Courses

Spring 2021

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.
Human Evolution
Humans have a deep history, one that informs our contemporary reality. Understanding our evolutionary history is understanding both what we have in common with other primates and other hominins, and what happened over the last 7 to 10 million years since our divergence from the other African ape lineages. More specifically, the story of the human is centered in what happened the ~2.5 million year history of our own genus (Homo). This class outlines the history of our lineage and offers an anthropological and evolutionary explanation for what this all means for humans today, and why we should care.
Anthropology of Religion: Religion, Ethics, Social Life
What is religion? And what is religion for anthropology? Is it centered on beliefs or representations or practices or rites? What do we study when we study religion? What do people get out of their engagement with religion? Is justice possible within the framework of religion today? What is the force of religious worldviews in shaping people's ideas about how to live? How does technology mediate religious experience? How does globalization impact religious forms, experiences, and identities? These are some of the questions we will address in this course through our reading of ethnographic, theoretical, and critical texts.
Policing and Militarization Today
This class aims to explore transnational issues in policing. Drawing heavily upon anthropological methods and theory, we aim neither to vindicate nor contest the police's right to use force (whether a particular instance was a violation of law), but instead, to contribute to the understanding of force (its forms, justifications, interpretations). The innovative transnational approach to policing developed during the semester will allow for a cross-cultural comparative analysis that explores larger rubrics of policing in a comprehensive social scientific framework. We hope that you are ready to explore these exciting and urgent issues with us.
Urban Anthropology
This course provides an introduction to how the ethnographic method, with its focus on empirical observation and description, intersects with and diverges from classic approaches to researching the urban, a certain kind of social formation. Drawing upon a range of examples from across different cultural and historical contexts, we will consider the political dilemmas and possibilities associated with cities shaped by industrial capitalism, histories of colonialism, and emergent, transnational processes. The final part of the course will study the relationship between the refugee camp and city.
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?
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.
Psychological Anthropology
This course addresses the social relations and cultural contexts in which mental health, mental illness, and medical knowledge about the psyche are entangled and produced. We engage cross-cultural approaches to mental conflicts and pathologies: psychoanalysis, biomedical psychiatry, ethnopsychiatry, transcultural psychiatry, and religious and "alternative" practices of diagnosis and healing. Drawing on ethnographic and clinical studies as well as documentary films, we examine how lines are drawn between normal and pathological, and explore the intertwining of psyche, body, and morality in human experience and behavior.
Revolt
Talk about revolt and resistance is everywhere. But what do those words mean? In this course we will think about revolt and resistance by focusing on the case of the Middle East in a global context. We will study the "Arab Spring," the history of revolt in the Middle East, Occupy Wall Street, and different perspectives on what revolt and resistance mean. Readings draw on social theory, anthropology, sociology, history and the arts.
Culture and Power in China
This course explores the entanglements of culture, science, and politics in China, with a concentration on "China's short 20th Century," especially the cultural, technological, and political worlds of Reform China, from 1978 to present. Topics include debates over Chinese modernity and international relation, population politics, minority governance, environmental concerns, and China's diasporas.
Reading Africa: Anthropological Approaches to the Continent
How are anthropologists writing about Africa today? What are their theoretical and thematic preoccupations? How do they stylistically represent the everyday lives of Africans? We will do a close reading of seven full-length ethnographies that chronicle the rich diversity of cultures on the continent. From the production of shea butter by indigenous women, to the crisis in Darfur, the hope and dreams of American Visa lottery winners, the bloody conflict between the international community and Somali pirates, we will read a wide range of ethnographies that challenge prevailing Western stereotypes about what life is really like on the continent.
Race and Medicine
Why do certain populations have longer life expectancies? Is it behavior, genes, structural inequalities? And why should the government care? This course unpacks taken-for-granted concepts like race, evidence-based medicine, and even the public health focus on equalizing life expectancies. From questions of racism in the clinic to citizenship and the Affordable Care Act, 'Race and Medicine' takes students on a journey of rethinking what constitutes social justice in health care.
Topics in Anthropology: Decolonization
Recent developments have seen a resurgence in the use of the term "decolonization." This course examines the significance of decolonization, beginning with the post-World War II conjuncture and following shifts and continuities in uses of the term both in social theory and by social and political movements. Rather than studying the process country-by-country, we explore decolonization through intellectual, social and political histories of Négritude, Arab existentialism and self-determination. The latter third of the course, we explore changes to the meaning of decolonization when reconceptualized beyond a specific conjuncture, period or age.
Myth-busting Race and Sex: Anthropology, Biology, and 'Human Natures'
Two major myths-about race and sex-have a negative impact on our society and inhibit an accurate understanding of what it means to be human. These myths create a false set of societally accepted "truths" that in turn cause a range of problems. Busting deeply ingrained myths about human nature requires some effort. It means breaking the stranglehold of simplicity in our view of what is natural and forcing ourselves to realize that being human is very complicated. It means challenging common sense and our reliance on generalities and popular perception, and actually delving into the gritty details of what we know humans actually are and do.
Memory, Trauma, Accountability
How do humans deal with traumatic loss through memory? We focus on three major approaches to memory: psychoanalysis (Freud), social organization (Halbwachs), associative temporalities (Sebald), and explore different genres in which the memory of loss is retained or displaced. We consider the memory of traumatic events in empirical cases individually and collectively and from different cultural landscapes and theoretical perspectives. A better understanding of the memory of loss and the social forms and histories in which this memory remains active will improve our approaches to cultural observation, documentation, analysis and interpretation.
Transcultural Cinema
How can cinema convey life across boundaries? This course examines anthropology's ambivalence toward visuality in documentary and ethnographic film. Focusing on the material properties of films, we study how visual realism depicts culture and nature with an imperialist way of seeing. Yet we seek moments that exceeds and subvert realism and consider other film styles that point toward decolonization. In films by indigenous and marginalized peoples, we reveal new ways of representing difference and advancing equality. More widely, we explore how film can visualize multi-species relationships and the warming climate in which life is embedded.
Proseminar in Anthropology
Second half of a two-semester seminar required for first-year graduate students in social-cultural anthropology. Along with ANT 501, the course introduces students to fundamentals of anthropological thought. Predominantly, the course focuses on anthropology's engagement with ethnography and writing. Through reading key texts in the discipline, we try to understand how anthropologists transition from their fieldwork to theorizing, and from their ethnography to text.
Advanced Topics in Anthropology (Half-Term): The Worlds of Public Health
In the current pandemic, public health has moved from a little known, rarely debated, somewhat dull knowledge and practice to a global matter of concern in the name of which societies have been disrupted, transformed, disciplined. Instead of approaching it with a general theory, we focus on its dimensions such as the power of numbers, the disputes over illness boundaries, the emergence of ethical crises, the development of conspiracy theories, and the special cases of two populations: migrants and prisoners - all dimensions which will appear relevant to understand the pandemic.
Advanced Topics in Anthropology (Half-Term): Anthropology of Infrastructure
Anthropology has seen an outpouring of work on infrastructure in recent years. This course asks why and helps students identify emergent topics of inquiry for their own projects. We read theoretical antecedents, main topics of inquiry, and new emergent questions about infrastructure in anthropology and adjacent fields that have been generative for the discipline over the past twenty years.
Field Research Practicum
This seminar explores the ethics, politics, and practice of anthropological fieldwork. It considers questions about evidence, spaces of research ("the field"), researchers' identities and relations vis-à-vis diverse interlocutors, and 'method' itself. This year, it pays special attention (on one hand) to the impacts of travel and in-person restrictions on fieldwork practice and (on the other hand) to the challenge of decolonizing methodologies: fieldwork particularly. We pay focused attention to the interview/conversation distinction (improvisation, collaboration) and to record-keeping, as well as to grant proposals.
Traditions, Tales, and Tunes: Slavic and East European Folklore
This course explores oral traditions and oral literary genres (in English translation) of the Slavic and East European world, both past and present, including traditions that draw from the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish East European communities. Topics include traditional rituals (life-cycle and seasonal) and folklore associated with them, sung and spoken oral traditional narrative: poetry (epic and ballad) and prose (folktale and legend), and contemporary forms of traditional and popular culture. Discussion and analysis will focus on the role and meaning of Slavic and East European oral traditions as forms of expressive culture.
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.
The Body in Rain: Embodiment and Planetary Change
This course locates itself at the intersection and juxtaposition of medical and environmental anthropologies in order to perpetrate a double movement: how are bodies - human and other - implicated in processes often figured as environmental; and how can exploring a diverse range of embodiments might open ways into denaturalizing `environment' as simply what exists outside of bodies. How do we write about the environment, about bodies, and their relationship? Topics include climate change, toxic contamination, multispecies ethnography.
Pandemics: Critical Perspectives on Emergence, Governance and Care
What makes a pandemic? COVID-19 has illuminated inequities and unpreparedness of global health mechanisms and national health provision systems, and put ways of predicting and preventing catastrophes under scrutiny. While preventable and treatable diseases such as AIDS remain pandemic and take millions of lives yearly, they no longer mobilize the emergency-based governance responses, financial resources, media attention, and modes of surveillance that COVID-19 does. We will examine frameworks, rationales, values, forms of knowledge, collaboration, governance and surveillance around which pandemics coalesce and are also eventually forgotten.
Culture, Politics, and Human Rights in Latin America
From the US-backed dictatorships of the Cold War, to contemporary examples of state violence, many Latin Americans have experienced grave human rights violations. At the same time however, activists in the region have propelled significant international human rights advances. Examining concepts and cases from the anthropology of human rights, this course explores questions of rights as they affect Indigenous peoples, women, gay and lesbian populations, migrants, the urban poor, and children. By analyzing these cases, we will gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities and risks facing the future of human rights in the Latin America.
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.
Communist Modernity: The Politics and Culture of Soviet Utopia
Communism is long gone but its legacy continues to reverberate. And not only because of Cuba, China or North Korea. Inspired by utopian ideas of equality and universal brotherhood, communism was originally conceived as an ideological, socio-political, economic and cultural alternative to capitalism's crises. The attempt to build a new utopian world was costly and brutal: equality was quickly transformed into uniformity; brotherhood evolved into the Big Brother. The course provides an in-depth review of these contradictions between utopian motivations and oppressive practices in the Soviet Union.

Course Offerings

Prior Semesters

Taught by Anthropology faculty:
Freshman Seminars 
Summer Courses 

Anthropology courses:
Spring 2021 | Fall 2020 | Spring 2020 | Fall 2019 | Spring 2019 | Fall 2018 | Spring 2018 | Fall 2017 | Spring 2017 | Fall 2016 | Spring 2016 | Fall 2015 | Spring 2015 | Fall 2014 | Spring 2014 | Fall 2013 | Spring 2013 | Fall 2012