F12-SP13

Fall 2012
  • People, Cultures, and Society

Anthropology is in essence the comparative study of human societies and cultures. The concept of culture is central to the discipline because it reveals human capacity for creativity and helps in understanding and accounting for the diversity of social and cultural practices found around the world. But nowhere can people live heedless of material constraints. Using ethnographic texts, we examine the interplay between constraints and human creativity to explain the great diversity in the systems of production, distribution and exchange within which people live. We explore the variety of social organizations, gender identities, political systems and religions, and conclude by looking at the impact of the expansion of capitalism on non-western societies and issues of social change and development.

Introductory 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

  • Cultural Localities

This advanced research seminar offers the opportunity for detailed study of a society of the world, including its culture, 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. The length of the final paper is expected to be 25-30 pages.

Intermediate Level

Spring 2013
  • Culture, Environment, and Sustainable Living

In this seminar, we examine how Western and non-Western cultures, both past and present, perceive and shape key environmental and social issues. Through readings, discussions and films we will evaluate the potential of environmental and cultural studies to address some of the most urgent contemporary problems. To work toward an understanding of what is today called environmental anthropology, we begin with an overview of material from fields which have served as antecedents and/or coevolving orientations, including the fields of cultural ecology, ecological anthropology, and human ecology. We will address questions of how people studied and perceived the ways in which human societies and various environments shape one another over time. We will also look at the environmental implications of human adaptations, and how these contribute to the issues of the day, including environmental stresses such as overpopulation, the depletion of natural resources, pollution of land, air and water and global warming.

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