Courses

Fall 2018

Introduction to Anthropology
This course provides an introduction to core anthropological modes of inquiry into being human across space and time. Engaging key concepts of culture as lenses on contemporary phenomena, we will explore universalism and variation across societies. How do communities express difference and identity, make meaning, transmit knowledge, circulate objects and power, live, love, wish and dream? Case-studies vary, from women's piety movements in Cairo to the role of mosquitos, germs, and machines in making lives and worlds. We will also consider anthropology's colonial origins, examining intersections between knowledge and domination.
Instructors: Naomi Shira Stone
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.
Japanese Society and Culture
During the decades after World War II, Japan became the world's second largest economy and a highly productive, technologized society. While Americans once regarded Japan as a land of "corporate warriors," today Japan has become known for its popular culture, critiques of environmental destruction, and gentler variety of capitalism. We explore key social issues including gender, labor, affect, sports, media, poplular culture, biopolitics, law, demography and population control.
Instructors: Amy Beth Borovoy
Debt
Average credit card debt of Americans is $16,000; average college loan debt $30,000. How and why do people go into debt? Why is debt negatively linked to "usury" in some cultures while in others not having debt is a mark of being "underleveraged"? How can "debt" sometimes be an instrument of social solidarity and other times be a source of social discord? In this course we will draw on history, political theory, economics, and anthropology to look at debates about "debt" in different places and times as diverse as 4th century Greece, 18th century England, 19th century Egypt, and the 2008 Financial Crisis and its aftermath around the world.
Instructors: Julia Elyachar
Social Lives, Social Forces
This seminar takes up the connection between authority and obligation as a cultural question. We draw on diverse sources (anthropology, case studies, social theory, literature, public documents, art, etc.) to probe conceptual and real-life gray zones between individual and community, liberty and constraint, state and private sector. We consider formal and informal institutions (e.g., courts, legislatures, police, workplaces, families) and a range of formal and informal norms (from court rulings to common sense). Authority and obligation emerge as complex social relations that shape and are shaped within and across cultural contexts.
Instructors: Carol Jane Greenhouse
Global Popular Music
This course explores the formation of popular music genres throughout the world -- from Johannesburg and Accra, to Mexico City, Istanbul, and Jakarta, among other places. We will analyze the relationship between global processes of music circulation, on the one hand, and highly localized musical styles, on the other. By listening carefully, we will discover that the contemporary "world system" is not always one of smooth integration, but is instead characterized by friction, distortion, and noise.
Global Popular Music
This course explores the formation of popular music genres throughout the world -- from Johannesburg and Accra, to Mexico City, Istanbul, and Jakarta, among other places. We will analyze the relationship between global processes of music circulation, on the one hand, and highly localized musical styles, on the other. By listening carefully, we will discover that the contemporary "world system" is not always one of smooth integration, but is instead characterized by friction, distortion, and noise.
Instructors: Gavin Steingo
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.
Instructors: Rena S. Lederman
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.
Instructors: Elizabeth Anne Davis
The Anthropology of Development
Why do development projects fail? This course examines why well-meaning development experts get it wrong. It looks closely at what anthropologists mean by culture and why most development experts fail to attend to the cultural forces that hold communities together. By examining development projects from South Asia to the United States, students learn the relevance of exchange relations, genealogies, power, religion, and indigenous law. This semester the class will focus on energy in Africa.
Instructors: Carolyn M. Rouse
The Anthropology of Selected Regions: The Amazon
We survey the Amazonian region as the product of dynamic historical, economic, and ecological processes, focusing on how ethnographic traditions have contributed to its construction. From accounts of shamanism to reflections on the ethics of ethnographic fieldwork, anthropological debates around Amazonian cultures have animated broader discussions about the consequences of resource exploitation, the boundaries of nature and culture, and what it means to be human. We identify some traditional themes of Amazonian anthropology and examine emerging spaces, actors, and questions that continue to make the region relevant to anthropological inquiry.
Instructors: Justin Dieter Andres Perez
Critical Perspectives in Global Health
Global health brings together a vast array of actors working to address urgent health issues worldwide with unprecedented financial and technological resources. This course is a critical analysis of the cultural, social, political and economic processes related to this expanding medical and humanitarian field. As we scrutinize the evidence-making practices, agendas and value systems informing global health, we will place current interventions in historical perspective and gauge their benefits and unintended consequences. Students are encouraged to find new and collaborative ways to understand and act in and through the field of global health.
Instructors: João Biehl
Anthropology of Populism
Recently populist movements have gained prominence in both Europe and the USA, having inflected the political landscapes of these two regions in arguably irreversible ways. There are important differences between so-called right wing and left wing populism; the similarities, however, are equally salient: they both, appeal to a seamless "people" as the undivided source of sovereignty; draw on a a friend/enemy political logic; reject all forms of mediation in favor of the direct communication between authoritarian leaders and their followers. This course explores this emergent populism both empirically and theoretically.
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.
Instructors: Lauren Coyle Rosen
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.
Instructors: Lauren Coyle Rosen, Naomi Shira Stone
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.
Instructors: Satyel Larson
Ethnography of Law
Anthropology has a long tradition of research on law, rules and norms as social and cultural practices. Since ethnographic inquiry moves easily across jurisdictions and other sorts of domains, it is well adapted to the polycentric, "hybrid" (state/non-state) and asymmetrical power relations that pervade the social fields of law today. We cover major research traditions and their critical legacies through explorations of contemporary legal situations: e.g., human rights claims, migration, social security, policing, criminalization, the judicialization of politics, finance, new forms of precarity and the regulation of personal life.
Instructors: Carol Jane Greenhouse
Death, Aging, and Mortality: Cultural and Biosocial Perspectives
Nothing in the lifespan of humans is as revealing on the interface of culture and biology as is death and the experience of death. This course will explore death from a bio/cultural perspective, including the evolution of life history (ageing, demography - mortality), as well as an archaeological perspective (prehistory) and early history of mortuary practices. This course is concerned not specifically with how an individual experiences death, but in the ways in which culture and biology have come to define and deal with physical death and the death experience.
Instructors: Janet Marie Monge
Visible Evidence: Documentary Film and Data Visualization
In our mediated and datafied world, how can we use both documentary film and data visualization to create ethnographies that convey lived experience as well as reveal and make sense of large-scale complexities? To pursue this goal, students learn basic filmmaking and data visualization in a workshop setting. As they sculpt visible evidence such as fieldnotes, video, big data, and geo-spatial data into narratives, students consider how the material capacities and original social contexts of evidence shape filmic and graphic forms of knowledge expression. Students are encouraged to work on or design their own independent research projects.
Instructors: Jeffrey D. Himpele
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.
Instructors: Elizabeth Anne Davis
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.
Instructors: Carolyn M. Rouse
Co-seminar in Anthropology (Half-Term): Economic Anthropology
In this course, we situate economic anthropology as a subfield of anthropology in the context of developments in political economy, social theory, and anthropology writ large. We read: classic works that reveal the rationality of 'primitive' society, attempts to use economic theory to analyze 'primitive' economies, the formalist-substantivist debate with Karl Polanyi at the center, as well as approaches to economic anthropology from the 1970s and onward (structuralist Marxist economic anthropology, feminist economic anthropology, and new approaches to markets after Latour).
Instructors: Julia Elyachar
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; environmental toxins; embodied health movements; citizen science; life extension; pharmaceuticalization; and moves to "demedicalize" health.
Instructors: Amy Beth Borovoy

Course Offerings

Prior Semesters

Taught by Anthropology faculty:
Freshman Seminars 
Summer Courses 

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