Course description

Communities, relationships, events: an anthropological approach


Comparative Study of Ideas and Cultures (3rd cycle)

Anthropology: Understanding Worldmaking Practices

Course principal:
Prof. Borut Telban, Ph.D.


Course code: 12

Year of study: Not specified

Workload: lectures 60 hours, seminar 30 hours

Course type: general elective

Languages: Slovene, English

Learning and teaching methods:

lectures, discussion classes


Course Syllabus


None required.


Content (Syllabus outline)

1. Community and individual:

  • Structures and processes;
  • Habitus and theory of practice;
  • Cultural capital, social capital, economic capital, and symbolic capital;
  • The body as a source of identity;
  • Anthropology of emotions;
  • Objectivism and subjectivism.


2. Gift giving and the principles of reciprocity:

  • “To be” or “to have”;
  • Expectations, hopes, and illusions;
  • Exchange as a structure and exchange as a practice;
  • Relations between persons and objects; anthropomorphism;
  • Reciprocity between societies and between nation states.


3. Rituals:

  • Rituals of transition in small-scale societies;
  • Liminality;
  • Everyday rites;
  • Modern urban rituals;
  • National and political rituals;
  • Symbolism of birth and death.


4. Anthropology of events:

  • How the private is interwoven with the public;
  • Events and meanings;
  • Intersubjective relationships;
  • Agency;
  • The significance of personal experience;
  • Continuation of events through language, narration, and communication.


5. Visual and auditory perception:

  • Time and space;
  • Perception of self, other, self through the other, and other through another;
  • Verbal interpretation of events;
  • Visual interpretation of events;
  • Symbols, figurative speech, and transpositions of meanings.


6. Anthropology of dwelling:

  • Phenomenology and anthropology;
  • Existential anthropology;
  • Anthropology of death.


7. The art of coexistence:

  • Archaic and non-European cosmologies;
  • The western world and technological directions;
  • Historical discrimination and continuous power games;
  • Hegemonic relationships and symbolic violence;
  • Marginalization: resentment of the humiliated and offended;
  • Globalization and deepening of economic differences;
  • Solving social and cultural conflicts.



  • Bell, Catherine. 1997. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Boddy, Janice in Michael Lambek (ur.). 2013. A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical Reason. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Csordas, Thomas. 1994. Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Descola, Philippe. 2013. Beyond Nature and Culture. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Godelier, Maurice. 1999. The Enigma of the Gift. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ingold, Tim. 2000. The Perception of the Environment. London: Routledge.
  • Jackson, Michael. 2005. Existential Anthropology: Events, Exigencies and Effects. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  • Jackson, Michael. 2013(2002). The Politics of Storytelling: Variations on a Theme by Hannah Arendt. Copenhagen: Museum Musculanum Press.
  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1963. Structural Anthropology, Vol. 1. New York: Basic Books.
  • Mauss, Marcel. 1954. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. London: Cohen and West.
  • Telban, Borut. 1998. Dancing through Time: A Sepik Cosmology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Toren, Christina in João de Pina-Cabral (ur.). 2011. The Challenge of Epistemology: Anthropological Perspectives. Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  • Van Gennep, Arnold. 1960. The Rites of Passage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
  • Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo. 2014. Cannibal Metaphysics. Minneapolis: Univocal.


Objectives and competences

Human beings are constantly under the influence of historical, social, and cultural activities. Within such a world, they are not simply passive observers but active participants in the creation of history, society, and culture. This course is based on questioning the dichotomy between theory and practice and offers some insights into the conceptualization of the world and a community, which move between structures and processes and between human activity and human agency. In recent years anthropology has become divided between those in favour of one side and those that appreciate the other: those that speak about the anthropology of the body and emotions are opposed by those that, for example, work in cognitive anthropology with sole emphasis on the mind. Such a dichotomy has divided scholars: some defend the importance of subjectivism and others the importance of objectivism. This course emphasizes the value of different theoretical approaches and at the same time offers directions for their reunion through the anthropology of events. To understand human life, which is in an endless relationship with the lives of others, we cannot only rely on theoretical models outside the experiential world. The lives of both individuals and communities are based on reciprocity, including communication. Discussions about an event are not separated from it, but are instead part of it or its continuation. This course places the student in the liminal state of an observer, between different social and cultural dispositions, habituses, understandings, and practices. During events, especially in crises, many crucial questions are asked. What is objective and for whom? What is subjective and who decides about it? What is reasonable and from which/whose perspective? What is emotional and whose and what kind of emotions are we talking about? How can we understand ourselves through someone else and someone else through ourselves? All of these questions include individuals and small communities as well as larger societies and nations.


Intended learning outcomes:

Students get acquainted with some fundamental anthropological themes, concepts and practices. They learn about complex perspectives on communities, events and relationships, which are characteristic for small-scale non-European societies as well as for bigger societies and nations.


Learning and teaching methods:

Types of learning/teaching:

  • Frontal teaching
  • Independent students work
  • e-learning


Teaching methods:

  • Explanation
  • Conversation/discussion/debate
  • Work with texts
  • Case studies



  • Short written assignment (20 %),
  • presentations (20 %),
  • final examination (written/oral) (60 %)


Anthropology of consciousness and practices of awareness

Asst. Prof. Maja Petrović Šteger, Ph. D.,


Anthropology of Fertility

Assoc. Prof. Duška Kneževič Hočevar, Ph.D.,


Cosmology of Mesoamerican Societies

Prof. Ivan Šprajc, Ph.D.,


Epistemological pluralism and “decolonizing” methods in ethnographic research

Assoc. Prof. Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Ph.D.,


Laughing politically: toward the anthropology of humor

Prof. Tanja Petrović, Ph.D.,


Public anthropology, social engagement and activism

Assoc. Prof. Ana Hofman, Ph.D.,


Research Methodology in Anthropological Linguistics

Prof. Borut Telban, Ph.D.,

Karmen Kenda-Jež, Ph.D.,


Space and movement: towards anthropology of locations and migrations

Asst. Prof. Nataša Gregorič Bon, Ph.D.,