Spring 2009

  • Peoples and Cultures of Africa

Why is there so much famine? Why so many civil wars? Why so much misunderstanding? To place current events in Africa in a meaningful framework, this course explores indigenous African cultures, drawing on ethnographic examples from selected ethnic groups representing major subsistence strategies, geographical and ecological zones, and patterns of culture. We will explore how cultural practices and the ecology influence each other and affect the lives of Africa’s farmers, herders, and workers. We will also examine the new social and cultural practices that influence the survival of societies. Consequently, we will locate indigenous coping strategies within their historical context, in order to understand their role in contemporary society, and to answer another question: What are the social strengths of African societies?

Introductory Level

  • Anthropology of Art

This course is an exploration of art as defined and practiced in different cultures. We will look at how peoples of diverse world cultures create, use, manipulate, conceptualize, exchange, and evaluate objects of material culture. We will look at how material items are considered to be artistic or aesthetic in some fashion, and think of how and if we can translate those values across cultural boundaries.

Intermediate Level

Fall 2008

  • Many Peoples, One World

Why are cultures and societies so different, and simultaneously, so similar? We explore these questions by reading various ethnographic studies, meanwhile developing an anthropological perspective on economy and politics, social organization, kinship and family life, ideology and ritual, ecology and adaptation. We also focus on the sources and dynamics of inequality. Against this background, we examine some of the theoretical and methodological approaches used by anthropologists in their explorations into human culture and society.

Introductory Level

  • Gender and Social Change in Modern Africa

This course examines processes of change that have shaped the understandings of male and female in modern Africa. It seeks to provide both the information and the conceptual tools necessary for an interpretation of gender relations in contemporary African societies, drawing on a variety of sources, including popular media. We will examine 19th, 20th and 21st century interactions of Africans and Europeans and the nature of colonial conquest, economic and social change during the colonial period, and the shaping of contemporary gender relations within the context of post-colonial and socioeconomic orders through a small number of in-depth studies of particular regions.

Intermediate Level

  • AIDS Pandemic: Science, Cultures, Politics of HIV
  • A Bennington College Design Lab co-taught with faculty member Amie McClellan
  • Like a pebble dropped in a pool, HIV sends ripples to the edges of society, affecting first the family, then the community, then the nation as a whole.” -UNAIDS
  • The problem:In the 25 years since the H.I. virus has been identified, it has spread around the globe, infecting and killing millions of people. According to Gerald Stine, “AIDS, if it has not already, will soon be the worst transmittable viral or bacterial plague in human history.” Despite decades of hard work and billions of dollars invested in the project, the search for a cure, or a vaccine to prevent infection, have failed.
  • The lab:Through readings, discussions, presentations, hands-on laboratory exercises, and research we will strive to define the issues that drive our exploration into the cultures, politics and science underlying the global AIDS pandemic, with particular emphasis on the United States and East Africa. Questions of interest include: What do we know about infection and transmission? What do we know about immunology? Is scientific knowledge sufficient for effective intervention? What do we know about behavior? What do we know about the arenas where action is taking place? Who decides what action is important? What is their motivation?
  • The action:Participating students will discover and define the questions and actions of most interest and importance to them, and then translate this curiosity into their Field Work Term experience.
  • Introductory Level