Political Bodies: The Social Anatomy of Power & Difference
Students will learn about the human body in its social, cultural and political contexts. The framing is sociological rather than biomedical, attentive to cultural meanings, institutional practices, politics and social problems. The course explicitly discusses bodies in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, health, geography and citizenship status, carefully examining how social differences come to appear natural. Analyzing clinics, prisons, border zones, virtual realities and more, students develop a conceptual toolkit to analyze how society "gets under the skin", producing differential exposure to premature death.
Introduction to Anthropology
This course is an introduction to anthropology and key topics in becoming and being human. Anthropology looks at the human experience through diverse lenses integrating biology, ecology, language, history, philosophy, and the day to day lives of peoples from across the globe. Anthropology has things to say about being human, it seeks to make the familiar a bit strange and the strange quite familiar. We will take critical reflexive and reflective approaches in asking about key aspects of being human (like war/peace, race/racism, sex/gender, childhood/parenting, religion and the human imagination, and human relations to other species).
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.
Ethnography, Evidence and Experience
This course wonders over ethnography as a mode of anthropological attunement, asking, and dreaming. Across a range of ethnographic approaches, it tracks the specific commitments and experiments through which anthropological thinkers pose questions. It considers the affordances, limitations, and possibilities of anthropological work as fundamentally open-ended political, conceptual, and ethical project. We will continuously return to the human of anthropology, its anthropos, as a set of horizons and projects. Topics include universalism and particularity, experience and epistemology, anti-racism, and more-than-human ethnography.
Through a combination of classic and contemporary anthropological readings, this course considers how anthropologists locate "the political" and study it ethnographically. Drawing upon anthropological theory and ethnographic study, the course examines the ways in which social groups enact, contest, reproduce and transform power relations in different contexts. The course begins by introducing classic anthropological studies, followed by ethnographies that analyze the dynamics between nation and state. The final half of the course studies emergent political formations and power relations under a changing global political order.
The goal of this course is to understand what queer lifeworlds are like in diverse cultural and sociopolitical contexts. What is the relationship between queerness and larger factors like culture, coloniality, global capitalism, religion, and the state? What counts as queer and whose recognition matters? How do people carve queer spaces for themselves and what resources do they draw upon in doing so? What factors influence and curtail these possibilities? Is queer always radical and against the norm? We will answer such questions by reading ethnographies, theories, and biographies that focus on queer lifeworlds across the world.
Culture, Media, and Data
Students in this course chart media and data as agents of social inequality and cultural ideology, and learn how people subvert them. We excavate the assumptions that frame representations of reality and difference in documentary film, track the global circulation of mass media, see indigenous filmmakers as cultural activists, and explore the datafication of organic life and analogue culture. To make the most of our online setting, we adopt tools of media-making and data visualization to probe our objects of study from the inside. From there, we learn to critique them as human constructions and to produce new counter narratives and images.
Ethics in Context: Uses and Abuses of Deception and Disclosure
Magic tricks delight us; biomedicine and other human sciences use deception in research (e.g., placeboes); and everyday politeness may obscure painful truths. With deception and disclosure as springboards, this course explores the contextual ambiguity of personal and professional ethics with special attention to knowledge control. Topics include: social fictions in daily life across cultures; the tangled histories of science, stage magic, and movies; ethically controversial practices in popular culture (reality TV, fake news), the arts (fictive memoirs), academia (sharing/plagiarizing), self presentation (racial and sexual passing), and more.
History of Anthropological Theory
This course begins with a discussion of the current state of affairs in anthropological theory to ask what lines of thought got us to where we are today. This includes situating anthropological theory within the context of social and political theory and seeing how post-structuralism, post-colonial theory, race theory, and feminism reshaped the discipline in a variety of ways. Throughout will aim to give students sharper tools to utilize the analytic power of theory to consider problematics of the field of anthropology writ large today, and to mobilize in the writing of the senior thesis in anthropology.
Race, Gender, Empire
How is empire made? How is it imagined and reimagined, mutating and creating new global relations? What are its social, political and material signatures? In this seminar we will explore how empire's derivative manifestations and entrenched mechanisms (e.g. race, gender or capitalism) influence our understandings of history and the structuring of our social relationships. Engaging transdisciplinary works we will focus on how empire constructs contradictory logics of belonging in localized contexts through the formation of intimate, biopolitical and ecological relationships between people, territories and collective institutions of governance.
Alternative Economies: Before (and after) Growth
Protestors against climate change increasingly identify economic growth as a key culprit of the climate crisis. But what is the alternative to economic growth? To imagine a world 'after growth' we need to consider how the imperative of growth emerged in the first place. In this course, we read strands of thought about 'alternative economies' that disappeared from the canon in order to think ethnographically, analytically, and politically about calls for a future after endless growth. We will focus on entanglements of the concept of growth with colonialism, nature, social equity, and 19th century liberal ideas of the 'perfectability of man.'
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): Critical Race Theory
What theoretical approaches are available to ethnographers for making sense of race and inequality? This class places Critical Race Theory in conversation with foundational anthropological theories of race and ethnicity. Students in this course explore the usefulness of contemporary legal theory, structuralism, pragmatism, Marxian analysis, and interpretivism for understanding and writing about race and difference.
Co-seminar in Anthropology (Half-Term): The Self and the Person
This seminar explores concepts of self and person in anthropology and psychoanalysis. In many cultural traditions, the 'self' is an important object of speculation, analysis, and power. Rather than focus on the philosophical concept's agency and structure, we concentrate on relational and intersubjective approaches. We examine three questions: How is the self formed? Under what conditions can the self change? What is the self's relationship to the person? The goal of the seminar is to arrive at a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the self as an object of study, and of the ethical and social implications of this understanding.
Medical Anthropology: Foundations and Futures
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This course surveys Olmec and related material culture spanning roughly 2000-500 B.C., including architecture and monumental sculpture, ceramic vessels and figurines, and exquisite small-scale sculpture in jade and other precious materials. Of central theoretical importance is the question of how we understand and interpret art from a distant past, especially without the aid of contemporaneous written records. We will focus on original works of art, including works in the Princeton University Art Museum and in regional collections. Issues of authenticity, quality, and provenance related to these works will also be considered.
Performance in Extraordinary Times: Documenting and Analyzing the Present
Performance and crisis have always been partners: entangled in epidemics, state violence and resistance, and austerity regimes, as well as the crisis ordinariness of settler colonialism and structural racism. This seminar examines performance in our extraordinary present using autoethnography, ethnography, and interviews. Course readings and viewings offer historical and contemporary case studies. Guests will discuss the paired challenges of antiracism and the COVID-19 pandemic for performance organizations. Students will collaborate on analyses of dance and performance organizations' responses to COVID-19 and anti-racist imperatives.
Critical Perspectives in Global Health
Global health brings together a vast array of actors addressing urgent health and environmental issues 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 shaping global health, we will place interventions in historical perspective, gauge their impact, and explore new paradigms in-the-making. Students are encouraged to find new, collaborative ways to understand and act in and through the field of global health.
Environmental Sovereignties: Indigenous Social Movements in the Americas
In this course we will examine how Indigenous peoples in the Americas have mobilized in the protection of environmental rights, against extractivism, and in defense of natural resource, territorial, and political sovereignty. We will draw connections and explore differences in the panorama of Indigenous social movements in hemispheric perspective, and the nature of state and elite responses to these protest movements. In so doing, we will draw out a broader understanding of how flashpoint moments of protest expose the political, social, and colonial fault lines that underpin everyday life in the Americas.
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.