Expanding the Canon: Reading Female and non-white Anthropologists and Social Theorists

Course content

Like all social-scientific traditions, anthropology relies on a relatively shared understanding of ‘the canon’ – that is, those texts (and their topics, concerns, styles, theoretical angles, conclusions etc.) that make up what we perceive to be the core of our discipline. Retrospectively, we take these texts to mark the main axes of our discipline’s historical development - the texts we tend to teach in ‘History of Anthropology’.

The course Expanding the Canon invites students to read and discuss texts that lie outside or at the edge of this canon – with an eye to expanding that canon. The texts we read are either ‘anthropological’ texts in some way, or they are more generally ‘social theory’ relevant for anthropologists.

Although there are many directions in which we might want to expand our current understanding of the anthropological canon, Expanding the Canon focuses on two such extensions: we will read a range of texts by female anthropologists/social theorists that may expand our understanding of the tradition and trajectory of anthropology/social theory. And we’ll read texts by non-white anthropologists/social theorists.

Both extensions are not so much meant to ‘replace’ the texts that today make up our canon but to expand and adjust (perhaps radically) the way we think of anthropology as a discipline, and about the field of social theory within which it is embedded.

Participants are invited to suggest texts/authors beyond the course syllabus that they think should be included in a revised canon. We’ll discuss some of them towards the end of the course.

Learning outcome


At the end of the course students are expected to

  • know that a canon of texts plays a central role in Anthropology and other social-science disciplines
  • know that this canon is both evolving and contested, and are familiar with some of the ways in which the current Anthropological canon may be limited
  • know female and non-white authors and some of their texts outside the current canon, and are familiar with arguments suggesting that these texts might be important substitutes to or extensions of the current canon



At the end of the course students are expected to:

  • be able to reflect on the possible limitations of the current anthropological canon
  • be able to articulate particular perspectives that the class readings might add to the current canon
  • be able to see the relevance of certain kinds of social theory for anthropology



At the end of the course students are expected to:

  • be able to make convincing arguments both for some of the strengths of the existing anthropological canon and for some of its limitations
  • be able to develop arguments for what the texts we read in the course can add to the existing canon
  • be able to develop arguments for why certain texts are so ‘central’ to anthropology that they should be seen as ‘canonical’

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.


In-class oral feedback on first portfolio opgave, written feedback on second portfolio.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Portfolio exam
Length: The portfolio exam can be taken individually or in groups of maximum four students. The portfolio exam consists of 2 submissions. 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.
For groups writing together it must be clearly indicated which parts of the assignment each of the students has written.

The assignments are evaluated together with a total grade.
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
  • Preparation
  • 130
  • Seminar
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 35
  • English
  • 207