Courses

Spring 2020

Economic Life in Cultural Context
This course explores the social and cultural contexts of economic experience in the US and around the world. It considers how the consumption, production, and circulation of goods--today and in times past--become invested with personal and collective meanings. It pays special attention to symbolic and political dimensions of work, property (material, intellectual, and cultural), wealth, and taste (i.e., "needs" and "wants"). Additionally, participants do a bit of anthropological fieldwork by drawing everyday experiences systematically into conversation with more familiar academic and media sources.
Medical Anthropology
How might anthropology and the humanities deepen our understanding of illness, healing, and cure? This course explores the cross-cultural significance of medicine and present-day struggles for wellbeing in the U.S. and comparatively. We will interpret illness narratives and medical stories and analyze therapeutic itineraries, health disparities, and caregiving. While attending to human plasticity and the ways biosocial and medical realities shape each other, we will learn ethnographic methods, engage in critical ethical debates, and experiment with modes of expression. Students will develop community-engaged projects.
The Self and the Person: An Introduction
This course explores the concepts self and person in anthropology, psychoanalysis, and popular culture. In many cultural traditions, from Buddhism in Asia to psychoanalysis and anthropology in the West, the "self"is an important object of speculation, analysis, and power. The course examines three questions: How is the self formed? Under what conditions can the self change? What is the self's relation to the person and the digital? It will explore these questions through written and visual material, ethnography, psychoanalysis, literature, philosophy, and film.
Intoxicating Cultures: Alcohol in Everyday Life
Alcohol is not just an intoxicating drink, but an "embodied material culture" embedded in our experiences of everyday life. What does our relationship with alcohol reveal about individual and collective identities? What does it say about the social and economic realities of a globalized world today? Drawing from literature in anthropology, alcohol studies, and social theory, this course asks students to think critically about the relationship between alcohol and culture in both their own lives and in the lives of others. Readings primarily focus on alcohol production and consumption in Africa.
The Ethnographer's Craft
This course introduces students to "doing" anthropology through the study and practice of fieldwork and helps them develop toolkits needed to define/design/conduct ethnographic research projects. We discuss and put into practice ethnographic techniques, exploring how ethnographers form their topics of study and deploy theoretical resources to develop research questions. We study different approaches to engaging with people, place and things in ethnographic fieldsites and examine social, political, epistemological and ethical dimensions of research methods, interpretations, and representations of the cultures/subjects that we study.
Current Issues in Anthropology: Corporations and Society
From the accounting scandals of Enron to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, corporations are often an object of scorn for their unethical profit-seeking behavior. However, they are also a source of contested hope and livelihood as seen in common political rhetoric that implores US automotive manufacturers to keep their factories from moving overseas, citing their responsibilities as "job creators" who provide employment for local communities. Drawing from literature in anthropology, history, and business studies, this course critiques the concept of the corporation and examines its role in and responsibilities to society.
The Anthropology of Law
How do legal concepts and categories - such as rights, duties, obligations, liabilities, risks, injuries, evidence, redress, and even personhood - come to appear as fundamental, natural, and universal? How are seemingly essential natures of law, in fact, constructed and produced? What is the role of culture in fashioning key forms of consciousness, power, truth, freedom, violence, and justice? This course draws upon exemplary anthropological studies of law to investigate and illuminate the conceptions, operations, and transformations of law across many cultural and historical realms. The course also draws upon court cases and legal theory.
Gangsters and Troublesome Populations
Since the 1920s, the term "gang" has been used to describe all kinds of collectives, from groups of well-dressed mobsters to petty criminals and juvenile delinquents. In nearly a century of research the only consistency in their characterization is as internal Other from the vantage of the law. This class will investigate how the category of "the gang" serves to provoke imaginaries of racial unrest and discourses of "dangerous," threatening subjects in urban enclaves. More broadly we will examine the methods and means by which liberal democratic governments maintain their sovereign integrity through the containment of threatening populations.
Making History: Museums, Monuments, and Cultural Heritage
This course contends with how shared histories are collectively made and remade in contemporary society. We will interrogate the meaning of history, memory, heritage, and "the past." What is at stake in how we represent the past? What do we mean when we make a claim on history as "ours"? What role do museums, monuments, and memorials play in the formation and maintenance of collective identities? Can practices like public history and archaeology promote collective healing?
Topics in Anthropology: Anthropology of Human Rights
This course will critically examine a variety of arguments for and against the project of human rights. After situating anthropological approaches within interdisciplinary debates concerning philosophical foundations and historical origins, we will locate contemporary anthropological approaches within the discipline's broader history of, in the words of one scholar, both "skepticism" and "embrace" of human rights. We then focus on anthropological contributions to the study of human rights, from debates over universalism and relativism to ethnographies of human rights practice "from the inside," to critiques of this moral-political project.
Nuclear Things and Toxic Colonization
How do global engagements with nuclear things affect latent colonization in contemporary and future ecologies and generations? How are toxic effects of nuclear things (re)presented through scientific, technological, political or cultural intervention? We explore material, technoscientific, and cultural transmutations of nuclear things (radioisotopes, bombs, medical devices, energy, waste) and the work of (re)making those transmutations (in)visible. The course draws from a variety of theoretical frameworks / case studies in science and technology studies, the social sciences, art and environmental humanities to think with nuclear things.
Visible Evidence: Documentary Film and Data Visualization
This course revolves around a week-long trip to Princeton's Mpala wildlife research centre in Kenya. On campus, students learn critical methods in documentary filmmaking, data visualization, and mapping. At Mpala, students collect data for visualizations that explain the complexity of scientific research and they shoot video for films that situate scientific knowledge in experiences of people at the Centre and the region. Devoted to sustainable human-wildlife coexistence, Mpala is also an ideal setting for using visual media to explore multispecies ethnography and the entanglements between human societies and the lives of animals and plants.
Disability, Difference, and Race
While diseases are often imagined to be scientific or medical conditions, they are also social constructs. In the 19th century the condition of Dysaesthesia Aethiopis (an ailment that made its sufferers "mischievous") was considered nearly universal among free blacks. Today AIDS and tuberculosis are often associated with personal attributes, while the social forces at work to structure risk for acquiring these illnesses are glossed over. We will examine work from anthropologists, sociologists, historians, queer studies scholars and scientists who work on issues of disability to investigate how people challenge contemporary visions of society.
Proseminar in Anthropology
Second term of a year long course on sociocultural anthropology, required for first-year graduate students in anthropology, and open to graduate students in other disciplines with the permission of the instructor. The seminar focuses on debates generated and sustained by contemporary anthropology's engagements with ethnographic fieldwork and writing.
Interdisciplinary Design Studio
The course focuses on the social forces that shape design thinking. Its objective is to introduce architectural and urban design issues to build design and critical thinking skills from a multidisciplinary perspective. The studio is team-taught from faculty across disciplines to expose students to the multiple forces within which design operates.
Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art
This course focuses on key issues of 20th and 21st c. Latin American art. A thematic survey and general methodological introduction, we will treat emblematic works and movements, from Mexican muralism and Indigenism to experiments with abstraction, pop, conceptualism, and performance. Questions discussed include: What is Latin American art? What is modernism in Latin America? What is the legacy of colonialism? How do Latin American artists engage transnational networks of solidarity under conditions of repression? How can postcolonial, decolonial, and feminist theory illuminate the art and criticism produced in and about Latin America?
Introduction to Dance Across Cultures
Bharatanatyam, butoh, hip hop, and salsa are some of the dances that will have us travel from temples and courtyards to clubs, streets, and stages around the world. Through studio sessions, readings and viewings, field research, and discussions, this seminar will introduce students to dance across cultures with special attention to issues of migration, cultural appropriation, gender and sexuality, and spiritual and religious expression. Students will also learn basic elements of participant observation research. Guest artists will teach different dance forms. No prior dance experience is necessary.
Mind, Body, and Bioethics in Japan and Beyond
The course addresses ethical issues in medicine, health, and health care. How are medicine and ethics shaped by cultural beliefs and social institutions? Topics include: mental illness and care; the politics of disability; notions of life and death; organ transfer; end-of-life care; citizen science; reproductive technologies; prognosis and disclosure; alcoholism and co-dependency; and health care allocation. The course explores the relationship of health care to other forms of social care (such as the family).
Topics in the Anthropology of Japan
The course is a research-oriented seminar that supports students to undertake an original research project on Japanese society and culture. Previous student research projects have included: the Japanese school lunch program; mental health discourse on the internet; the language of Japanese rap; and alternative education in Japan. This year I am hoping to have visitors from Japanese enterprises in New Jersey. We may also invite Japanese residents of Princeton who lead citizens groups concerning aging, retirement, gender, and work life balance.
Pre-Columbian Peoples of Tropical America and Their Environments
The pre-European history of Amerind cultures and their associated environments in the New World tropics will be studied. Topics to be covered include the peopling of tropical America; development of hunting/gathering and agricultural economies; neotropical climate and vegetation history; and the material culture and social organization of native Americans. Field and laboratory experiences will incorporate methods and problems in field archaeology, paleoenthnobotany and paleoecology, and archaeozoology.
Tropical Biology
Tropical Biology 338 is an intensive three-week field course based in lowland rainforest in Panama. The origins, maintenance, and major interactions of terrestrial biota in tropical rainforests will be examined. The course will involve travel to three different field sites, field journaling, and completion of independent field based research projects.
Becoming Latino in the U.S.
History 306 studies all Latinos in the US, from those who have (im)migrated from across Latin America to those who lived in what became US lands. The course covers the historical origins of debates over land ownership, the border, assimilation expectations, discrimination, immigration regulation, intergroup differences, civil rights activism, and labor disputes. History 306 looks transnationally at Latin America's history by exploring shifts in US public opinion and domestic policies. By the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding and appreciation of how Latinos became an identifiable group in the US.
Modern Brazilian History
This course examines the history of modern Brazil from its independence in the 1820s to the present day. The lectures, readings, and discussions chart conflict, change, and continuity within Brazilian society, highlighting the role played by disenfranchised social actors in shaping the country's history. Topics include the meanings of political citizenship; slavery and abolition; race relations; indigenous populations; uneven economic development as well as Brazil's experiences with authoritarianism and globalization.
Borderlands, Border Lives
The international border looms large over current national and international political debates. While this course will consider borders across the world, it will focus on the U.S.-Mexico border, and then on the Guatemala-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border. This course examines the history of the formation of the U.S. border from the colonial period to the present. Borders represent much more than just political boundaries between nation states. The borderlands represents the people who live between two cultures and two nations. This course will also study those individuals who have lived in areas surrounding borders or crossed them.
Colonial Latin America to 1810
Covers the history, historiography and theory of Latin America's early modernity. Readings offer a vehicle to discuss questions such as why some types of historical questions seem more urgent than others at different times and what are the origins and meanings of historiographical shifts over the evolution of the field. To explore such questions and find out what problems of past historiographical traditions remain unsolved and deserve a new look, both classic texts and more recent works that display new approaches are read, often in counterpoint. Students of early modernity, colonial empires and world history will profit from the course.
Interpretation: The Problem of Context
The need to think "contextually" is a basic premise shared by many scholarly practices of interpretation, including cross-cultural comparison and translation in anthropology, comparative literature, and beyond. But what exactly does context mean in these practices, how does it work, and where does it end? How does context help us frame particularity and generality, periphery and center, past and present? How does it support normative positions of relativism or universalism? In this seminar, we explore context as a concept and tool, through readings in a variety of disciplines as well as specific research projects, including our own.
Social Justice: The Latin American City
This course deals with difficult questions of how urban social justice is understood, demanded, pursued, and meted out.The UN reports that more than half of the world's population now lives in cities, a transformation especially profound in Latin America. In this course, we will critically assess both this urban terrain and the tools and theories we use to apprehend it, from `environmental racism' to the 'circuits of capital', and from the 'Pink Tide' to the 'postpolitical'.
From Zapata to the Cold War: Latin America's 20th Century Revolutions
In this lecture course we will analyze key 20th century Latin American revolutions within their regional and global context, focusing on the ideologies that motivated insurgents and the legacies left in the wake of national transformation. We will read broadly across the literature on Latin American revolutions, analyzing historical arguments, comparing and contrasting existing narratives, and building our own arguments about revolutionary processes. Crucially, we will consider how revolutionary dreams met with violent counterrevolution in the crucible of cold war.
Immigration Debates in the United States
This seminar is a course in policy analysis and journalism writing, focusing on immigration from Latin America to the United States. We will explore the historical and social factors that have made immigration a bitterly divisive issue, as context to examine current policies of the Trump administration. Reporting and writing assignments will allow students to explore immigration realities in and around Princeton, and to practice different voices of journalism, from neutral news prose to opinion editorials to tweet blasts. We will consider the role of journalists in contributing to fact-finding in the polarized national debate.
Amazonia, The Last Frontier: History, Culture, and Power
This course focuses on the Brazilian Amazon, the world's largest tropical forest and the ancestral home of over one million indigenous peoples, now threatened by deforestation and fires. Further degradation will have disastrous consequences for its peoples, biodiversity, rainfall and agriculture, and global climate change. Combining perspectives from the social sciences and the humanities, we will critically examine projects to colonize, develop, and conserve the Amazon over time and reflect on the cultural wisdoms of its guardians. Students will work together to develop alternative visions to safeguard the forest for Brazil and the planet.
Towards a Material History of Latin America
This class looks beyond traditional archival approaches to explore the postconquest history of Latin America through an analysis of objects, landscapes, and the human body as "alternative archives". Beginning with the era of European invasions in the 15th and 16th centuries, we will explore the material traces of colonial and postcolonial lives and examine the ways that archaeology, environmental science, forensics, and art history can shed new light on historical actors and narratives that would otherwise remain marginalized or even invisible.
Poverty, Inequality and Social Mobility in Latin America
The course will discuss research on poverty, social mobility and income inequality among persons in Latin America in the last two decades. We will look at empirical results and the theories used to explain them. While we are mainly interested in results, every section of the course will deal with the underlying theories used in different studies and their implicit or explicit policy recommendations. The course combines History, Political Economy, Economics and Sociology. Previous knowledge of statistics, economics or quantitative sociology is not necessary.
Secularism
This course introduces students to classic and recent theoretical debates about secularism and secularization. We will consider a range of historical-ethnographic examples, focusing particularly on the limits of secularism in its modern encounter with Islam and Muslim communities in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America. By comparing the realities of everyday life in a variety of national contexts, we will ask what secularism offers as a human way of experiencing the world, a mode of legitimating norms and constructing authority, and a method of telling stories and creating myths about human values and historical progress.
Topics in Brazilian Cultural and Social History: Sound and Sense
How do emotion and movement appear in Brazilian music? While music is a form of translation and dialogue everywhere, the song in Brazil is an especially porous form, capable of daily reinvention of languages, traditions and habits, thus questioning history and politics. How are identity, sexuality, orality and writing worked out in musical genres such as samba, hip hop, rock? How is the African Diaspora cyphered in Brazilian music? How does that process differ from other diasporic communities? Is Brazilian music really Brazilian? These are some of the questions the seminar will address through listening and scholarly discussion.
Roma (Gypsies) in Eastern Europe: The Dynamics of Culture
"Roma (Gypsies) in Eastern Europe" treats Romani history, cultural identity, folklore, music, religion, and representations in literature and film. Roma have been enslaved, targeted for annihilation, and persecuted for centuries. Yet they have repeatedly adapted and adjusted to the circumstances surrounding them, persisting as distinctive ethnic communities while simultaneously contributing to and forming part of the dominant worlds in which they live. This course offers novel perspectives on ethnic minorities and the dynamics of culture in Slavic and East European society.
Language & Subjectivity: Theories of Formation
The purpose of the course is to examine key texts of the twentieth century that established the fundamental connection between language structures and practices on the one hand, and the formation of selfhood and subjectivity, on the other. In particular, the course focuses on theories that emphasize the role of formal elements in producing meaningful discursive and social effects. Works of Russian formalists and French (post)-structuralists are discussed in connection with psychoanalytic and anthropological theories of formation.
Continuity and Discontinuity in Colonial Latin America
An overview of literary and cultural production in the Americas before and after the Spanish invasion. Topics include pre-Columbian visual and verbal expressions; discovery, invention, conquest, and resistance; the historiography of the New World; native depictions of the colonial world; gender, grammar and power. We read texts in a variety of genres that were written and performed in numerous linguistic and visual codes. The Native American chronicles will include texts written in alphabetic script as well as visual representations that draw elements from pre-colonial forms of iconic script.
Borges for Beginners
This seminar grapples with the question of authorship and meaning in the literature of Jorge Luis Borges, the legendary Argentine writer whose convoluted fictions continue puzzling readers. Borges is a foundational figure. Gabriel García Márquez and Paul Auster, and philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, are all indebted to Borges. Using different perspectives, from philosophy and aesthetics to politics and cultural analysis, we will study Borges's thematic and formal obsessions: time and memory; labyrinths; reading as a form of writing; and the universality of Argentine local traditions such as tango and gaucho culture.
Mexico's Tenth Muse: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Studies a variety of texts (poetry, comedia, mystery play, letters) written by the most celebrated female Hispanic writer of the seventeenth century, widely considered to be the first feminist of the American hemisphere. Discussions include: rhetoric and feminism; Sor Juana's literary forbearers; freedom and repression in the convent; correspondence with other writers in the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru; performances of gender and sexuality in colonial Mexico. Sessions to view and analyze first editions of Sor Juana's works of the Legaspi collection will be held at the Rare Books and Special Collections in Firestone.
Drag Kings: An Archeology of Spectacular Masculinities in Latinx America
The figure of the drag king has been practically absent from Latinx American critical analysis. Taking what we call "spectacular masculinity" as our starting point, a hyperbolic masculinity that without warning usurps the space of privilege granted to the masculinity of men, this course revises the staging of spectacular masculinities as a possibility of generating a crisis in heterosexism. We will highlight notable antecedents of the contemporary DK show, and study the hegemonic masculinity and its exceptional models through a critical technology that turns up the volume on its dramatization and its prosthetic/cosmetic conditions.
Workshop on Contemporary Cuban Arts
Havana is famous for its thriving cultural scene. This course will offer an introduction to some of the most dynamic contemporary works in theater, film, dance, performance, visual arts, and literature. Students will attend performances and meet theater and film directors, artists and poets. Each student will conduct an independent research project working closely with one of these authors.
Havana: A Cultural History
This course will offer a cultural history of how Havana evolved from a sleepy colonial city in 1900 to rising as one of the cultural and architectural capitals of Latin America and the world by the 1950s. We will study the urban development of the early 20th century, the adoption of modernism and International Style in architecture, and the tensions between private enterprise and public projects.
Puerto Ricans Under U.S. Empire: Memory, Diaspora, and Resistance
This seminar examines the ethical and historical dimensions of the 2019 Summer Puerto Rican Protests. Developing within an ongoing financial catastrophe and the trauma of Hurricane María, most issues raised today are deeply rooted in the history of U.S. imperial domination since 1898. The course aims to rethink questions of second-class citizenship, colonial capitalism, militarization, ecocide and massive migrations, as well as gender, sexual and racial inequalities. Special focus on how musical, artistic, religious, political, and literary traditions shape memory and resistance in Puerto Rico and in its vast diasporic communities.
Reality R&D: Designing Speculative Futures
Operating at the intersection of art, science and technology, this course investigates how scientific theories shape aspects of culture and society. We will engage in the practice of "speculative design", creating sculptures, wearables, and objects that envision different futures, while reflecting on social, political, and ethical implications of various technologies. Students will develop skills in industrial design, physical computing, and fabrication, as well as sensing and responsive technologies (including hardware/software integration, sensors, micro-projection, biometric sensing, etc), while applying them to critical social discourse.

Course Offerings

Prior Semesters

Taught by Anthropology faculty:
Freshman Seminars 
Summer Courses 

Anthropology courses:
2019-2020 Fall / Spring
2018-2019 Fall / Spring
2017-2018 Fall / Spring
2016-2017 Fall / Spring
2015-2016 Fall / Spring
2014-2015 Fall / Spring
2013-2014 Fall / Spring
2012-2013 Fall / Spring