The Political Economy of Culture
Course code
old course code
Course title in Estonian
Kultuuri poliitiline ökonoomia
Course title in English
The Political Economy of Culture
ECTS credits
approximate amount of contact lessons
Teaching semester
Assessment form
lecturer of 2020/2021  Autumn semester
Eeva Kesküla (inglise keel) tavaline kursus
lecturer of 2020/2021  Spring semester
lecturer not assigned
Course aims
This course aims to introduce students to the anthropological study of political and economic processes, providing the conceptual tools that anthropologists have developed for their analysis. It will cover the major anthropological theories and debates relating to economic anthropology, political anthropology urban anthropology, anthropology of work, depending on the particular focus on the given year.
Brief description of the course
This course on economic anthropology focusses on the questions of work, money and debt looking at those as cultural universals that exists in all human societies. We will look at how these concepts are understood in different cultural contexts and, have developed historically and play out in contemporary global neoliberal capitalism.

The general aim is to look at ‘the economy’ not as something distant and abstracts that economists deal with but to note how economic relations are deeply intertwined with our everyday social relations, are culturally conditioned and structured by relations of ethnicity, class, gender and age. Through the anthropological lens, money is not just an abstract exchange form but can carry certain moralities, ‘being affluent’ is relative to our needs, work does not only mean paid employment but also reproductive labour and debt is a complex web of obligations, rather than a hole in our bank account.

With each topic, we start with pre-industrial times and traditional societies and end with speculations of the future and alternative imaginations of future, work and money. While dealing with various case studies, we connect to the present situation of the global pandemic, asking, for example, how does COVID affect the organisation of work in the future? Why do alternative currencies thrive at the times of crises? Can times of crises lead to paradigm shifts that reorganise economies and increase human freedom and happiness? The course does not require prior knowledge of anthropology but does require a significant amount of reading, and an open mind.
Independent work
Learning outcomes in the course
Upon passing the course students will have attained:
1. Familiarity with the conceptual tools for the critical analysis of political and economic phenomena from an anthropological perspective
2. The disciplinary context of the conceptual tools and theories developed by anthropologists for the study of political and economic phenomena and processes.
3. Ethnographic and historical knowledge on the variability of political and economic formations

Eeva Kesküla