Spring 2010
  • Reading the Body

Should boys be robust and ruddy?  Should girls be wan, lithe and prone to vapors? Unlike the Western scientific, biomedical constructions of the body, a cultural constructionist approach accepts the body, the self, and the person as culturally shaped, constrained, and invented.  In this course, we will explore how social values and hierarchies are written in, on, and through the body, the relationship between body and (gender) identity; and the experiences and images of the body cross culturally.  Our bodies and our perception of them constitute an important part of our sociocultural heritage, and throughout life we undergo a process of collectively sanctioned bodily modification that serves as an important instrument for our socialization.  Alternating between discussion and experiential classes, students will read and discuss texts that address the social construction of the body, and examine the basis for movement, our anatomical structure, and how this is socially modified.

Intermediate Level

Fall 2009
  • Being Human

Because of its broad scope (the study of humans), anthropology is divided into subdisciplines, each with its own set of specialists.  This course offers an introduction to archaeology, concerned with reconstructing cultures of the past; physical anthropology, concerned with humans as biological organisms; linguistics, concerned with language and communication; and sociocultural anthropology, concerned with examining similarities and differences between contemporary cultures.  In their attempt to understand the human condition, practitioners in the subfields are unified by certain overarching themes that define the discipline, including principles of universalism, holism, integration, adaptation and cultural relativism.

Introductory Level

  • Other People’s Worlds

In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, a European based world-economy came into existence.  Fueled by the philosophy of mercantilism, traders followed, and sometimes were, explorers seeking riches in the lands “discovered” in the search for trade routes.  The resulting contact between cultures led to fundamental transformations of all the societies and cultures involved.  Drawing on specific ethnographic examples, this course invites students to embark on a journey of exploration of the globe.  Through texts and film we will examine the internal dynamics of selected societies on various continents in order to understand how they construct their world, as well as investigate the dynamics which tie them together in a system of hierarchy established over the course of centuries since the age of European exploration.

Intermediate Level

  • (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 do film/video allow for a holistic framework, including historical background? How do visual portrayals conceal or highlight the perspective of the author/film maker? 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 are made with written ethnographies as well as with Hollywood filmmaking influences.

Intermediate Level