groups writing together it must be clearly indicated which parts of the assignment each of the students has written.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcomes

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