Universität Wien FIND

240519 SE Anthropology of Organisations and Bureaucracy (P4) (2021W)

Continuous assessment of course work

Participation at first session is obligatory!

The lecturer can invite students to a grade-relevant discussion about partial achievements. Partial achievements that are obtained by fraud or plagiarized result in the non-evaluation of the course (entry 'X' in certificate). The plagiarism software 'Turnitin' will be used for courses with continuous assessment.


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Update 12.01.2022: Due to the current situation the course will be held digital until the end of the semester.
Update 13.12.2021: The course will be held digital until December 17.
Update 22.11.2021: The course will be held digital during lockdown.
Update 20.10.2021: The class on October 28th will be digital. Students of the seminar can use HS C as a studyzone.

Thursday 07.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 14.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 21.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 28.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 04.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal A, NIG 4.Stock
Thursday 11.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 18.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Übungsraum (A414) NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 25.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 02.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 09.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 16.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 13.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 20.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Thursday 27.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

Short course blurb:
Is bureaucracy the art of making possible impossible? Is good policy unimplementable? Are all bureaucrat incompetent villains who never answer a phone? This course will not give you a ready-made recipe to successfully navigate University administration or social welfare services. It will not teach you how to fill out the forms and make successful claims in public and private institutions. However, it will help you to better understand the socio-cultural mechanisms that drive and shape modern institutions and organisational worlds. Using political and organisational anthropology we will unpack such notions as transparency, accountability, audit cultures and other bureaucratic utopias.
Ziele, Inhalte und Methoden der Lehrveranstaltung
At the end of this course students should
be familiar with contemporary debates in anthropological studies regarding bureaucracy.
be able to identify and explain mechanisms governing modern institutions; be able to explain how bureaucratic regimes influence not only how people see the state and public institutions, but how they act in it; They should be able to illustrate their points by using cross-cultural examples;
have the ability to independently analyse social lives of bureaucratic institutions; be able to explain how bureaucratic institutions, their representatives and clients are influenced by particular social structures and wider socio-cultural phenomena (for instance modernity, globalisation, post-colonialism, post-socialism);
be able to make connections between theories explaining bureaucractic and organizational lives and other relevant debates in social sciences (for instance on social and political trust, class, power, nationalism).

General academic and transferable skills gained:
Increased confidence in analysing texts, reading comprehension. Strengthened cross-cultural comparison skills. Improved verbal and written communication skills, group work, critical thinking. Increased ability to apply theory to observed reality, ability to communicate complex academic concepts to lay public.

Selected topics provided insight into the world of bureaucratic institutions. In the course, we will study mechanisms of policy-making and policy implementation and have a closer look at bureaucratic materiality and affects. We will also ask about power, agency and ownership in the institutions. The class will offer an insight into a diverse worlds of bureaucratic institutions, exploring perspectives of street-level bureaucrats, state administrators or members of transnational institutions. It will also offer insights into diverse geographical areas.
The course will not only explore classical and contemporary anthropological theory. It will also provide students with practical knowledge on doing research in, with and for institutions in order to prepare them for conducting research for action and work with state institutions, NGOs and private organisations.
Traditional lectures combined with in-class activities, individual and group work, debates. Class readings and discussions are complemented by assignments offering students the opportunity to conduct their own original research using anthropological methods and perspectives.

Assessment and permitted materials

This course requires active participation of students. In-person or on-line attendance is required. The goal is to hold in person classes but students unable to attend in person due to current pandemic measures will be provided with an opportunity to attend on-line. There is a possibility to adjust teaching methods depending on the pandemic regulations.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Assessment will be in a form of a stacking exercise consisting of following, written at home elements:
A. Thick description essay, 1-2 pages 30% of final grade
B. Policy brief, 1-2 pages 30% of final grade
C. Essay for action (report) combining ethnographic data (essay A) and socio-political data (essay B) with anthropological theory discussed in the classroom, 4 pages 40% of final grade

91 - 100: 1
78 - 90 : 2
64 - 77 : 3
51 - 63 : 4
0 - 50 : 5

Examination topics

Reading list

Detailed reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course. The list below should be treated as the indication of what kind of readings are topics is to be expected:
Abram, S., & Weszkalnys, G. (Eds.).(2013).Elusive Promises. Planning in the Contemporary World. London: Berghahn Books.
Caufield, C. (1996).Masters of illusion: the World Bank and the poverty of nations(1st ed.). New York: Henry Holt.
du Gay, P. (2000).In Praise of Bureaucracy: Weber - Organization - Ethics: SAGE Publications.
du Gay, Paul. 2005. The values of bureaucracy. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
Lipsky, M. (2010).Street-Level Bureaucracy, 30th Ann. Ed.: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Service: Russell Sage Foundation.
Drazkiewicz, Elzbieta. 2020. Institutionalised Dreams: The Art of Managing Foreign Aid: Berghahn Books (chapter 6 and 7).

Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon, & P. Miller (Eds.),The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality(pp. 87-104). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Handelman, D. (2007). The Cartesian Divide of the Nation-State Emotion and Bureaucratic Logic In H. Wulff (Ed.),The Emotions. A Cultural Reader(Vol. 119-142). Oxford: Berg.
Harvey, P., Reeves, M., & Ruppert, E. (2013). ANTICIPATING FAILURE: Transparency devices and their effects.Journal of Cultural Economy, 6(3), 294.
Hetherington, K. (2011).Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay. Durham: Duke Press.
Herzfeld, M. (1993).The social production of indifference: exploring the symbolic roots of Western bureaucracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Howe, L. (2009).Being unemployed in Northern Ireland: an ethnographic study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mathur, N. (2015).Paper Tiger. Law Bureaucracy and the Developmental State in Himalayan India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Müller, B. (2013).The Gloss of Harmony: The Politics of Policy Making in Multilateral Organisations: Pluto Press
Mosse, D. (2004). Is good policy unimplementable? Reflections on the ethnography of aid policy and practice.Development and Change, 35(4), 639-671.
Navaro-Yashin, Y. (2007). Make-believe papers, legal forms and the counterfeit.Anthropological Theory, 7(1), 79-98. doi:10.1177/1463499607074294
Neumann, I. (2012).At Home with the Diplomats. Inside a European Foreign Ministry. New York: Cornell University Press.
Power, M. (1997).The audit society: rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Riles, A. (2000).The network inside out. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Strathern, M. (1997). Improving ratings: audit in the British University system.European Review, 5(03), 305-321.
Strathern, M. (2000a).Audit cultures: anthropological studies in accountability, ethics and the academy: Routledge.
Strathern, M. (2000b). The tyranny of transparency.British Educational Research Journal, 26(3), 309-321.
Weber, M. (1979). Bureaucracy inEconomy and Society(pp. 956-1005): University of California Press.
Wedel, J. R. (2011).Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market: Basic Books.
Wedel, Janine. (2014). Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt Our Finances, Freedom, and Security: Pegasus Books.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Th 23.03.2023 00:23