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Diversity and Power


This course is taught in Dutch or English in the academic year 2018-2019

Admission Requirements

Only the following categories of students may register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BSc programme “CA-DS” at Leiden University

  • Students enrolled for the Minor CA-OS

  • Pre-Master’s students who have completed the Admission procedure for the Master’s CA-DS and have been formally admitted to the course as part of the Pre-Master’s programme.

Please see the registration procedure below.

Course Description

This course aims to introduce students to the anthropology and sociology of diversity. The starting point must obviously be how anthropology has studied differences between human beings over the past two centuries, and the extent to which the humanist principle of equality has determined policies designed to manage such differences. This course therefore directs attention primarily to race, culture, nation, class and gender, although the same lessons are applied to religion and ethnicity too. The anthropology of diversity begins with the observation that race, class and gender are first and foremost socio-cultural classifications, and that such categories connect power and diversity because they give shape to the infrastructures that make up societies – division of labour and wealth between different groups of citizens and between social spheres such as the public, the economy, and the household. The first part of the course (weeks 15 to 18) deals with how race and gender have since the nineteenth century been treated as descriptions of natural or biological differences, but also how in the course of the twentieth century ¬– not least because of the introduction of the concept of culture – the interpretation of both race and gender as socio-historical constructions came to compete with naturalist descriptions. The second part of the course (weeks 20 to 23) will then address the question of how classifications of race, gender and class are connected so that they determine power inequalities. Can we and should we modify or even abolish such power differences by means of interventions as affirmative action and promotion of diversity? What kind of limits and obstacles do such pleas for “decolonization” and reducing discrimination run up against?

Teaching Goals

  • This course teaches students that diversity begins with the classifications and categorizations of human differences used in a specific society, and that there can be description and definition of those differences and their historical construction and the reasons for it, and that social interventions using those categories affect the relationships produced by them; and that a distinction should be made between the two.

  • This course shows students how to classify race and gender and how such classification may be studied; how it relates to hierarchical discrimination and how examples of race, gender and class may be used to understand the social effects of classifications of religion and ethnicity.

  • This course teaches students that the present-day uses of diversity and human difference can be properly understood only by using genealogical and reflexive methods of ethnography – that is, the expertise that results discovering what contemporary processes are expressed by the concept of “diversity” and how those processes apply to situations directly observed by researchers.

Time Table

This course will consist of two meetings per week and will be run in bloc 4 (April/May 2019).
Information and room numbers are given on the website

Methods of Instruction

10 ECTS = 280 studiebelastinguren (sbu)

Lectures (12 x 3 uur = 36 u / 56 sbu)
Study of literature


Students will submit two types of assignment:

(1) short summaries of the literature they have been instructed to read that week; summaries will be assessed as either “pass” of “fail”. Summaries assessed as “fail” may be re-submitted once. All summaries must achieve a “pass” assessment before the end of the course. (2) Students’ final grades will be determined based on two assessed assignments which will be based on questions about the content of the course.

Only the final grade will be registered in Usis.

Exam Registration

Students need not register for the examination through uSis because this course does not include have a single final invigilated examination.


Blackboard module will be active about 2 weeks before the start of the course.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Study Material

A list of books and articles will be published on Blackboard.


Registration in Usis for lectures (H) is obligatory for all participants. Students should consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.


Prof. dr. Peter Pels