Symbolic Anthropology - 2nd semester


- Introduce the students to the main theoretical perspectives which have intersected and have been debated within Symbolic Anthropology in the
second half of the 20th century;
- Promote their critical ability with regard to the links and tensions between ethnographic description, interpretation and theorising;
- Nurture comparative reflection showing how the theoretical contradictions and divergences between the authors frequently contain the seeds of
emerging theories.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Susana Trovão


Weekly - 4

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





Bateson, G. (1936) Naven, London, Cambridge University Press
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1970), Nuer Religion [1956], Oxford, Oxford University Press
Firth, R. (1973) Symbols, Public and Private, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd
Godelier, M. (2000) O enigma da dádiva, Lisboa, Edições 70
Leach, E. (1978) Cultura e comunicação, Rio de Janeiro, Zahar Editores
- (1980) L’unité de l’homme et autres essais, Paris, Gallimard
Lévi-Strauss, C. (1958) Anthropologie structurale, Paris, Plon
- (1971) Mythologiques, IV – L’homme nu, Paris, Plon
Turner, V. (1967) The Forest of Symbols. Aspects of Ndembu Ritual [1967], Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press
(1974) O processo ritual. Estrutura e anti-estrutura [1969], Petrópolis, Editôra Vozes

Teaching method

Classes consist of a presentation of the key ideas of each module by the teacher; an interactive component with students (through questions and other interactive strategies), and a part involving debate on specific topics.

Evaluation method

Assessment consists of a written test and the carrying out small exercises for discussion in class. In the written assessment, students can opt for an assignment (literature review, or empirical study) or a test. Supervision of the assignments proposed by the students, whether individually or in small groups, takes place outside the classes.

Subject matter

Contextualising the concept of the symbol (from ancient Greece to the beginning of modern anthropology)
The idealistic break in the construction of symbolic forms made by Cassirer
The paradoxes of linguistic theorizing regarding the symbol: From Peirce to Saussure, from Jakobson to Fonagy
Ritual action, processes of ethological differentiation and paradoxical communication - [Bateson 1936]
Overcoming structural-functionalism through religion [Evans-Pritchard 1956]
The body and primordial relations, ritual process and communities as sources and origin of all symbolization [Turner, 1967, 1969]
Structuralist proposals [Lévi-Strauss 1949-1971] and the first critiques by Leach, Mary Douglas and Turner
From social dynamics and the structure of ideas to the contradictions between motivations and ritual [Leach, 1954, 1967, 1979]
Giving and keeping: the symbolic in the construction of the bases of identity and relations of social groups [Godelier 1996]


Programs where the course is taught: