Courses

Fall 2019

Catastrophes across Cultures: The Anthropology of Disaster
What is the relationship between "catastrophe" and human beings, and how has "catastrophe" influenced the way we live in the world now? This course investigates various types of catastrophes/disasters around the world by mobilizing a variety of theoretical frameworks and case studies in the social sciences. The course uses an anthropological perspective as its principal lens to comparatively observe often forgotten historical calamities throughout the world. The course is designed to explore the intersection between catastrophe and culture and how catastrophic events can be a window through which to critically analyze society and vice versa.
Urban Anthropology
According to the UN, by 2050, two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities. Urban life -- whether or not that means living in close proximity to each other, interacting with infrastructure, or new experimentations with the built environment -- has an impact upon how we experience the world and our sense of place. In this class, we will discuss theory on urbanism, infrastructure, and urban anthropology, and we will conduct observations about the built environment in and around campus. This class should be of interest to those interested in urban theory, anthropology, or architecture.
Business Anthropology
Anthropology provides creative insights and solutions for tackling business problems often overlooked by more data-driven approaches. From the practical (e.g. how to design a user-friendly digital platform) to the ethical (e.g. what are the responsibilities of a corporation to society), this course examines how individual scholars and companies use anthropology to study, critique, and/or meet the needs of the private sector.
Native American and Indigenous Studies: An Introduction
This course will introduce students to the comparative study of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. We will take a broad hemispheric approach instead of focusing solely on the experiences of any particular native community, allowing students to both acquaint themselves with the diversity of indigenous communities and better understand the multitude of indigenous experiences--or, what it means to be indigenous--across regional contexts. How do processes of imperial expansionism and settler colonialisms shape the conditions within which indigenous Americans now live? How do native peoples relate to settler colonial governing bodies today?
Ethnography, Evidence and Experience
This course concerns how "experience" becomes ethnographic "evidence" and how the immediacies of participant-observation fieldwork bear on wide-angle questions about power/value hierarchies, historical and cultural context, and societal dynamics. Readings align with weekly memo and journal writing to cultivate students' ethnographic awareness of their own and others' embodied knowledge and the ethics, politics, and symbolic taken-for-granted dimensions of relationships, language, and more.
The Ethnographer's Craft
This course introduces students to "doing" anthropology through the study and practice of fieldwork and helps them develop tools needed to define/design their own 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 our research methods, our interpretations, and our representations of the cultures/subjects that we study.
Forensic Anthropology and Urban Bodies
Forensic anthropology involves medico-legal cases where human remains have lost "personhood" (an individual cannot be identified due to decomposition or destruction of unique personal features). We will learn techniques that biological anthropologists apply to these cases to identify certain social attributes. We will also blend both biological and social anthropology to analyze human variation and well-being in urban settings. Working with real-world data, students will identify and trace the intertwined physiological, social and environmental factors that have shaped the growth and development of Philadelphia-area children over decades.
Forensic Anthropology and Urban Bodies
Forensic anthropology involves medico-legal cases where human remains have lost "personhood" (an individual cannot be identified due to decomposition or destruction of unique personal features). We will learn techniques that biological anthropologists apply to these cases to identify certain social attributes. We will also blend both biological and social anthropology to analyze human variation and well-being in urban settings. Working with real-world data, students will identify and trace the intertwined physiological, social and environmental factors that have shaped the growth and development of Philadelphia-area children over decades.
Language, Identity, Power
Language determines our expressive capacities, represents our identities, and connects us across various platforms and cultures. This course introduces classical and contemporary approaches to studying language, focusing on three main areas: 1) language as a system of rules (structure), 2) language as a symbolic mechanism through which individuals and groups mark their presence (identity) and 3) language as a tool of communication (sign). The course examines various ways through which language molds our individual selves in cultures from Africa to the Americas to Asia to Europe: from organizing dreams and desires to shaping autobiographies.
Sensory Anthropology
This seminar engages the sensorium -- our apparatus of sense perception -- to explore the worlds people make and inhabit. How can our senses become avenues of learning, imagination, and connection with others? We study ethnographic texts and multi-modal works thematizing sensory faculties and synaesthesia, as well as movement, orientation, and temporality. We consider how "sensory impairment" and neurodiversity may and should affect cultural norms of personhood and well-being. We pay special attention to synergies between medical anthropology and sensory anthropology in research on pain, addiction, psychoactive substances, and ritual healing.
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.
Ethnography of Schools and Schooling
Social scientists use ethnographic methods to describe and analyze the range and variation of daily interactions in schools. Ethnographic study allows researchers the opportunity to examine power dynamics that influence the daily life of students, teachers, administrators and parents. Vivid, critical ethnography helps us discover how cultural traditions, expectations, and opportunities are passed down to the next generation and how they impact school outcomes. This class will explore educational ethnography and students will complete observations hours in local schools and prepare a descriptive, mini-ethnography of a school community.
History of Anthropological Theory
How do anthropological theories generate and critique the production of knowledge? How do diverse orientations seek to illuminate and question fundamental concepts and categories of social life, such as culture, power, agency, subjectivity, collectivity, and consciousness? This course examines key theoretical approaches that anthropologists have innovated. It also draws upon signal writings from social theory more broadly, tracing the dynamic interplays and engagements of anthropology with work in related fields. We attend throughout to the broader social and political contexts of theoretical developments.
History of Anthropological Theory
How do anthropological theories generate and critique the production of knowledge? How do diverse orientations seek to illuminate and question fundamental concepts and categories of social life, such as culture, power, agency, subjectivity, collectivity, and consciousness? This course examines key theoretical approaches that anthropologists have innovated. It also draws upon signal writings from social theory more broadly, tracing the dynamic interplays and engagements of anthropology with work in related fields. We attend throughout to the broader social and political contexts of theoretical developments.
Theoretical Orientations in Cultural Anthropology: Conspiracy Theory and Social Theory
What does it mean to theorize in paranoid times? Social theory shares with conspiracy theory an array of analytic tools for connecting seemingly disparate cultural practices, characterizing the consciousness and agency of political subjects, and accounting structurally for the invisible workings of power. This course will examine these intersections between conspiracy theory and social theory on epistemological and ethical grounds, asking what kinds of knowledge are enabled and what kinds of politics are empowered by conspiracy theories and by their debunking, and how theorists use different kinds of evidence to substantiate their claims.
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) 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 and digital humanities to think with nuclear things.
Rituals of Governing
The spiritual and the sacred hold enduring significance across many realms of political and social life. Anthropological studies productively unsettle standard assumptions in many aspects of conventional thought, which often presume the declining importance of religion and spirituality in political life. This course draws upon classic and contemporary anthropological works on a range of topics concerning cultures of governing, including ritual theory, divine rule, stranger-kings, witchcraft and magic, spirituality and embodiment, and law. Secondarily, the course engages materials from film, psychoanalysis, literature, and critical theory.
Proseminar in Anthropology
First term of a year-long course on sociocultural anthropology, required of first-year graduate students in anthropology and open to graduate students from other disciplines with the permission of the instructor. The seminar focuses on innovations in anthropological theorizing through writings that have historically shaped the field or revealed its shape as a distinctive discipline.
Co-seminar in Anthropology (Half-Term): Unfinished: Ethnographic Theory
This seminar explores the plastic power and unfinishedness of human subjects and lifeworlds, advancing the conceptual terrain of an anthropology of becoming. We explore the ways ethnographic subjects (their bodies, the worlds they inhabit, and the structural forces they must navigate) all grow out of themselves, becoming other in their entanglements. As we consider the array of affects, ideas, forces, and objects that shape contemporary modes of existence and dissect regimes of truth, we explore how ethnographic subjects can become alternative figures of thought and restore a sense of movement and possibility to ethics and politics.
Co-seminar in Anthropology (Half-Term): Ethnographic Narrative: Beyond the Gaze
Over the course of six weeks we wrestle with, and return again and again to the following question: How do anthropologists make use of narrative forms to displace the gaze of the voyeur by addressing people and groups that are implicated in the social problems they encounter? Drawing from critical ethnographic methodologies, this class opens up a space to think about ethnography as a series of purposeful exchanges in writing. The ethnographies that we grapple with in this class are not 'of and about peoples,' but 'with and for the people who are its subjects,' a future in ethnography that Michael Fischer (2018) pushes us toward.
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.
Japanese Society and Culture
During the latter part of the 20th century, Japan became the world's second largest economy and a highly technologized, wealthy, and ordered society. While Americans once regarded Japan as a land of "corporate warriors," in the 21st century, scholars are looking to Japan to understand global issues such as labor instability, environmentalism, longevity, and the demographic crisis related to rapid aging. We explore key social issues in Japan today including gender equality, labor, school-to-work transition, public health, and popular cultural critiques of modernity and technology.
The Quest for Health: Contemporary Debates on Harm, Medicine, and Ethics
The course considers the ethical predicaments of medicine and public health in the context of global inequality, aging, and medical entrepreneurialism. Increasingly sophisticated forms of bio-medical care shape our lives and alter social relationships, producing both harm and benefit. New medical treatments are generated continually through research and clinical trials. Topics include: ethics of population health; chronicity vs. acute disease; anthropology of capitalism; big food, big agriculture; embodied health movements; citizen science; life extension; pharmaceuticalization; and moves to "demedicalize" health.
Japan Anthropology in Historical Perspective
The course concerns Japan studies in the context of theories of capitalism, personhood, democracy, gender, and modernity. We consider the emergence of Japan as a place to think with in the American social sciences after World War II and the development of ideas about area studies in the context of the Cold War and post Cold War conjunctures. Additionally the course considers topics in which Japan are relevant to thinking about global issues, including global capitalism, temporary labor, biopolitics, environmental consciousness, media culture and consumer culture, work-life balance, and the demographic crisis related to rapid aging.
Critical Perspectives in Global Health
Global health brings together a vast array of actors addressing urgent health issues and inequality worldwide with unprecedented financial and technological resources. The course is a critical analysis of the social, political, and economic processes underlying this expanding medical and humanitarian field. As we scrutinize the design, evidence-making practices and values informing global health, we will place interventions in historical perspective, gauge their impact, and explore new paradigms and frontiers of action. Students are encouraged to find new and collaborative ways to understand and act in and through the field of global health.
Archaeology of South America
South America continues to be an object of fascination for travelers from outside the continent, eager to encounter an exotic landscape of rainforests and hidden cities. This course pushes aside this romantic view to explore the true cultural and ecological diversity of a continent with over 15,000 years of human history. We will engage with the archaeology of South America as a dynamic field of discussion and controversy, examining topics such as the initial peopling of the Americas, social complexity in the Amazon, Inca and Spanish imperialism, and questions of decolonizing the discipline.
Studies in African Performance
This course presents a cross-disciplinary and multi-modal approach to African music, dance, and culture. Co-taught by a master drummer and choreographer (Tarpaga) and an ethnomusicologist (Steingo), students will explore African and African diasporic performance arts through readings, discussions, listening, film analysis, music performance, and composition.
Seminar in Ethnomusicology
This seminar exposes participants to both canonical and cutting-edge work in ethnomusicology. By the end of the semester, students will have a thorough knowledge of key question animating the discipline. Topics covered include: music, race, and nation; the politics of representation; gender, media, and performance; the production of space through sound. Classes will be run in a seminar-style format emphasizing critical discussion and listening.
Ethnography of Gender and Islam
The 21st century has witnessed the explosion of public and scholarly interest in gender in Islamic cultures. Within this context, anthropology has advanced path-breaking approaches in diverse localities from the Middle East to the United States. This course surveys theoretical and ethnographic approaches to the study of women, gender and sexuality in Islamic cultures, focusing on work written in the last decade.
Seminar in Modern Spanish-American Literature: The Long 19th Century: Mimesis, Alterity, and Representation
This seminar explores the role of mimesis in political representation and state formation in Latin America, focusing on some of its most powerful and enduring symbolic articulations in the massive legal, literary, and scientific archive it generated during the nineteenth century-a long and turbulent century, characterized by revolutions, mass political mobilization, subaltern uprisings,utopian thinking, and sweeping modernization. Drawing upon Taussig's work on mimesis and alterity, we study how the modern political produces spaces of equality and of extreme differentiation.

Course Offerings

Prior Semesters

Taught by Anthropology faculty:
Freshman Seminars 
Summer Courses 

Anthropology courses:
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