Anthropology Department

2017-2018 Anthropology Courses

This is the course schedule for Anthropology. Scroll down for more information on our exciting upper level seminars!

Fall 2017

Anthropology 341 - Medical Anthropology with Betsey Brada

Full course for one semester. This course will consider the ways in which medical anthropology has historically been influenced by debates within the discipline of anthropology as well as by broader social and political movements. Particular emphasis will be placed on the importance of viewing biomedicine as one among many cultural systems of healing. Some key issues we will explore include: concepts of health, healing and illness; the political economy of disease; the role of medicine in the state and citizenship; medicine’s role in the assignment and mediation of deviance; applied medical anthropology; medical anthropology as ambassador and translator for biomedicine; and contemporary global health crises, including the HIV and TB pandemics. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 366 - Black, Indian, and Other in Brazil with Sullivan

Full course for one semester. This course focuses on the status and meaning of multiculturalism in contemporary Brazil. We will raise questions on the legacies of older models of racial ideology, including such concepts as acculturation, “racial democracy,” and luso-tropicalismo. The course gives primacy to intersections of race with the production of class and gender. The course further seeks to situate social movements like the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) and indigenist politics within the larger international production and exchange of ideas regarding race, ethnicity, and social justice. Finally, in addition to core course materials focusing on academic literature, we will examine pieces from Brazilian fine art, cinema, music, and television. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Anthropology 374 - Urban Anthropology with Paul Silverstein

Full course for one semester. The course provides an introduction to urban anthropology, with a particular focus on the colonial and postcolonial metropole as an exemplary site for the reciprocal influences of global and local processes. It explores how the city functions simultaneously as a locus for the negotiation of cultural diversity and for utopian ideals of rational communication. Drawing from cases throughout the “developed” and “developing” worlds, the course examines how urban culture is produced and reproduced under regimes of industrialization, colonialism, modernism, and globalization. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Anthropology 378 - Nature, Culture, and Environmentalism with Sullivan

Full course for one semester. This course examines canonical and contemporary anthropological treatments of the concept of nature and human relations with the natural environment. We discuss how conceptions of nature are always shaped, transformed, and produced by social relations. Course materials focus primarily on ethnographies oriented towards the intersections of political ecology, science studies, and postcolonial theory. Course topics include the history of the Western nature-culture opposition and its critics, as well as recent scholarship on such topics as food studies, the social life of forests, human-animal interactions, race and the genome, and the supposed advent of the “posthuman.” Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 411 - Performance and Performativity with Charlene Makley

Full course for one semester. This course is an advanced seminar in linguistic anthropology. Anthropologists have long been interested in the complex dynamism of social life. Yet early attempts to account for this dynamism in the construction of cultural and linguistic worlds were obscured in favor of static representations of “cultures” and dualistic understandings of sociocultural structures versus individual actions or intentions. This course considers “performance” and “performativity” to be recent rubrics that group together a wide variety of social theorists who have focused instead on the emergent and contested nature of all meanings as they are communicated in everyday and ritualized speech and practice. The course will develop from key foundational texts in the philosophy of language to more recent theoretical and ethnographic work to explore the implications of this perspective for understanding language as social action, the nature of “context” and interpretive politics, the relationships between formal events or performances and everyday life, and the social construction of selves and others. By directing analytic focus to the indeterminacy, ambiguity, and multiplicity inherent to social life, the course challenges students to reconsider some of the central issues in anthropological theory, such as agency, identity, power, and resistance. Prerequisite: Anthropology 211. Cross-listed as Linguistics 411. Conference.

Anthropology 465 - Suffering, Narrative, and Subjectivity with Betsey Brada

Full course for one semester. “The subject living in pain, in poverty, or under conditions of violence or oppression,” Joel Robbins contends in a recent essay, “now very often stands at the center of anthropological work” (2013:448). This course examines the emergence of what Robbins calls “the suffering slot,” that is, the displacement of difference in late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century anthropology as the discipline’s organizing principle, and a reorientation toward universal human vulnerability. Our concern is with how this turn has shaped both the substantive and ethical contours of anthropological investigation and ethnographic writing: What can, and ought, anthropologists know and say about the world and those who inhabit it? What can, and ought to, be the relationship between anthropologists and their objects of study? We will give particular attention to philosophical arguments that emphasize the ineffability of suffering—that is, the ways that suffering defies narrative—and the implications of these arguments for theories of subjectivity. Of particular interest is how these ideas have shaped the generic conventions that have emerged in anthropological studies of suffering, and how these conventions in turn reflect a particular moment in anthropology’s self-understanding as a discipline. Prerequisite: Anthropology 211. Conference.

Spring 2018

Anthropology 305 - Musical Ethnography with Morgan Luker

Full course for one semester. This course will introduce the theory and practice of musical ethnography, the key mode of ethnomusicological research and representation, to advanced students in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and related disciplines. Combining critical readings on ethnography from music scholarship, anthropology, and a variety of disciplines with hands-on projects (including the production and analysis of field recordings, musical transcriptions, and various forms of qualitative ethnographic data), the course will prepare students to both conduct and critically reflect upon ethnographic research. Conference. Cross-listed as Anthropology 305.

Anthropology 320 - Social Movements, Protests, and Historical Change in South Asia with Anand Vaidya

Full course for one semester. The Arab uprisings, the Black Lives Matter movement, the ongoing student movement in India, and the rise of far-right movements in the United States and elsewhere have given a new urgency to an examination of the tactics and possibilities of mass movements and protests: How and why do large groups of people come together to protest? When and how do some people and issues become political, and when and how do they not? How and when are these movements successful in achieving their aims? What social, cultural, and political effects do they have beyond their explicit aims? How, finally, do these movements interact with existing state and legal structures, whether antagonistically or through participation and engagement? By examining South Asian social movements with a focus on India, this conference analyzes current and historical attempts to reconfigure the relationships between people, laws, and states. In the process, the conference engages with challenges facing anthropology in theorizing historical change and in finding methodologies suited to large- and multi-scaled social processes. South Asia, with its vast scale and its complex and constantly shifting political landscape, is both an ideal and an important site for these inquiries. This conference also serves as an introduction to the anthropology of South Asia. It begins with a historical and theoretical consideration of the play of domination and hegemony in the colonial period, moves to a study of nationalist movements in India and Bangladesh, and then draws on the theoretical frameworks studied in the beginning of the semester to consider a range of contemporary social movements, including the Indian Maoist uprising, Dalit and anticaste movements, and the Sri Lankan Civil War. This course asks what an anthropological approach to the specific and local can bring to the study of politics, and what a study of large-scale movements can bring to anthropological understandings of historical change. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 336 - Anthropology through Morocco with Paul Silverstein

Full course for one semester. Since the 1920s, Morocco has been a repeated site for ethnographic investigation, a locus classicus for the elaboration of social theory, and a central region in what Bernard Cohn has famously termed “Anthropologyland.” This course explores the conditions underwriting such centrality, examining the history of ethnographic writing on Morocco from Arab sociogeography through European travel narratives to colonial ethnology and American anthropology. Through a close reading of key ethnographies from different time periods, students will not only achieve a nuanced understanding of the culture, social structure, religion, politics, and history of Morocco, but will also review key movements in anthropological thought: structural functionalism, structuralism, symbolic anthropology, political ecology, poststructuralism, reflexive postmodernism, and globalization. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211, or consent of the instructor. Full course for one semester. Conference.

Anthropology 343 - African Temporalities with Betsey Brada

Full course for one semester. In the last decades of the twentieth century, the promise of modernity collapsed across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The end of the Cold War, falling mineral and commodity prices, and the retreat of the state under structural adjustment programs all contributed in their own ways to a sense that a future, which had been just out of reach, was no longer possible. In this course we will examine the historical antecedents to this moment and explore the multiple modes of temporal imagining, such as those presented by millenarian movements, neoliberal NGOs, and national visa lotteries, that have come to fill the space left in the wake of the mid-range future of modernity. While this course treats sub-Saharan Africa as a region, we will also question the multiple uses to which “Africa” is put in anthropological and Euro-American temporal imaginaries. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 344 - The Anthropology of Sex and Gender with Charlene Makley

Full course for one semester. What is the difference between sex and gender? And why is this important in today’s world? This course introduces students to an anthropological perspective on the relationship between sex (the biological attributes by which a person is deemed “male” or “female”) and gender (the norms and ideals associating appropriate roles, behaviors, and sexualities with men or women). In order to understand the various debates and their stakes, we will read anthropological accounts of cultures in which sex and gender are construed very differently from our own and combine these with discussions of documentary and popular movies and video clips. The course will provide students with ways to understand how we come to consider and express ourselves as “men” or “women,” the social forces that constrain us to act and think as gendered persons, and the potential consequences for not conforming to those norms. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 379 - Critical Interventions in American Indian Studies with miishen Carpentier

Full course for one semester. The course begins with a critical examination of the origins of American Indian/Native American studies. After situating the field we will engage with leading tribal scholars addressing contemporary topics such as representation and identity, queer indigeneity, social and political activism, decolonization movements, tribal justice systems, and tribal sovereignties. Note: this course is not an encyclopedic and/or historical/archaeological overview of native North America. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Anthropology 394 - Language Attrition and Endangerment with miishen Carpentier

Full course for one semester. Language is one of the most salient and identifiable aspects of human culture. Human languages provide rich material for anthropological study as wells of deep knowledge through which we understand our identities, presents, and futures. Throughout the world many language communities are facing issues of language attrition and endangerment. This course provides an introduction to the practical and theoretical causes of language shift and the implications for impacted communities. Contemporary debates about the state of the field, methodological strategies for language documentation, and education and revitalization tactics will also be covered. Selected case studies provide a global perspective on the discourse of language endangerment and show the diversity of community initiatives. The role of language in constructing and maintaining cultural identity and historical continuity is a common theme in this course. Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 397 - Media Persons Publics with Charlene Makley

Full course for one semester. The meteoric rise of new forms of digital data and social media in the past 20 years has generated, on the one hand, fantasies of utopic intimacy (the immediacy promised in a new “global village”), and on the other, moral panics about unprecedented estrangement (the hypermediation of virtual worlds and corporate or government “big data”). In this course, we challenge this dichotomy of intimacy/immediacy versus estrangement/mediation by taking an anthropological approach to the question of human communication. Drawing on interdisciplinary debates in philosophy, linguistic anthropology, and media studies, we develop tools for understanding all communication as both mediated and material, grounded in embodied practices and technological infrastructures and situated in historical events. This in turn will allow us to grasp how circulations of media forms and commodities participate in the creation of types of persons and publics across multiple scales of time and space. Bringing those theoretical and methodological debates into dialogue with ethnographic studies and other forms of media, we ask: How do people sense and interpret themselves, others and their worlds? What is the boundary between the human and nonhuman in a digital age? What roles do states or transregional capitalisms play in the mediation of valued and devalued persons and publics? What are the possibilities for communication amidst great gaps in access to valued forms of media? Prerequisite: Anthropology 201 or 211. Conference.

Anthropology 461 - Theories of Practice with Paul Silverstein

Full course for one semester. Social theorists have long struggled with delineating the precise relationship between social structure and human agency in the explanation of extant cultural forms and their transformations over time. This course explores one set of proposed solutions generally classified under the rubric of “practice theory.” Building from the social philosophies of Elias, Bourdieu, Giddens, and de Certeau, the course examines how practice theory has informed anthropological inquiry and constituted a response to seemingly determinist theories of human behavior associated with structuralism and structural functionalism. Contemporary anthropological work by Marshall Sahlins, Sherry Ortner, Michael Herzfeld, and the Comaroffs, among others, will be read in light of earlier disciplinary engagement with the structure-agency question, including by Manchester School ethnographers. Prerequisite: Anthropology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.