- 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.
- (Re)Presenting Culture
Anthropologists use ethnographic writing and films to present cultures to outsiders. Both inscribe/transcribe social life, but the portraits they create differ. Theoretical considerations as well as stylistic conventions influence both the shape and the content of the final product. In this course we examine closely a body of films to explore how each genre (e.g., observational, realist, non-narrative) serves to inscribe experienced/observed realities. Topics addressed include how well does film/video allow for a holistic framework, including historical background? How do visual portrayals conceal or highlight the perspective of the author/filmmaker? What is the relationship between the audience and the subject? To what extent do the subjects of ethnographies have control over how they are represented? Throughout, comparisons with written ethnographies as well as with Hollywood filmmaking influences will be drawn out.
- Cultural Localities
This advanced research seminar offers the opportunity for detailed study of the culture of people living in a particular area of the world, including their society, politics, economy, world view, religion, expressive practices, and historical transformations. In the initial segment of the course we will cover shared materials, the second segment is devoted to individual pursuit of a topic, as relevant to a specific peoples or culture. The aim is to explore detailed histories of colonialism, civilization, dictatorships, markets, nationalism, neo-colonialism, and gender relations, as they apply to a specific, contemporary society and the issues that shape it at the beginning of the third millennium. Through readings of literature, colonial theory, anthropology, history, political economy, video documentary, and fieldwork footage, the course provides critical perspectives that form bridges among texts produced by indigenous and exogenous observers.
In a world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, consumerism seems contagious in its power to incite social and individual yearning and discontent. This course explores the history of acquisition-finding, choosing-spending in Western societies and then examines the phenomenon in other parts of the world. Advertising not only sells cars and cigarettes, but also politicians as the consumer mentality spreads to politics and education. The illusion of choice permeates the market place, the ballot box and the classroom. What is the nature of choice when it may be the packaging and not the product that is the major difference among goods? We will look at how consumerism is fueled and the implications of its language and ideas outside the economic realm. Is democracy being built through the nurturance of reflectiveness, curiosity, imagination and “a passion for the possible” in schools? Or are classrooms increasingly mass media outlets for corporate marketing, image building, and ideological molding pitched to young minds?
- Sociocultural Anthropology
Why are cultures and societies so different, and simultaneously, so similar? The focus of this course is to examine some of the theoretical and methodological approaches used by anthropologists in their explorations into human culture and society. Various ethnographic examples will be studied to develop an anthropological perspective on economy and politics, social organization, kinship and family life, ideology and ritual, ecology and adaptation, as well as a focus on the sources and dynamics of inequality.