Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Global & International Studies. Anthropology is the study of ‘culture,’ a concept that has been redefined and contested over the discipline’s long development. This course will trace the history of the ‘culture concept’ from the nineteenth century to the present. In doing so, it will explore anthropological approaches to ‘primitive’ societies, group and personal symbols, and systems of exchange. It will examine how anthropology came to focus on questions of identity, race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, colonial and post-colonial conditions. Our ethnographic gaze will be turned inward as well as outward. We will therefore consider the reasons behind, and ramifications of, anthropology’s self-reflexive turn in and around the 1980s. We will juxtapose that turn’s questioning of the discipline’s authority to represent other societies with debates about anthropologists’ engagement in activism, policy and government (e.g. the US military’s Human Terrain project). We will then examine the more recent anthropological fascination with the non-human (e.g. other animals, technology, the built environment, ‘nature’), looking at how notions of agency, materiality, and anthropology’s own methodological foundations have been transformed as a result.
Cross-listed: Anthropology. This course provides an introduction to the discipline of ethnomusicology, the study of music in and around its social and cultural contexts. Through our exploration of the materiality and meaning of music, we will listen to wide-ranging examples of sounds from around the globe. We will consider ways to listen deeply and to write critically about music. We will examine how music has been represented in the past and how it is variously represented today, and will develop ethnographic research and writing skills. We will ask questions about the utility and value of music as a commodity in our everyday lives and in our globalized world. We will debate the ethics of musical appropriations and collaborations. We will examine both the foundational questions of the discipline (addressing debates about musical authenticity, musical origins, universals, comparative frameworks, and the preservationist ethos) as well as recent subjects of ethnomusicological concern. Topics will include: media and technology; post-colonial issues; music and language; hybridity; circulation and consumption; music and labor; music and gender; and the relevance of music to contemporary indigenous politics and human rights.
Cross-listed: American Studies, Environmental & Urban Studies. Archaeologists seek to apply contextual approaches to the symbolic agency of ancient peoples. We ask how artifacts of mundane daily life and ritual materials were left in juxtaposition. At the Forest site, toward the Hudson River along an old carriage path behind Admissions, chipped stone objects afford the most conspicuous evidence of activity 5,000 years ago. Our focus, however, will be on the distribution of fragmentary ceramic vessels and whether they were made from clay found beneath a nearby waterfall. From the soil of fire pits on the adjacent promontory may emerge vestiges of plants and animals with which people interacted. Basic excavation techniques combine with microscopy and cartographic analyses to situate our discoveries in the living space. Our interpretive perspectives range in scale from miniscule wear patterns to the central Hudson Valley and beyond, to the ancient coastal Northeast. We will perform replicative experiments to make and use stone tools. Weekly writings on various studies will receive discussion in seminar. Enroll by interview with professor. Another way to prepare for this course is the Field School this summer that likely will encounter ancient artifacts through similar techniques of excavation and contextualization; for info, go to https://www.bard.edu/archaeology.
Cross-listed: Africana Studies; American Studies; Environmental & Urban Studies; Historical Studies. Our research and excavations focus on a religious site 9 miles north of Bard, in 1710 center of the first substantial German-speaking community in the New World. After a mass emigration from the Rhineland, and two years of forced labor conditions under British colonists, a robust economy began to grow in the central Hudson Valley around orchards and animal husbandry. Before 1750 our site, the German minister's home (or Parsonage) was the scene of visits from Mohicans, likely from a Moravian mission village in the Taconic hills east of Bard, their last settlement in New York. African Americans lived at the site as slaves by the 1780s. We have found traces of spiritual practices for protection and healing. In the mid-1800s, several free African American families established a neighborhood nearby that lasted until the early 20th Century. We'll do 3.5-hour excavation and/or lab sessions on Friday or weekend afternoons before mid-term to find more evidence of ritual concealments and study background texts to write short papers for weekly seminar, working at times with local middle school students. Please consult with the professor in advance of enrollment. [Some participants continue for another month in summer on the Bard Archaeology Field School, for 4 more credits.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Science, Technology, Society. Since their ascendancy in global popular culture, dinosaurs have come to constitute a category of charismatic animals unmatched by contemporary living species. Dinosaurs appear everywhere—as plush toys and chicken nuggets, as corporate mascots and public monuments, and as metaphorical critiques of nuclear weapons. In this course, we will explore the figure of the modern dinosaur both as object of scientific inquiry and as popular culture icon. We will focus on competitive exploration for dinosaur fossils at the turn of the 20th century; rivalries between paleontologists such as Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh; and the rise of dinosaur philanthropy in natural history museums. We will also consider how new paleontological discoveries provoked parallel shifts in meaning and representation. How are dinosaurs articulated and brought back to life from a distant geologic past? How are they employed as metaphors for dominance, size, dim-wittedness, and obsolescence? What role do they play in the making of power and nationhood? Through the close examination of scientific and cultural histories, museums, and popular media, this course will address our fascination with dinosaurs, and how the reemergence of these prehistoric creatures helped shape our modern world.
Cross-listed: Asian Studies; Environmental & Urban Studies; Science, Technology, Society. The ‘Anthropocene’ identifies a new geological epoch in the earth’s history, a period in which human activities are scaled up to become the dominant force in shaping the global environment. This course begins with an investigation of the Anthropocene’s theoretical origins, and how this framework reorients our basic assumptions in relation to nature and the physical world. How are the effects and implications of the Anthropocene calculated and interpreted in public discourse and policy? How has the idea given rise to alternative theories, such as the Capitalocene or Chthulucene, to complicate its original premise? Should we seek to preserve earth’s systems in their ‘natural state,’ or embrace the idea of actively managing socio-natural landscapes? To explore these questions, we will turn to case studies based in Asia, a region assumed to hold much of the world’s environmental future in its hands. By looking at how communities, movements, states, and institutions articulate new moral and political imperatives in response to the crisis, we will consider the Anthropocene as a productive force that entails a playful reimagining and remaking of human engagements with the environment. Specific topics will include green building and greenhouse gas emission reduction in South Korea, urban agriculture and post-3.11 food movements in Japan, giant panda conservation and changing meanings of wildlife in China, and wind farms and alternative energy in the Philippines.
Cross-listed: Africana Studies; Environmental & Urban Studies; Human Rights. The Great African Rift Valley runs from the Red Sea to Mozambique, dividing the African continent in two. It is the heart of a region of spectacular ecological diversity, home to a wide range of human cultures and modes of existence: from pastoral nomadism in the savannah zones of the Sudans and Somalia to urban life in industrialized East Africa. In pre-history the eastern branch of the Rift Valley was the site of the emergence of the human species. Today the lands that border the Rift exemplify the divisions and difficulties that confront Africa as a whole: a legacy of colonialism and anti-colonial struggle, and—in the present day—civil wars and accelerating environmental change. Conflict over land, water, oil and other natural resources has led to high levels of displacement and forced migration; parts of the region are also sites of Islamist insurgency and western counter-terrorist interventions. The response of the peoples of Eastern Africa illustrates the inventiveness of human adaptation, the resilience of culture, and the drama of survival. The course will offer an approach to the layers of natural and human history in the region, employing historical and anthropological research, reportage, documentary video, art and music to examine some of the diverse ways of being that endure, and the versions of modernity emerging from war and demographic transformation.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Human Rights. This course examines modern cities and everyday urban life, with a central focus on cities that are spatially and socially divided. On the one hand, we will investigate how cultural differences and political economic inequalities are reflected in geographic boundaries and other aspects of the built environment. On the other, we will explore how state agencies, real estate developers, activists, and residents make and remake city spaces in ways that create, reinforce, and challenge existing forms of difference and inequality. Much of the class will revolve around case studies of Berlin (Germany), Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo (Brazil), Shanghai and Kunming (China), and Johannesburg (South Africa), although we will engage with recent developments in the U.S. as well. "Divided Cities" builds on intensive reading in anthropology and related disciplines, critical writing and discussion, and focused film viewing. It culminates in a substantial essay on a topic of the student's choice.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies. This course is designed to provide an orientation for students in the methods, ethics, and concerns that guide anthropologists when we conduct our research. We do not conceive of methods as simply a means to an end, or the application of established techniques for generating answers to prior problems developed in anthropological theory. Rather, students will be encouraged to think about the types of data that various ethnographic techniques can produce, the epistemological and theoretical assumptions embedded in them, and, most importantly, the ways different strategies for data collection can be combined to form an anthropological research project. To that end, students will develop and execute a short fieldwork-based anthropological research project over the course of the semester. Readings and discussions will guide students through the process of developing research questions, choosing a field site, generating data, and re-presenting that field site in writing. To complement the fieldwork projects, we will also read exemplary – and sometimes controversial - texts of ethnography in practice.
Cross-listed: Global & International Studies; Human Rights; Middle Eastern Studies. How does the state as a modern political form shape culture, and vice versa? Why do groups (e.g. queer, indigenous, religious, ethnic) seek recognition from this thing we call the state while at the same time mocking, being suspicious or fearful of it? Like many groups, scholarship about the modern state tends to be shot through with "state phobia." However, the most recent elections in the United States are challenging suspicions of the state as a set of institutions among many of the regime's critics. Anthropological analysis of the state could not be more urgent. The first half of this course explores how scholars define the modern state and how they critique its effects on societies and cultures in the twentieth century. We begin with foundational theories of the state (e.g. Weber, Hall, Althusser, Foucault, and Bourdieu). Due to his major influence on anthropological work on neoliberalism, immigration, bureaucracy, state healthcare and social welfare, we place special emphasis on how Michel Foucault conceptualized the modern state and his critique of its attendant modes of power (e.g. discipline, governmentality, biopolitics). During the second half of the course we read ethnographies of the state in the United States, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Togo, Gaza, France, Cameroon, India, Egypt, Turkey and Germany. We investigate the unlikely relationships between phenomena such as corruption, borders, railroads, time, insanity, sexuality, warrior honeybees and science, on the one hand, and the effects, and meanings, of statehood and state-making in the modern world, on the other. How do institutions, practices and people come to appear like a state in the first place? We conclude with an examination of a question inspired by the recent political mobilizations of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. In what ways does it make sense -and in what ways does it not-to call the U.S. a "police state"?
Cross-listed: Human Rights. How do anthropologists approach the study of politics? What sorts of methods are appropriate to understanding the actions of institutions, states, and individuals? And just what do we mean when we talk about “politics” in the first place? This course explores the ways social groups enact, resist, and transform power relations in various times and places. Through an analysis of the 2016 elections in the United States and other contemporary case studies, we look at how anthropological theory and ethnographic practices can illuminate political phenomena, from the dynamics of small social groups to large-scale electoral politics and from the micropolitics of race, gender, and social identity. Subjects explored in this class will include classic anthropological analyses of small-scale societies, the formation of the modern nation-state, civil society organizations, post-colonial forms of resistance, and identity politics. While the course focuses primarily on understanding various political forms, students will also be encouraged to apply readings to theorize modes of inhabiting and transforming power relations they encounter in their everyday life. Assignments will provide students the opportunity to apply these readings to examine political processes on campus, in the United States, and around the world.
Cross-listed: Asian Studies; Gender and Sexuality Studies; Global & International Studies. From post-war devastation to rapid economic recovery and affluence, Japan came to be seen as one of the most important non-Western countries of the 20th century. In the 1980s and 90s, as Japanese economic power and cultural influence grew worldwide, the nation's status as a global force was established beyond question. In more recent years, however, specters of economic recession, disenchanted youth, aging population, and nuclear disaster have produced new conditions of precarity, reconfiguring experiences and meanings of contemporary life. By focusing on such key transitions over the past seven decades, this course will offer an introduction to changing social, economic, and political formations in Japan from an anthropological perspective. Readings will include ethnographic works on economic recovery in the post-war period, gender in office politics, schools and disciplinary tactics, the culture of cuteness, delayed marriage and divorce, homelessness, and institutionalized care for the elderly. The final section of the course will explore transnational dimensions of Japan in a global context, including the aspirations of Japanese women abroad, and the globalization of popular culture genres such as anime.
Does money exist in every society? Can a full-scale economic system be built to exchange goods and services without markets? How do people come to accept income inequality? Why is it considered rude or even dangerous to give away a gift that has been given to you? Each of these questions opens a door onto economic anthropology. By striving to consider economic questions in the broadest possible setting across the full sweep of human experience economic anthropology helps us to gain fresh eyes with which to view some basic concepts. This class offers an overview of economic anthropology. It considers exchange theory, money and markets, the debate between the substantivists and the formalists, the analysis of inequality in production, economics as performance, and the new "generating capitalisms" approach. We take a close look at anarchists, South Pacific canoe trading, British shoppers, and the anxieties of entrepreneurialism. As it makes the familiar seem strange, this class aims to open up new possibilities for understanding the circulations that we set into motion every day.
Cross-listed: Global & International Studies; Human Rights; Latin American & Iberian Studies. From San Salvador to Rio de Janeiro and from Mexico City to Bogotá, a number of Latin American cities now frequently proclaim themselves to be “the most violent city in the world.” In this course, we examine the recent wave of violence perpetrated by non-, para-, and state actors in Latin America through an ethnographic perspective and place these ethnographies into conversation with social scientific approaches to crime, violence, and human rights. Examining law breaking in the 21st century provides a lens through which to work through the meanings of states, citizenship, and identity. In this context, we ask: What constitutes criminal activity and who decides the answer to this question? How and when does crime threaten the state? What is the relationship between the violence of state and non-state actors? How can we rethink globalization through the lens of criminal activity? Readings will examine the experience of crime in post-Civil War San Salvador, criminality resulting from the securitization of the U.S.-Mexico border, the mirroring of criminal and state enterprises in Brazil, and surveillance technologies in Mexico City.
Cross-listed: Global & International Studies; Human Rights. This course approaches a set of practical and ethical human rights issues through the study of historical and contemporary rights campaigns: the British anti-slavery movement of the 18th and 19th centuries (and later campaigns against slavery and slave-like practices); the negotiations for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of World War II; the campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines in the 1990s; and the ongoing campaign against Female Genital Cutting. The emphasis is on questions of strategy and organization and how these relate to wider ethical and philosophical issues. What were the challenges that campaigners faced? How did they resolve them? What alliances of interest did they confront? And what coalitions did they form to combat them? The course also considers the questions that emerge from consideration of these campaigns: how have human rights campaigners have engaged with—and been part of—wider political, religious and economic changes? Have the successes of the human rights movement—particularly the expansion of international human rights legislation—changed its character? When, if ever, are indigenous values more important than universal principles? What is the relation of human rights to religious values? Is human rights itself a quasi-religious belief system? Or just a political language? Finally the course considers the question of animal rights and the challenges this poses for the concept of rights and the extent of proper moral concern.
Cross-listed: Gender and Sexuality Studies. Language is one of the fundamental ways of understanding the world in culturally specific ways, and helps to create social identities like gender, race, ethnicity, class and nationality. This course begins with the assumption that language and culture are inseparable, and will introduce students to theoretical and ethnographic approaches that demonstrate this connection in different ways. The course will include close analysis of everyday conversations as well as social analysis of broader discourses related to class, gender, and nationality in written and oral narratives. Some of the topics we will discuss include: how authority is established through specific forms of speech, the performative power of language, the relationship between language and social hierarchies, the study of discourse as historical and social forms. We will also examine the way technology and technological metaphors in language have been fundamental in shaping the way different cultures perceive their social worlds. Students will be required to do their own cultural analysis of a conversation, a written or oral narrative, and discourse on the web or other media using the conceptual tools we develop through the course.
Cross-listed: Human Rights. This course offers an overview of how anthropologists approach the problem of death, dying, burials, and mourning. Taking a four-field approach, this course explores the diverse ways humans experience death, how the (social and biological) fact of death organizes societies, and how dead persons continue to affect the living. By looking at the ritualization, medicalization, and politicization of death, we seek to complicate popular ideas of death as a universal experience. In exploring anthropological understandings of mourning and burial, students will deepen their understanding of ethnographic, archaeological, and physical anthropological methods and theories.
Cross-listed: Human Rights. Since 2015, more than two million people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries have travelled to Europe, typically without state authorization, to seek asylum and refuge. This course examines the arrival of these refugees and the varied ways their presence has come to be viewed as a "crisis." Drawing on recent ethnographic research and anthropological theorizing, we shall consider the discourses and practices that shape how people in the Middle East and Africa seek to cross European borders. We shall investigate the innovations in surveillance, security, and bureaucratic management that the EU and its member states have employed to prevent and regulate refugees' entry. We shall explore the techniques with which state agencies have sought both to govern and to care for refugees after their arrival in European nation-states. And we shall critically engage with the populist rhetoric and violence that have targeted refugees as threats to national and European integrity. Throughout the course, our readings and discussions will reflect on the epistemology and politics of "crisis." Is the declaration of a crisis a neutral act that announces a break from "the normal" in a self-evident, objective way? Or is it instead an ideologically charged claim that varied actors may employ to mobilize public fears, desires, and resentments and to promote particular visions of the nation, citizenship, and state obligation? This course is part of the Liberal Arts Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education initiative.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Religion; Sociology. This course will examine a variety of theoretical approaches used by anthropology and comparative sociology in analyzing symbolic representations, symbolic action, and symbolic systems. How are systems of thought, symbolic forms, and ritual practice formulated and expressed across time and space? What are the distinctive methods of structural functionalism, processual analysis, interpretive anthropology, and political economy for the study of religious systems? Our primary focus will be on non-Western conceptual systems and religions, and will include “primitive rationality,” the interpretation of myth, magic and systems of classification (such as totem and taboo), and the analysis of ritual and religious practice and practitioners, to include witchcraft, rites of passage, spirit possession, and prophetic and revitalization movements. In particular, we will study power and resistance, the rhetoric of persuasion, political spectacle and charisma, and religious fundamentalism and their expressions in the contemporary world. Readings will draw from theorists such as Durkheim, Lévi-Strauss, Douglas, Turner, and Geertz among other classical and contemporary theorists. Our primary focus is on the religions and syncretistic religious expressions in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, as well as on local variants of world traditions such as Christianity. Prerequisite: An introductory course in either anthropology, religion or sociology.
This course aims to reveal anthropology’s roots, as a field, in the general project to account for modern inequalities in wealth. Is there such a thing as social class? If so, what makes it different from caste, estate, gender, and race? How do people come to accept classed inequality, and under what conditions do they rise against it? With the arrival of a new global class politics, these questions acquire urgency. This course searches for answers by using anthropological tools, including archaeology, ethnography, and linguistic analysis. We look through venerable debates to re-discover the differing theories that anthropologists proposed over the course of the 20th century. We emphasize a broad historical and geographic sweep, reading structural Marxists on African lineage systems, Rousseau on New World “savages,” William Labov on speech in New York department stores, Louis Dumont on caste in India, E.P. Thompson on British mill workers, and cultural evolutionists on the origins of the state.
Cross-listed: Asian Studies. Through an emphasis on the lived experience of modernity in several countries of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka), students will explore the varied, and often contradictory, forms of social life in the region. The course is structured around three themes: personhood, community and difference, and South Asia's relation to the global world. We trace the development of certain categories that have become central to many ethnographic portrayals of South, such as village, caste, family, and gender as they are used in a variety of texts. We will explore key conceptual problems, such as the ‘modernity of tradition,’ the legacy of the colonial construction of social scientific knowledge, and the politics of representing the Third World' that have relevance beyond South Asia. Using classic texts of anthropology as well as literature, history, and films, this course looks broadly at representations of South Asia made by foreigners and South Asians alike.
Cross-listed: Asian Studies. Why has travel generated so much textual production? This course will consider travel as a cultural practice and the link between travel writing and ethnography. We will first discuss several genres of travel writing (postcards, letters, journals, guide-books, ethnography) and discuss how these texts reflect as well as shape the experience of travel. We will then ask how personal, group and national identities have been constructed through the practice of travel by looking at travelers’ writings from the 19th century, noting their connections to ethnographic studies written at the same time. How is ‘home’ configured in relation to foreign places in these texts? Using Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small World, we will also examine some of the ethical dilemmas that tourism in particular poses: what impact does the traveler have on the communities they visit? We will then discuss travel as a rite of passage that depends on a person’s absence from their home environment and provides a space that ostensibly is transformative, as in ritual pilgrimages, the Victorian Grand Tour, anthropological fieldwork or the post-college backpacking trip. Finally, we will consider the writings from exile or diaspora communities that challenge the master narrative of European travel from the ‘center’ to the ‘periphery’. The course will be based on a broad range of sources, including fiction about travel, ethnography, travelogues, letters, as well as anthropological theories about ethnography and travel writing.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies. Animals have figured prominently in anthropological writings since the discipline's inception. From Lewis Henry Morgan's portrait of the American beaver, to E. E. Evans-Pritchard's account of the cattle beloved in Nuer society, animals have always been an essential part of how we see ourselves and make sense of the world around us. This course traces the discipline's engagement over the past century with the figure of the animal. We begin by exploring some of the discipline's classic texts in relation to animals, focusing on their role as repositories of totemic power, markers of purity and pollution, and mirrors of social identity. We then turn to contemporary studies of animal-based practices such as whaling, hunting, captive animal display, and conservation as sites of construction for racialized, gendered, and classed differences. The final section of the course focuses on multispecies ethnography, an approach attuned to the entanglements between human and nonhuman beings, and how their livelihoods are shaped by cultural, political, and economic forces. Through a multispecies approach, we consider viral clouds, were-jaguars, laboratory animals, pit bull advocacy, and the militarization of the honeybee among other topics. This course is part of the Thinking Animals Initiative, an interdivisional collaboration among students and faculty to further the understanding of animals and human-animal relationships.
Cross-listed: Latin American Studies. What happens to classic accounts of Latin America if we read them by tracking the figure of the stranger? This class takes an exploratory approach, aiming to excavate a troublesome, neglected, and indispensable character from the texts and artifacts of the region. We think through the stranger in order to open up an alternative view onto two tropes that have structured much recent scholarship about Latin America: the encounter and the other. By considering the stranger, we read these tropes in a new and different light. Latin American thought offers important insights for engaging the many mobilizations of the stranger in the social analysis of modernity. The class builds a dialogue around these. It considers theories about urban stranger-sociality, the stranger and the public, double consciousness, organic solidarity, kinship, and stranger-kings. The class is broadly interdisciplinary, drawing in elements from literature, archaeology, sociology, and history and framing them inside the tradition of anthropology. Our readings occur in units. We assess the stranger at the moment of conquest, the stranger as a problem in newly-colonized societies, strangers as rulers, otherworldly strangers, strangers and enslavement, strangers in the city, migratory strangers, violence and the stranger, and the welcome given to strangers. These readings raise questions about the conditions that make it possible for Latin America to seem like a coherent regional whole. Tracing the common paths that a character takes across a continent, we inquire into the prospect of interpreting the Americas as, at base, the land of strangers.
Cross-listed: Global & International Studies. When we say that some nations are richer than others, what does that mean? Is there such a thing as progress? What does GDP really measure? Each of these questions points towards the debates that surround economic growth. Growth is a master concept stretching across the social sciences, and in this class, we explore the growth concept by using ethnography. We strive to understand how growth becomes real inside people’s everyday activities. The class considers mining projects in Indonesia, anti-growth politics in France, the GDP of ancient Rome, and British merchant-ambassadors to China. This ethnographic evidence enters into dialogue with broader theory and policy frameworks. We engage with ecological approaches, feminist critiques, the happiness paradox, de-growth, and the struggle to reform GDP. We interrogate the dilemmas and hopes that make growth an urgent problem for nations – and people – living through modernity.
Cross-listed: Asian Studies; Gender & Sexuality Studies; Global & International Studies; Human Rights; Science, Technology & Society. Why do acts of violence continue to grow in the ‘modern’ world? In what ways has violence become naturalized in the contemporary world? In this course, we will consider how acts of violence challenge and support modern ideas of humanity, raising important questions about what it means to be human today. These questions lie at the heart of anthropological thinking and also structure contemporary discussions of human rights. Anthropology’s commitment to “local culture” and cultural diversity has meant that anthropologists often position themselves in critical opposition to “universal values,” which have been used to address various forms of violence in the contemporary world. The course will approach different forms of violence, including ethnic and communal conflicts, colonial education, torture and its individualizing effects, acts of terror and institutionalized fear, and rituals of bodily pain that mark individuals’ inclusion or exclusion from a social group. The course is organized around three central concerns. First, we will discuss violence as a means of producing and consolidating social and political power, and exerting political control. Second, we will look at forms of violence that have generated questions about “universal rights” of humanity versus culturally specific practices, such as widow burning in India and female genital mutilation in postcolonial Africa. In these examples, we explore gendered dimensions in the experience of violence among perpetrators, victims, and survivors. Finally, we will look at the ways human rights institutions have sought to address the profundity of human suffering and pain, and ask in what ways have they succeeded and/or failed. Readings will range from theoretical texts, anthropological ethnographies, as well as popular representations of violence in the media and film.
Cross-listed: Africana Studies; Environmental & Urban Studies; Global & International Studies; Human Rights. Western fantasies have historically represented Africa as the embodiment of a mythical, primordial wilderness. Within this imagery, nature is racialized, and Africans are constructed as existing in a state closer to nature. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness perhaps best exemplifies this process, through its exploration of the ‘savage’ dimensions of colonialism in the African interior. Imperial discourses often relied on these tropes of savagery and barbarism to link understandings of natural history with ideas about racial difference. Similarly, by blurring the boundary between the human and the nonhuman, colonial policies created a zone of anxiety around racialized domestic relationships, particularly in the context of employers and their servants. Many of these representations were contradictory, as evidenced by Rousseau’s image of the noble savage: indigenous people who lived as gentle custodians of the environment, while at the same time preying upon resources desired for exclusive colonial use. After investigating the racialization of nature under imperial regimes, we will consider continuing legacies in post-colonial situations. How have certain ethnic identities been linked to nature? How do these associations reproduce social hierarchies and inequalities? In what ways is race invoked in struggles for land and resource rights? Through an exploration of ethnographic accounts, historical analyses, and works of fiction based in Africa, this course offers a new way of deciphering cultural representations of nature, and the fundamentally political agendas that lie within. Please note: this course is part of the ‘Difficult Questions’ cluster of courses.
Cross-listed: Africana Studies; American Studies; Human Rights; Middle Eastern Studies. Since the eighteenth century, childhood and youth have often been understood as times of happiness, innocence, and closeness to nature distinct from adulthood. At the same time, many writers, activists, and policymakers have witnessed young people in conditions of violence, toil, and poverty, and they have spoken of "youth at risk," "lost generations," or even "children without childhood." How can we make sense of these portrayals of young people's lives? Do worries about "children without childhood" offer a picture contrary to the romantic view of youth, or do they instead subscribe to it? How did ideas about a separate and happy childhood become so prevalent in the first place, and how do they compare with young people's actual experiences? Finally, how are recent changes in young people's lives related to larger political-economic transformations and deepening structures of inequality? This course will address these and other questions through an examination of young people in a variety of historical and geographic contexts, although much of our focus will be devoted to the contemporary U.S. and Middle East. In addition, the class will include a small-scale ethnographic project that will allow students to conduct fieldwork on some aspect of youth cultural production on or near the Bard campus. Throughout the course, a key point of emphasis will be that young people are not the passive recipients of tradition, but resourceful social actors who help to re-create ways of acting, thinking, and feeling. At the same time, they are not merely the targets of policy, but actively contribute, sometimes in unexpected ways, to social and political change.
Cross-listed: Africana Studies; Global & International Studies; Human Rights. As one of the few regions on the continent charted for permanent European settlement, southern Africa has been marked by histories of violence that far surpassed normative applications of colonialism. In the wake of such intense turmoil, nations struggled to reinvent themselves at the moment of Independence, scripting new national mythologies and appeals for unity. This course explores these contests over nationhood in the post-apartheid era, focusing primarily on the experiences of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Some of the main themes we will address include the politics of commemoration and the symbolic capital of liberation war veterans, the charismatic authority of individuals such as Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe, sexual violence and the trial of Jacob Zuma, the role of sport in reimagining national identity, and the paradox of white African belonging. We will examine memories of ethnic genocide in Matabeleland documented by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and track new anxieties in the media precipitated by the influx of immigrants into South Africa. In the final section of the course, we will turn to recent alliances between Africa and China, and possibilities for the emergence of an alternate global order.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Middle Eastern Studies; Science, Technology, Society. “Culture” has long been a key explanatory framework for scholars studying the modern Middle East. It has also been critical to the sorting, surveiling, managing and mobilizing techniques used by colonial and post-colonial regimes. Meanwhile nature, culture’s doppleganger, has been quietly at work “purifying” the category of “culture” from the objects and processes assumed to be external to it. This course brings “nature” out of culture’s shadows in order to examine how ideas about nature and the natural have shaped social scientific and historical scholarship on, and political and cultural formations within, the modern Middle East. We will investigate the relationship between nature and power in contexts of empire, decolonization and postcoloniality. Under the broad term “nature” we will consider such diverse topics as kinship, nationalism, violence, technology, war, race, gender, sexuality, environmentalism, fossil fuels and genetics. What role do genetics play in twenty-first century Middle East politics? How have practices of “taming” and managing nature and its resources shaped the parameters within which political authority—and revolution—can emerge? What can the study of the Middle East tell us about the extent to which homosexuality is a biological universal? What are the tensions between the idea of competing “environmental imaginaries” and theories that the nonhuman environment (e.g. rivers, dams, mosquitoes) has helped determine political, social and economic outcomes in the Middle East?
Cross-listed: Africana Studies; Global & International Studies; Literature. Anthropological writing is diverse and innovative in both style and subject. Although “ethnography” and “fieldwork” are terms that have become widely used in other disciplines, writers identifying themselves as anthropologists are still at the cutting edge of research-based factual writing, usually about small-scale societies, both those on the periphery of the world system and those at the heart of it. The course examines the range of genres and techniques that anthropologists and others have used to convey the lived experience of other cultures. It examines the tension within the discipline between making these cultures comprehensible, respecting their difference and rendering them in a framework of theory. And it considers the aesthetic problems and ethical controversies that arise from writing at the limits of academic discourse. The genres addressed include classic field-based ethnographic monographs, travel narratives, historically-informed indigenous critiques of earlier ethnographies, reflexive accounts of the process of field work, journalistic reportage, visual documentation and works of fiction. The course takes the form of close readings of outstanding examples, drawn mainly from the anthropology of Africa and Latin America. These are set in context by accounts from other media. Texts to be studied will be drawn from the following: Bronislaw Malinowski A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term; Claude Levi-Strauss Tristes Tropiques; Oscar Lewis The Children of Sanchez; Ruth Landes City of Women; Sharon Hutchinson Nuer Dilemmas; Carlos Castaneda’ Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge; Adam Ashforth Madumo; Don Kulick Travestí; Michael Taussig My Cocaine Museum; Leni Riefenstahl The Last of the Nuba; V.S.Naipaul A House for Mr Biswas; Katherine Boo Behind The Beautiful Forevers; Charles Doughty Travels in Arabia Deserta and Alma Guillermoprieto Samba.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Gender and Sexuality Studies; Global & International Studies. Epidemiologists track down outbreaks of infectious diseases like malaria, Ebola and HIV and explore trends in cancer, heart attacks, mental illness and other chronic afflictions. By the end of this course, students will understand how epidemiological studies are designed and carried out; be able to generate hypotheses about the causes and risk factors of diseases and appreciate how epidemiological statistics can be used as a forensic tool for human rights investigations or be distorted for the purposes of advertising and propaganda. Emphasis will be placed not only on the quantitative aspects of epidemiology, but also on the ways in which epidemics are shaped by cultural, social, political and economic conditions and government policies. Examples will be drawn from recent international public health emergencies such as Ebola, Zika and AIDS as well as lead poisoning and mysterious increases in mental illnesses including schizophrenia and autism in the US.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Gender and Sexuality Studies; Global & International Studies; Sociology. Beginning in the thirteenth century, a radical shift in attitudes and norms concerning family life began spreading from one society to another. It changed relationships between women and men and between parents and children and also how people saw themselves. It is still underway. Scholars call it the Demographic Transition, narrowly defined as a progressive reduction in the size of families and an increase in the survival of children, but its consequences have included political turmoil, personal and romantic upheavals, intellectual and artistic movements and the spread of diseases like syphilis and AIDS. In this course, you will be introduced to the statistical evidence concerning the Demographic Transition as well as its consequences for women, children, men, societies and nations.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Global & International Studies; Russian. What is the relationship between musical culture and political ideology? Taking examples from China, Cuba, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, this course surveys the cultural policies of socialist states and their effects on the lives, listening habits, and creative output of musicians and music consumers. From the politics of Azeri opera, to the subversive sounds of Siberian punk, to the performance of masculinity in Chinese and Cuban pop music, we will investigate how political ideologies generated state support for certain kinds of music while suppressing other forms of unofficial, underground and protest music. Students will develop an understanding of how socialist cultural policy models in diverse regions of the world have understood the uses and the threats posed by musical culture in daily and symbolic life. Furthermore, we will evaluate what happens when the ideological imperatives of a regime transform, fade away, or are suddenly replaced with a new political ideology. Readings include historical, anthropological, and musicological texts that examine the relationship of musical sound to publics, counterpublics and states. Students will produce written works responding to class readings and themes, and develop final projects according to their own research interests. Students do not need to read musical notation to take this class. This course fulfills requirements for the Global and International Studies program and counts towards the moderation requirements in ethnomusicology.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Experimental Humanities; Gender and Sexuality Studies. This course surveys musicological approaches to the study of sexuality and gender, asking how music informs and reflects cultural constructions of femininity and masculinity. Taking wide-ranging examples that include opera, popular music, folk and indigenous musics, we will investigate how modern gendered subjectivities are negotiated through musical practices such as composition, performance and consumption. Class readings will include musicological, anthropological, feminist, Marxist and queer theory approaches. Students will practice writing skills in a variety of formal and informal formats, culminating in an in-class presentation based on original research.
Cross-listed: Science, Technology & Society. In popular understandings, we tend to think of scientists and engineers as occupying relatively apolitical positions. While debates over government funding priorities or diversity in the laboratory occasionally pop up, we usually imagine scientists at the laboratory bench striving for the discovery of objective truths and engineers seeking to innovate new solutions to technical problems. By contradistinction, this course begins from the premise that science and technology are inherently political acts. That is, they are both the product of social conditions and, in turn, the condition of possibility for our collective ways of life. In calling science and technology political acts, we do not seek to dismiss their forms of practice (nor, for many of the authors we read, their claims to objectivity). Rather, in this course, we strive to understand how the how the existence of these expert communities affect and are affected by democratic politics.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Human Rights; Middle Eastern Studies; Science, Technology, Society. Footage of mushrooms growing out of school walls circulate after the 2014 discovery of disease-causing organisms in the drinking supply of Flint, Michigan. Photographs of two-headed Iraqi babies circulate with captions about their mothers’ exposure to unidentified toxic chemicals following the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. Widespread calls to close Indian Point Nuclear facility, 1.5 hours south of Bard, by 2021, remind us that we live exposed to nuclear leakage, usually without knowing it. These moments raise questions about the production of expert knowledge and the forms of evidence that count in claims-making about exposure to toxic materials. Toxicity and contamination are generally thought of as corrosive, damaging and destructive of human health and natural environments. But they are also generative. Emphasizing the exposures of populations living with war and occupation in the Middle East, this seminar investigates what toxicity and contamination make possible—and thinkable— by exploring controversies around exposure to toxicity and contamination in the period between Hiroshima and Flint.
Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities; Science, Technology & Society. Modern ideologies of voice - deployed in politics, social movements and humanitarian organizations, as well as many musical and cultural productions tend to naturalize the relationship between voice and individuality, agency, and empowerment. The voice, it is assumed, provides unmediated and immediate access to the self and a direct way of making one's desires and ideas known in public. But the immediacy of the voice often depends upon specific media and/or technologies that make specific voices audible, such as sound recording, amplification, broadcasting, as well as institutional divisions of labor through which voices are represented, cited, and invoked. In this course, we will explore a range of conduits of voice that re-present an original voice through technological means radio, telephone captioning, voice recorders and/or human means interpreters/translators, voice-over artists, spirit possession, and stenographers. Through these explorations we will trouble some of the assumptions about the directness of voice, even as we discover how the feelings and sense of immediacy is produced. Drawing inspiration from philosopher Gilbert Ryle's notion of the ghost in the machine' to critique mind-body distinctions, the course will broadly ask students to think critically about the relationship of human self and voice to technologies and practices that animate and circulate voices. Students will be required to research a specific conduit of voice' and create both a research paper and an EH-inspired project that demonstrates their knowledge about this voice and its medium. They will be asked to contribute readings to the class related to their specific project.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Human Rights. What are the ethical stakes, practical questions, and methodological tools that we use when we practice ethnography? Ethnography is the cornerstone of contemporary cultural anthropology, and includes both fieldwork and representation. This course is a survey of, and practicum in, ethnographic field methods. We will study and critique traditional ethnographic methods such as participant-observation, interviewing, archival research, visual, sonic, textual and spatial analysis, and address the challenges of doing fieldwork in a variety of contexts, including the virtual domain. A series of sequenced intensive research exercises will raise guiding questions about how ethnographic research can be ethically and effectively "translated" into written text. We attend also to emergent ethnographic forms and methods, such as multi-sited ethnography, critical moral anthropology, and indigenous methodologies and critiques. To complement the fieldwork projects, we will also read exemplary, and sometimes controversial, texts of ethnography in practice. Students will develop a community- or environmentally-based ethnographic research project of their own design throughout the course of the semester. Ethical aspects of conducting ethnographic fieldwork, including preparing for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, will be addressed. This course satisfies the "field methods" requirement for moderation in anthropology and/or environmental and urban studies. Prerequisites: Introduction to Anthropology 101 and/or EUS 101.
Cross-listed: Human Rights. This course is intended as an introduction to advanced theories of culture in contemporary anthropology. Required of all anthropology majors, this course will also be of interest to students wishing to explore critical innovations in the study of local, national, and mass culture around the world. In contrast to early anthropological focus on seemingly isolated, holistic cultures, more recent studies have turned their attention to contest within societies and the intersection of local systems of meaning with global processes of politics, economics and history. The class will be designed around an influential social theorist, such as Bourdieu, Bakhtin, or Marx, and the application of their theories by anthropologists, such as Aihwa Ong, Judith Irvine, or Michael Taussig. The seminar will involve participation from all of the faculty in the anthropology department. It aims to inspire critical engagement with an eye towards developing theoretical tools and questions for a senior project that makes use of contemporary theories of culture. Required and open only for Anthropology moderated students, or permission of instructor.
Cross-listed: American Studies, Film and Electronic Arts; Human Rights; Written Arts. The interview—a structured conversation—is central to the practice of a wide range of disciplines and genres. These include ethnographic field work, oral history, human rights research, investigative journalism, creative non-fiction and documentary film. Interview-based research also forms a basis for the understanding of culture, for the construction of complex narratives, and for specialist forms such as life histories, testimonies and confessions. This class will combine critical analysis of interview-based writing—and audio and video recording—with the development of technical interviewing skills. Classwork will include field exercises in recording, transcription and editing, and the production of long-form, focused interviews to publishable standards. It will consider ethical and theoretical issues, the transition from speech to writing, and the enduring authority of the human voice.
Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities Studies. As people around the world engage on a daily (and even hourly) basis with a variety of different media and technology, anthropologists have turned their attention to way new and old media shape people's perception of time, space, social and personal identity. Just as culture is being reshaped by everyday media practices, media itself has reshaped our idea of culture and humanity. Looking broadly at the concept of 'mediation,' this course will discuss contemporary theories and ethnographies of media and technology. We will look at examples such as: the use of cellphones to organize political protest, the use of photography to link national with personal identity, the use of gramophones and sound recording to record voices of the dead, the use of radio to produce national and intimate subjects, social networking sites that produce new forms of public intimacy. We will do a collective ethnography on one internet site, and students will be required to do their own ethnographic project of one media or technological form.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Asian Studies; Experimental Humanities; Global & International Studies; Human Rights; Sociology. The Olympic opening ceremony, military parades, the US presidential inaugural, the Imperial Durbar, Bastille Day, pageants reenacting the Bolshevik Revolution, and all modes of political protest. In all these forms and many others, political ritual has been central to nation-building, colonialism, and political movements over the last three centuries. This course uses a global, comparative perspective and readings from a range of academic disciplines to analyze the modern history of political ritual. We will explore the emergence of new forms of political ritual with the rise of the nation-state in the nineteenth century and track global transformations in the performance of politics as colonialism spread the symbols and pageantry of the nation-state. Central topics will include state ritual and the performance of power, the relationship between ritual and citizenship in the modern nation-state, the ritualization of politics in social and political movements, and the power of mediated mass spectacle in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Seminar meetings will focus on discussion of secondary and primary materials that allow us to analyze the intersection of ritual and politics in a variety of contexts. These will range from early-modern Europe, pre-colonial Bali, and late-imperial China to revolutionary France, 19th-century America, colonial India, post-colonial Africa, several fascist and socialist states, Europe in 1968, the modern Middle East, and the contemporary global marketplace. In addition to common readings and seminar participation, students will do a final project exploring one aspect or instance of political ritual. Moderated history students can use this course for a major conference; Experimental Humanities students are encouraged to do a multi-media project.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Human Rights; Global & International Studies. What are the origins of history as a modern discipline? How have particular modes of history developed in relation to nationalism, imperialism, and the emergence of the modern state? How have modern historical techniques served to produce ideology? Moreover, how has history provided a tool for unmasking and challenging different forms of domination and the ideologies that help to perpetuate them? This course will address these questions through theoretical readings that offer diverse perspectives on the place of narrative in history, the historian's relation to the past, the construction of historiographical discourses, and the practice of historical commemoration. Other readings will critically assess the powerful roles that historical narrative, commemoration, and institutions like the museum have played in the processes of imperialism and nation building, as well as in class and gender politics. Some of the writers to be discussed will be Hayden White, Dominick LaCapra, Michel Foucault, G.W.F. Hegel, Walter Benjamin, Joan Wallach Scott, and theorists active in the Subaltern Studies movement. In addition to our common readings, students will write a research paper that builds on the critical perspectives we have discussed during the semester.
Cross-listed: Anthropology; Environmental & Urban Studies. “Extinction” can describe more than one kind of calamity: species death, the disappearance of ways of life, the loss of languages. When and why did this trope -- suggesting some vital flame snuffed out -- become key to how we talk about the realities of biological, cultural, and linguistic precarity? How does one narrate the end, not of an individual organism, but of a form of life? And what social or institutional histories influence the designation of a given group or tradition as "vanishing" or "endangered"? For answers to such questions, we will look to early works of natural history; to ethnographic and historical studies of populations on the edge; and to literary works, from Romantic-era poetry to science fiction, that investigate the links between ideas of species, culture, sexuality, media, religion, and violence -- and that sometimes propose speculative alternatives to the narrative of extinction. Authors to include Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Charles Darwin, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Kolbert, Theodora Kroeber, Jonathan Lear, Cormac McCarthy, Ishimure Michiko, and Mary Shelley.
Cross-listed: Anthropology. Students in this advanced seminar will read and interpret recently published ethnographic works on music and sound. We will examine the themes, intellectual frameworks, and guiding questions of cutting-edge critical music and sound studies, and learn how to situate individual projects into broader frameworks of knowledge. Selected authors will visit the seminar to provide a “backstage” perspective on the process of research and writing. Seminar participants will be able to choose at least one text (a recently published monograph or journal article) on a topic of their interest that will be read by the entire class. Topics may include: war and acoustic violence, the politics of aesthetics, gender and performance, cultural policy and music, indigenous modernities and human rights, media and childhood, and other subjects. Regions studied may include: South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Nepal, rural Vermont, and other areas subject to students’ interests and expertise. Students will be expected to lead class discussion once during the semester, provide weekly discussion questions, and write two short book reviews. Preference will be given to students who plan to pursue an ethnographic senior project in Music, Anthropology, or Sociology.
This course will provide an orientation to anthropological and oral history literature on methodology, self-reflexivity and ethics in the collection of material during ethnographic research. We will study the specific characteristics, possible uses, and ethical ramifications of a range of qualitative methods including: participant observation, unstructured interviews, structured interviews, focus groups, and the collection of oral histories. We will also explore the ways in which these methods may be modified for use in ethnographic research conducted in cyberspace. Discussion of anthropological and oral history literature on these subjects will be supplemented with practical exercises in designing and applying ethically informed research methods.
Cross-listed: Religion. Religion is undeniably an important global issue in our times, as much a force for justice as a source of conflict, as much a space of comfort as one of doubt, of conformity as well as creativity. Religion has been a central subject since Anthropology's beginnings, so the discipline has been crucial in giving shape to the concept of religion in the social sciences and in the wider sphere of Western culture. With its ethnographic method, it can get under ideological and doctrinal positions to shed light on actual practice and experience; and since it has always insisted on a holistic approach, it analyzes religion not in isolation but as part of other forces and phenomena. Indeed, religion cannot be understood or experienced outside its socio-economic context. Nor can it be analyzed without its boundary categories, those areas in contrast to which it is recognized as 'religion': science, rationalism, secularism, politics. What are the boundaries of religion and how have they been shaped? How do religion and politics articulate in the contemporary world? What is the relationship between religion and science, and other secular formations of power and knowledge? How do religion and the secular shape contemporary selves? What are new emerging forms of religion, and what is this thing called spirituality that suddenly seems to be everywhere? We will think about these issues not by judging or listing various kinds of belief, but through concepts and practices, theories and ethnographies, that relate religious and non-religious domains. We will look at cases such political action in Islam and Evangelical Christianity; religion and secular politics in India; Tibetan medicine and its incorporation of science; possession and capitalist relations; technoscientific spirituality and new materialist cosmologies.
Cross-listed: Religion. Rather than think about death as a universal category or catalog the endless variety of mortuary rituals, this course will examine ‘death’ through a number of categories that construct the end of human life differently, with radically different entailments, rules, perceptions and procedures. The categories examined will include suicide and sacrifice, good and bad death, the soul and the corpse, immortality, and technological death. We will also examine ways in which death is produced and understood in relation to the state, to social structure and to secular sensibilities. Readings and discussions will be cross-cultural, ethnographic and theoretical, forming a concrete enquiry into how different forms of dying are constructed and represented across cultures.
Since the eighteenth century, childhood and youth have often been understood as times of happiness, innocence, and closeness to nature distinct from adulthood. At the same time, many writers, activists, and policymakers have witnessed young people in conditions of violence, toil, and poverty, and they have spoken of “children at risk” or even “children without childhood.” How can we make sense of these portrayals of young people’s lives? Do the worries about “children without childhood” offer a picture contrary to the romantic view of youth, or do they instead subscribe to it? How did ideas about a separate and happy childhood become so prevalent in the first place, and how do they compare with young people’s actual experiences? Finally, how are recent changes in young people’s lives related to larger cultural transformations and persistent structures of inequality? This course will address these and other questions through an examination of young people’s experiences in a variety of historical and geographic contexts, although we will focus to some degree on the contemporary U.S. and the Middle East. In addition, the class will include a small-scale ethnographic project that will allow students to conduct fieldwork on some aspect of youth cultural production on or near the Bard campus. Throughout the course, a key point of emphasis will be that young people are not merely the passive recipients of tradition, but resourceful social actors who help to re-create ways of acting, thinking, and feeling. At the same time, they are not merely the targets of policy, but actively contribute, sometimes in unexpected ways, to social and political change.
Cross-listed: Human Rights, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, SRE. This course examines the past and present experiences of Arabs, Iranians, Turks, and Kurds who reside in Europe and North America, as well as of Jews of diverse backgrounds who live in Israel and abroad. At the same time, we will explore how and why these groups are commonly regarded as “diasporas,” a term that is itself closely connected with the displacement and dispersion of Jews from their homeland in the sixth century BCE. Such an investigation demands that we critically investigate not only the history of “diaspora” as a concept, but also the contemporary circumstances that have encouraged its recent prominence in public and scholarly discussions. After all, it was not that long ago that the aforementioned groups often characterized themselves (and were regularly characterized by others) not as “diasporic,” but as “immigrant,” “expatriate,” “refugee,” “exile,” and “ethnic.” What has brought about this shift in terms? What assumptions about geographic territory, human movement, and social connection does “diaspora” imply, and what insights might it allow that other concepts (like “immigration” or “transnationalism”) do not? How do contemporary diasporas differ from past ones, especially those that emerged before the advent of nationalism and the nation-state? And finally, what might specific diasporic experiences reveal about broader cultural processes? To address these and other questions, this course will work comparatively across national contexts and historical eras, relying on readings and films from cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and “diasporans” themselves.
Cross-listed: GISP, Irish and Celtic Studies. Ireland has long captured the anthropological imagination, producing classic depictions of kinship and community, controversial accounts of rural decline and disorder, and current work on the country’s shifting position in European and world politics. This course includes a range of ethnographic exploration in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We will consider the multiple and contested meanings of Irish identity in contexts as varied as the increasingly diverse city of Dublin, nomadic or semi-nomadic Traveller communities, politically divided Northern Ireland towns, and rural Gaeltacht, or Irish language regions. Furthermore, we will consider various lenses through which to examine contemporary and historical Ireland. For example, does it make sense to apply postcolonial theory to Ireland? How might we understand the Troubles differently through an inclusion of women’s or young people’s perspectives and participation? What is the relationship of ethnoreligious symbolism, violence, and ritual practice? Students will be expected to supplement assigned ethnographic texts and films with material on current events in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Cross-listed: Gender and Sexuality Studies, Human Rights. This course examines the emergence and transformation of gender studies within anthropology since the 1970s. We will read early texts that challenged anthropologists to recognize women’s lives as valid subjects of study, as well as more recent work that encompasses constructions of both femininities and masculinities. In doing so, we will explore the division between and interrelation of biological and social factors in determining sex and gender. How are perceived biological differences accorded social meaning in various contexts? How are bodies interpreted and shaped within gender discourses? Additionally, we will focus on the politics of gender, including its relation to ideologies of colonialism, nationalism, and capitalism. How are broader political and economic forces connected to kinship, reproduction, work, and sexuality? How do anthropologies of gender relate to political feminism, construed narrowly as advocacy of women’s rights or more broadly as attention to the role of gender in structuring society? Finally, how might one do feminist anthropology? This course includes examination of cross-cultural constructions of gender structures and practices. It also requires critical interpretation of gender and sexuality in contemporary American popular culture. Prior experience with anthropology is preferable but not necessary. This course approaches the social construction of gender and sexuality through cross-cultural variation; it examines the politics of representation of gendered, sexual and cultural difference; and it considers inequalities of class and race as they intertwine with gender and sexuality.
Cross-listed: Global & International Studies, Human Rights, Middle Eastern Studies, Studies in Race and Ethnicity. This course examines Islam and its practitioners’ complex relationships with Europe as a geographic territory, sociopolitical entity, and discursive category. While there has been a great deal of attention recently paid to Muslim immigration and settlement since World War II, the Islamic presence in (what came to be known as) Europe dates back to Arab and Berber incursions into the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century. In addition, Islam, Muslims, and Muslim polities have left a significant imprint on Eastern Europe, primarily as a result of the Ottoman Empire’s expansion into the Balkans. Given this long-standing presence, why is Islam so commonly conceived as a moral and cultural formation external to Europe, European history, and European identities? Why are Muslims regarded (at best) as in Europe but not of it? How does this tacit or explicit exclusion shape the everyday practices and perceptions of Muslims who currently live there? And finally, how does the representation of Muslims as a fundamentally foreign element inform contemporary debates about Islam’s compatibility with secularism and liberal democratic citizenship? This course will examine these questions through readings, films, and other materials that work comparatively across national contexts and historical eras. It will include a number of case studies relating, among other themes, to the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Turkey’s admission to the European Union, the recent depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in cartoon form, and the response to remarks by Pope Benedict XVI.
Cross-listed: Science, Technology & Society. Science has become an important stage on which social, moral, ethical, and even existential dilemmas and dramas are produced and played out globally. In part, these contests and conflicts have to do with recent scientific and technological ventures that have challenged, even redefined, some previously stable and important categories categories such as life, death, nature, human, animate and inanimate. Using ethnographies, theoretical readings and overviews of several fields, whilst examining diverse sites of scientific production and dissemination around the world from hospitals to outer space, from indigenous knowledge to genetic labs we will look at how science and technology are changing perceptions of these categories and what the consequences might be for public life, including for the contested boundaries of science itself.
Started in antiquity, practiced as ideology in the 19th century, but acquiring a discourse in the 1960s, urban guerrilla movements became emblematic of political praxis of the youth. In this course we will address issues that are to do first with the conceptualization of youth as a category, the political and cultural movements that made such a conceptualization possible, the ideologies that inform such political action, and the development of these ideologies as youth become middle-aged. The primary focus of the course, however, will be on the conceptualization of armed violence as political resistance to the transgressions of the state against it citizens. Material will be drawn from literature, political theory, and anthropology and will examine cases from Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the US.
Cross-listed: Art History. This seminar examines the evolving relationship between art and secularism from the modern period to the present. We will begin by examining the emergence of secular discourses regarding art in thinkers such as Nietzsche and Weber, and the separation of art as an autonomous, self-sufficient social domain with its own institutional forms, such as museums and memorials, and its own non-transcendent aesthetic values, such as authenticity. Yet, throughout this period, art and the artist occupied an ambiguous position between the sacred and the profane. Today, in what some call a post-secular period, there is a rise in artistic and scientific practices associated with cosmology, immortality, animism, and transcendence. In the second part of the course, we will explore contemporary practices in the arts and sciences that indicate a post-secular sensibility from an anthropological perspective. We will look at recent international exhibits on animism and fetishism, as well as writings on the notion of re-enchantment. Tackling ideas and practices from neuroaesthetics and bio-art to cryonics, hypnosis and techno-shamanism, we will explore the way these concepts and strategies are changing the secular rules of separation between person and body, object and agency, affect and cognition, matter and the immaterial, this life and an afterlife.
Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies, GISP, Human Rights, Middle Eastern Studies. What does it mean to be ‘modern’ in the Middle East in the aftermath of colonialism and in the face of continuing Euro-American efforts to reform the region’s social, economic, and political life? Does modernity require the abandonment of tribal affiliations, cousin marriages, and the headscarf, among other putatively ‘traditional’ social forms and practices? Or does it involve more complex, creative negotiations of existing constraints and available resources? Indeed, is there more than one way to be ‘modern’? This course will examine these and other questions through intensive reading of recent anthropological and other social scientific literature, critical analysis of popular cultural artifacts, and focused film viewing. In the process, we will primarily concentrate on twentieth- and twenty-first-century transformations in Middle Eastern national identities, state practices, and public spheres, especially as they have been affected by the introduction of compulsory education, mass literacy, and the mass media. At the same time, we will investigate what influences these larger cultural-political processes have exerted on the production and consumption of commodities and on more intimate practices of kinship, gender, and sexuality. Finally, we will consider recent efforts to manage the relationship between religion and secular-liberal life. This last theme, in particular, will require us to examine Islam, but we will not approach the faith as a fixed, unitary system of principles with a single meaning. Instead, we will treat it as a discursive tradition that individuals and institutions have interpreted, invoked, and used in multiple ways and for a variety of purposes.
Cross-listed: Global & Int’l Studies; Human Rights; Middle East Studies. Theorists of revolution from Karl Marx to Hannah Arendt have argued that revolutions emerge from a collective sense that human existence itself is no longer viable under the existing order. This course explores the conditions under which such a sense has emerged at particular historic moments in the modern Middle East, drawing on case studies including, but not limited to: the Algerian war of independence, the establishment of the nation-state of Israel, the Palestinian struggle for national liberation, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and the post-colonial revolution in Egypt, the course will examine revolutionary discourses, practices and strategies, as well as the historic contexts within which they emerge. What role have revolutionary discourses, practices, and strategies played in the imagining of a new order? To what extent have these imaginings been realized after the revolution?
This course begins by considering the extent to which time and space are cultural constructions that vary within and across social groups. As we challenge understandings of these concepts as natural or inevitable, we will also explore different possibilities for measuring, representing, and creating meaning in relation to them. Time and space are so fundamental that we are often unaware of the ways they are embedded in our lives. Yet on a daily basis they reflect and reinforce interpersonal and institutional relations of power. This course therefore also investigates spatio-temporal dynamics and strategies as elements of social hierarchy. In addition, it examines time and space as organizing concepts with which to understand the world. For example, why is it problematic to study a contemporary society as if it represented another society’s past? What are the implications of dividing the world spatially into categories such as East and West or core and periphery? Finally, we will consider how political economy structures experiences of time and space. This includes temporal disciplines of commodity production, state seizure of “private” time under socialism, and descriptions of time-space compression in late capitalism. This course is open to Upper College students. Students moderating during the semester will also be considered.