Courses

ANSO

ANSO 205(S)Ways of Knowing

An applied exploration of how one makes sense of the social world through fieldwork. Some of the key questions of the course are: What are the philosophical and epistemological underpinnings of social inquiry? How does one frame intellectual problems and go about collecting, sifting, and assessing field materials? What are the uses and limits of statistical data? What is the importance of history to sociological and anthropological research? How can one use archival and other documentary materials to enrich ethnographic research? What are the empirical limits to interpretation? What is the relationship between empirical data and the generation of social theory? How does the social organization of social research affect one's inquiry? What are the typical ethical dilemmas of fieldwork and of other kinds of social research? How do researchers' personal biographies and values shape their work? In the first half of the course, we will approach these problems concretely rather than abstractly through a series of case studies, drawing upon the field experiences of departmental faculty and guest speakers from different professional backgrounds. The second half of the course will be dedicated to a hands-on training in field methods, in which the students will design and undertake their own pilot field projects. [ more ]

ANSO 305(F)Social Theory

An introduction to social theory in anthropology and sociology, with strong emphasis on enduring themes that cut across disciplinary divides. What is modern about modern social theory? How do social thinkers construe "society"? How and why does "society" become an object of reflection and intervention by anthropologists and sociologists? Do society and culture have organizing rules? What role does human agency play in the unfolding of social life, and where does that sense of agency come from in the first place? What are the forces that animate social interaction on the level of individuals, social groups and complex units like nation states? What are the possibilities and limits of systematic approaches to the study of human social experience? The course emphasizes major differences between interpretive frameworks as well as the common elements that contribute to a deeper understanding of the social world. [ more ]

ANSO 402(S)Senior Seminar

This capstone seminar examines three classic anthropological, sociological and archeological case studies and considers how our understanding of these case studies has evolved over time. Beginning with early ethnographic texts produced by an anthropologist and a sociologist and an archeological site report, the course investigates how our understanding of the social groups described and analyzed in these texts has changed over the years as indicated by later restudies, as well as how the modes and models of analysis used to understand the groups has developed as research paradigms have shifted and social contexts have been transformed by political and economic factors unknown or unacknowledged at the time of the original research. In the final three weeks of the course, students will choose a case study from the anthropological, sociological or archeological literature that was subjected to later re-study and will develop an analytical history of this group, institution or site. Students will present their findings orally to the class and write a paper evaluating how and why the group, institution or site they have studied has changed in the ways indicated in the research literature and what these shifts tell us about the evolving nature of social scientific analysis. [ more ]

Anthropology

ANTH 101(F, S)The Scope of Anthropology

Is there such a thing as "human nature"? Why have human societies developed such a bewildering range of customs to deal with problems common to people everywhere? This course addresses these questions by introducing students to the comparative study of human social life and culture. Topics surveyed in the course include economics, language and thought, kinship and marriage, law and politics, and the wide variations in human belief systems, including religions. The course also considers the ways that anthropology, a discipline that was until recently practiced almost exclusively by Westerners, approaches other societies in search of insights on our own customs and values. Ethnographic descriptions of both "simple" tribal societies and complex modern ones are a prominent part of the readings. This course explores differences and similarities between cultures and societies and ways in which they have interacted and responded to one another in the past. [ more ]

ANTH 103Pyramids, Bones, and Sherds: What is Archaeology?

Not offered this year

Anthropology examines not only living societies, but also prehistoric cultures whose remains are found worldwide. This course will present how archaeology reconstructs the various aspects of human society from the physical record of prehistory. How do we study the subsistence and settlement patterns, the political and social organization, and the economy and ideology of prehistoric societies who have left behind mute material records? The objective of anthropological archaeology is to bring to life these prehistoric cultures through archaeological analysis. The different goals, approaches and methodologies of modern archaeology will be discussed theoretically and then applied to case studies. [ more ]

ANTH 208(F)Afghanistan Post-Mortem

The United States attacked and defeated the Afghan Taliban regime over in the course of a few short weeks in 2001. Over the next decade, the finality of that victory was brought into question as the Taliban regrouped and eventually reasserted itself as a formidable guerilla army that the U.S. military could not defeat. This course examines the history of American involvement in Afghanistan, beginning in the Cold War when the U.S. used Afghanistan as a test case for new models of political modernization and economic development, through the Soviet occupation and U.S. support for Islamist political parties in the 1980s, and continuing with the most recent abortive U.S. efforts at nation-building and social and political reform. [ more ]

ANTH 209(F)Ecologies of Place: Culture, Commodities and Everyday Life

This course will explore the environmental implications of everyday life in modern America. It will ask how cultural, political, economic, and ecological systems interact to produce ordinary places and vernacular landscapes, from campuses to cul-de-sacs, farms to forests, nation-states to national parks. Combining approaches from cultural geography, environmental history, and political ecology, it will focus on the hidden lives of "things"--the commodities and technologies that form the basic building blocks of place: food, oil, water, wood, machines. With strong emphasis on local-global relations, it will look beneath the surface of the ordinary to reveal the complex networks of power, meaning, and matter that connect "here" to "there," "now" to "then," and "us" to "them." In so doing, it will pursue parallel goals: to understand the socio-spatial processes shaping today's global environment; and to explore the cultural systems through which those processes are understood and contested. Topics will include the bottled water controversy, factory farming and local agriculture, the political economy of lawns, and the cultural politics of invasive species. [ more ]

ANTH 210(S)Governing Nature

This course analyzes the regulation of natural resources, primarily in today's United States. We will study how shared definitions of nature and, hence, nature's resources are instituted in law and policy and the extent to which these legal mandates shape actual landscapes. We will examine the workings of government bureaucracies--for example, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service--to see how their understanding and administration of natural resources operate on the ground and affect local communities. We will consider an array of questions: What is the relationship between nature and what anthropologists call "the State"? Does scientific expertise command authority? When is the governance of natural resources synonymous with the governance of people? To what extent are taken-for-granted terms like "endangered" in reality social and legal constructs? In order to unpack these and other puzzles, we will turn to historical works and ethnography, focusing on insights from political and environmental anthropology. We will also read legal doctrine, such as the Wilderness Act of 1964 and judicial opinions regarding tribal sovereignty and fishing rights. Our case studies will range from rivers and national forests in the American Southwest to local conservation issues in the Berkshires, including land trusts. [ more ]

ANTH 211(F)Black, Indian, and Other in Brazil

As host to global sports spectacles like the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Brazil has garnered much attention of late. Headlines have also focused on the wide-scale social protests that have gripped the country in recent years. The central question of the course is why Brazilians so often articulate the country in terms of its unfulfilled promise, i.e. "a country of the future" (um pais do futuro) and the centrality of race and ethnicity to the country's national project. Brazil presents itself as a multicultural racial democracy, a product of 500 years of mixture and progress. However, the tumultuous terms for daily life amidst legacies of slavery and often brutal development schemes belie prevailing rhetoric. The course will focus on elements of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian cultures (such as religion, cosmology, and music), while at the same time situating cultural movements like the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) and indigenist politics within the larger international production and exchange of ideas regarding blackness and indigeneity. Core course materials consist of both academic literature and pieces from Brazilian popular culture, including cinema, music, and television. [ more ]

ANTH 214The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

Not offered this year

Over the centuries, philosophers and historians have asked how societies evolved from simple hunter-gatherer bands to complex urban civilizations. Human prehistory and history have shown the repeated cycles of the rise, expansion and collapse of early civilizations in both the Old and New World. What do the similarities and differences in the development of these first civilizations tell us about the nature of societal change, civilization and the state, and human society itself? The course will examine these issues through an introductory survey of the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Mesoamerica and South America. Classical and modern theories on the nature, origin, and development of the state will be reviewed in light of the archaeological evidence. [ more ]

ANTH 218(F)Topics in Sustainable Agriculture

What does sustainability mean in the context of agricultural practice, food production, and consumption? This course encourages students to think analytically and critically about the meanings and practices of sustainability in the context of food and agriculture. We examine diverse regional and historic contexts to explore how concerns about sustainability in relation to agricultural production and food consumption emerged, and explore the contemporary incarnations of sustainable agriculture in organic, fair trade, and local agriculture as well as in debates around food miles, biofuels, and genetic modification. Cutting across each of these individual topics, we will think about the connections between production and consumption, ecology and society. By the end of this course, it is expected that students will develop a multifaceted understanding of the social, political and cultural dimensions of sustainable food and agriculture. [ more ]

ANTH 219The Art and Archeology of Maya Civilization: A Marriage Made in Xibalba

Not offered this year

The ancient Maya civilization was one of the most sophisticated and complex cultures of prehispanic Central America. Its complex calendrics, astronomy, mathematics and hieroglyphic writing system are well known worldwide. The course will examine the trajectory and nature of ancient Maya civilization from the combined perspectives of archaeology and art history. The origins and evolution of the Maya states during the Preclassic period (1000 B.C.-A.D. 250) will be explored by looking at the rich archaeological evidence and at Preclassic art styles. The Classic Maya civilization (A.D. 250-1000) will then be presented through a detailed survey of the archaeology, art and hieroglyphic texts of this period. Finally, the collapse of Classic Maya civilization and its transformation and endurance during the Postclassic period and under early Spanish rule (A.D. 1000-1600) will be critically evaluated through a detailed review of the archaeological and iconographic evidence. [ more ]

ANTH 220(F)Law and Family in South Asia: Post-Colonial Dilemmas

The American press frequently depicts countries like India and Pakistan as in the grip of lawless, anachronistic beliefs about how to organize family life. Such beliefs are blamed for "tribal" violence in Pakistan's Frontier Regions, for dowry disputes in north India and for the persistence of corrupt dynasties in leading political parties. Yet these beliefs and practices aren't in fact old-fashioned or lawless, and many of them result from South Asia's unique historical position as a former British colony. In this class, we will use ethnographic and historical research to examine what law and kinship can teach us about how the past shapes the present in post-colonial South Asia. In particular, we'll examine how a perspective that seriously considers law and kinship can help us better understand contemporary dilemmas in South Asia, ranging from controversy over women?s right to inherit property, to the role of caste in contemporary democratic politics. The course is organized into three sections. First, we will discuss kinship, reading classic theories of kinship in the region, as well as critiques of those theories, and ending with a contemporary dilemma, the problem of dowry "pressure". Next, we learn about how family relationships were codified legally, and how laws were shaped to respond to perceived family "traditions," in colonial and post-colonial South Asia. Finally, we will look at specific topics concerning law and kinship. As we do so, we will move from reading ethnographies to producing our own ethnographic observations using film, news stories and first-hand accounts as our primary materials. No prior knowledge about South Asia is necessary. [ more ]

ANTH 222(F)Heroes, Saints and Celebrity

This course examines the ways in which cultures select, ritually celebrate, institutionally harness, and ultimately devour people designated as 'extraordinary'. We will begin by considering cultural archetypes and theories of the hero and how heroism has been understood in different eras and cultural contexts. Using Weber's theory of charisma as a foundation, we will look at a number of specific case studies to evaluate the relationship between individual creativity and action and the demands of social conformity and control. Finally, we will examine how charisma is commoditized in the form of the celebrity in contemporary American culture. [ more ]

ANTH 223Ethnic Minorities in China: Past and Present

Not offered this year

By 2000, of the 1.3 billion population of China, more than 100 million were ethnic minorities (shaoshu minzu). Most of these reside in autonomous regions and districts, which constitute 64% of China's total acreage. This course introduces students to the multiethnic aspect of China's past and present. We will address topics such as the minority-group identification project; the definition of minzu; government policy toward and the current situation of the fifty-five official ethnic minority groups; historical sino-centric views about "foreigners" and "barbarians"; ideas of "diversity," "unity," and "sinicization"; and the roles that "barbarians" have played in China's long history. All readings will be in English. This is an EDI course. We will explore various meanings of "diversity" and "being ethnic" in the Chinese context and compare them with students' own experiences through class discussions and an essay assignment. [ more ]

ANTH 225Visible Culture: Documentary and Nonfiction

Not offered this year

This course examines the potential of moving images to reveal aspects of culture normally obscured by the written word. We will consider both the theory and practice of documentary film from its inception around 1900 to the present, paying particular attention to the way documentary filmmakers have approached the representation of social reality in Western and non-Western cultural settings. Questions that we will consider include: What is the relationship between written text and image, or between image and story? What is the role of film in anthropology? What counts as a document? [ more ]

ANTH 231Survey of Linguistic Diversity: Meaning, Context and Communication

Not offered this year

This course explores ways in which human experiences, including vision, space, emotion and interpersonal awareness are encoded similarly or differently between Western and Asian languages. The course centers around two core areas of linguistics, semantics (study of meaning) and pragmatics (study of meaning in context and use), which are discussed from cognitive, cultural and social perspectives. Discussion topics include: grammar and cognition, lexicon and culture, conceptual metaphor, honorific systems, communicative strategies, and theories of politeness. Lectures and in-class activities will primarily focus on two typologically distant languages, English and Japanese, for comparison. Reading materials may include data from other languages as well, and students may work on languages of their interest for selected assignments. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ANTH 233(S)Spiritual Crossroads: Religious Life in Southeast Asia

No region of the world presents a richer tapestry of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions than Southeast Asia. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are all to be found and all of them interpenetrate and contend with each other and with a deep undergirding of animism, shamanism, and mystical folk belief systems. This course will survey these religious traditions through time and space, looking in particular at the growing tension between religion and the state as fundamentalism and religious militancy have spread into the region in recent times. All of Southeast Asia will be covered, but particular attention will be devoted to Indonesia, where religious blending and the growth of new fundamentalism are both especially marked. [ more ]

ANTH 234Masculinities

Not offered this year

What does it mean to be a man? This course approaches masculinity in its various forms as a culturally constructed category and as an achieved aspect of social identity. We will look at characteristics of manhood as they are imagined cross-culturally: man as warrior, lover, husband, father, protector, provider, disciplinarian, abuser; we will look at how manhood is variously achieved and how it can be lost; and we will look at forms of masculinity as they articulate with modes of sexuality and gender. The course will make extensive use of cinema in exploring these themes. [ more ]

ANTH 235Roman Archaeology and Material Culture

Not offered this year

This course examines the development of Roman archaeology and material culture from the early Iron Age, ca. 1000 BCE, to the end of the reign of Constantine in 337 CE. The primary goal of the course is to help students understand the social and historical context in which Roman material culture was created and used. We will consider a variety of evidence from across the empire, including monumental and domestic architecture, wall painting, mosaics, sculpture, coins and inscriptions. Special emphasis will be placed on the city of Rome; however, we will also look at other important urban centers, such as Pompeii, Aphrodisias and Lepcis Magna. Roman art and architecture were not the product of any single people or culture, but rather the hybrid synthesis of complex cultural negotiations between the Romans and their colonial subjects (i.e., Greeks, Jews, Celts, etc.). Class discussions will focus on issues related to gender, ethnicity and cultural identity in the Roman Empire. For example, we will explore what it meant to be "Roman" in terms of language, ethnicity and cultural institutions. We will also discuss how Roman elites used material culture to convey political messages and social status in the imperial hierarchy, as well as the legacy of Roman art and architecture in the modern world. [ more ]

ANTH 236(S)Individuals in Context: Personhood, Emotion, Thought

How does culture get inside our heads? How does variation between societies or social groups intersect with variation between individuals within those groups? What can ethnographic methods, in particular, tell us about the intersections between individual and culture? This course offers an introduction to the theoretical and methodological tools of psychological anthropology, a sub-field of anthropology that investigates the relationship between interior experience and social worlds. We will explore studies of personhood, emotion, socialization, and cognition across cultures, topics that draw together the individual and her broader social context. We will pair these studies with key theoretical texts from the field, and will conclude by discussing how psychological anthropology can contribute to contemporary debates about power, inequality, and social transformation. [ more ]

ANTH 240Roman Cities in the Near East

Not offered this year

The Near East under Roman rule was a zone of intense cultural contact and exchange. Major urban centers, like Ephesus and Alexandria, were home to a diverse array of Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians and other Semitic peoples. Out of this cultural crucible emerged new movements in religion, science, and the arts which changed the face of the Roman Empire. This course examines the history and material culture of Roman cities in the Near East, from Pompey's annexation of Syria in 64 BCE to the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE. We will consider a variety of evidence, including sculpture, architecture and epigraphy, as well as textual sources, such as Josephus' Jewish War, Acts of the Apostles and Tacitus' Histories. Class discussion will focus on issues related to ethnicity and identity formation in the eastern Roman provinces. Possible topics include the Romanization of the Near East, the First Jewish Revolt, the formation of early Christianity, and the Roman wars with Sassanian Persia. This course fulfills the EDI requirement because it explores the interaction between peoples and cultures in the ancient Near East and their diverse responses to Roman imperialism. [ more ]

ANTH 246 T(F)India's Identities: Religion, Caste, and Gender

This course considers India's contradictory legacy as a booming Asian democracy and fragile society built upon deep and enduring divisions. India's rapidly growing populace and landscape is often described in terms of multiple identities or fragmenting oppositions: Hindu/Muslim, rich/poor, high caste/outcaste, male/female, and so forth. This course deconstructs the historic roots and ongoing causal factors that produce structural violence against women and religious minorities in modern India. It highlights the social practices that have produced critical axes of difference around the themes of religion, gender, and sexuality using key moments or regions of India as points of departure. It contrasts the explosive effects of religion, gender, and caste during the tragedy of Partition with the ongoing production of communal and gender-based violence in India today, using Kashmir and New Delhi as microcosms for our study. We will consider the ways that multiple subjectivities and polarized identities intersect with individual agency to produce a social landscape of hierarchy and conflict across India today. We are also interested in the socio-cultural forces that reproduce or shore up these binaries as much as third terms or middle paths that attempt to transcend or diffuse them. For instance, we explore the ways that Buddhism is and is not a middle way between Hindu/Muslim conflict in Indian Kashmir and how the notion of a third sex is and is not a middle term that transcends the gender binary of male/female. Course resources include ethnographic and sociological analyses, oral histories, and popular media that complicate our understanding India's diverse and fragmented society. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative by theorizing the ways that difference has been used to effect profound historical, social, and individual changes in the Indian subcontinent. [ more ]

ANTH 248(S)Body Politics in South Asia: Gender, Sex, Religion, and Nation

This course examines the relationship between body, gender, sex, and society in South Asia, using three countries and religions---India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, and Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam---as its foil. The course uses the body as a lens by which to unpack South Asian discourses that link body and sexuality with nation, community, and population. In particular, it explores a South Asian sociology that links individual and social bodies in ways that occasion solidarity as well as social suffering, violence as well as communal cohesion. How do bodies come to signify the purity or prosperity of the nation or community and with what social or discursive effects? We begin by unpacking foundational theories of the body as proposed by Mauss, Foucault, Douglas, and Bourdieu in order to better understand how local discourses of the body help produce gender and other social hierarchies in South Asia. By considering how the human body can serve as a map for society and vice versa, we examine both classical discourses and modern institutional practices of the body including the temple, the monastery, the mosque, and the mendicant, as well as bodily practices such as yoga, celibacy, sex work, and new reproductive technologies. We also analyze how the body has served as a symbol of nation, community, and social health. Throughout, we are interested in the cross-cutting effects of gender and sex in perpetuating structural hierarchies and social suffering around the body in South Asia. [ more ]

ANTH 256Engendering Buddhism: How Women and Men Shape and Are Shaped by Buddhism

Not offered this year

This course looks at how gender has shaped Buddhism as well as how Buddhism has shaped gender. Most generally, it considers the myriad ways that Buddhist soteriology and practice produce the very gender differences they purport to overcome. How have the Buddha and his far-flung disciples institutionalized gender differences in spite of their putative goal of transcending duality? We examine the varying experiences of women and men in Buddhist societies and literatures as a lens by which to analyze the pervasive operation of social and gender hierarchies. Last but not least, we discuss how well feminist and American revisions of Buddhism have transformed gender and other forms of difference. Our analysis revolves around several interdependent themes. (1) How do female and male bodies become the subject of a specific set of Buddhist gazes? What does Buddhist discourse say about the possibility of gaining enlightenment in the female body? (2) How do gender divisions reflect deeper social divisions such as class and race in Buddhist discourse? (3) How have feminist deconstructions of Buddhism transformed gender and social hierarchies in the contemporary world? This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative by seeking to theorize the ways that Buddhism has produced and reinscribed gender differences and social hierarchies. [ more ]

ANTH 258(F)Divine Kingship in the Ancient Mediterranean

What is the relationship between politics and religion? How do kings legitimate their rule? Why did the ancient Greeks and Romans worship their emperors as gods? This course examines the origins and development of divine kingship in the ancient Mediterranean from its earliest beginnings in Pharaonic Egypt to the reign of the Christian Roman Emperors in the fourth century CE. We will address the various symbolic strategies employed by ancient kings to project their own divinity. These include portraiture, panegyric poetry, ritual processions, royal autobiography and monumental architecture, e.g., the Great Pyramids in Egypt and the Pantheon in Rome. We will also study the reception of royal art and ideology among the king's subjects. Special attention will be paid to the role of the Roman emperor-cult in shaping social, political and religious identity in the Roman Empire. [ more ]

ANTH 262(S)Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Social scientists have long argued that gendered identities are "voiced" or performed. This insight draws our attention to the tremendous role that language and spoken interaction play in the reproduction and transformation of gendered relations and systems of sexuality. This class analyzes gendered and sexual difference through the lens of language and communicative practice. On one hand, we use the tools of linguistic anthropology to ask about how systems of gender and sexuality are reproduced through everyday interactions. On the other hand, we examine how interactive norms regarding gender and sexuality then shape political, economic, and social processes beyond face-to-face interactions. In doing so, we will read a range of ethnographic material, both from the US and beyond, that examines how gender shapes interactions, whether in the context of a basketball game, a medical training course, a courtroom, a religious revival movement, or an international crisis. We will put this material in critical conversation with theorists of gender and sexuality who have argued for the interactive, discursive nature of these categories, such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, asking what linguistic anthropology, in particular, can tell us about the connections between language, gender, and sexuality. [ more ]

ANTH 270Object and Place/Memory and Nation

Not offered this year

This course explores the role of object and place in the creation and perpetuation of national identity. In particular, we will consider the role of monuments, battlefields, museums, and various 'sacred' sites in inculcating a sense of shared origins, values, commitments, and ultimate ends. Using a variety of key theoretical texts (including Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities and Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger's The Invention of Tradition) and maintaining a focus on two countries -- Afghanistan and the Czech Republic -- with long and painful histories of foreign invasion and occupation, the EDI course focuses on the ways in which people orient themselves within the symbolic worlds they inherit and how they negotiate tragedies of circumstance. [ more ]

ANTH 272(F)Sex and the Reproduction of Society

Why is reproduction such a controversial subject in society today, especially in areas of medicine, culture, and religion? And why is the reproductive body subject to such highly ideological and yet contradictory types of practices and discourses across the globe? This course seeks to examine the myriad ways that societies police the range of practices surrounding reproduction--including fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth, abortion, and motherhood. We will pursue a comparative analysis of reproduction across major societies and cultures, through an in-depth look at specialized topics such as the new reproductive technologies, the medicalization and ritualization of obstetrics in America, the continuing controversies over abortion across the globe, and the ongoing debates about the rise of women and the 'End of Men'. Throughout the course, we remain focused on the cultural, social, and medical construction of birth and reproduction more generally. To this end, we explore the varying ritual and medical practices that surround reproduction in different cultural contexts, from high tech to low tech settings and societies. We will deconstruct the process of human reproduction through readings culled from a variety of cultures and disciplines including anthropology, medicine, religious studies, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies. [ more ]

ANTH 299(S)Ritual, Power and Transgression

Anthropology began, in part, as an effort to study "savage" cultures before they disappeared under the onslaught of modern civilization, and indeed most of the societies investigated by early anthropologists no longer exist or survive in completely altered form. As they lost their original object of study, however, anthropologists also discovered that the tools and concepts developed in the study of "primitive" cultures could be applied to the contemporary world. Exploring this possibility, this course examines the relevance of fundamental anthropological concepts that have developed through the structural and symbolic study of myth and ritual to the contemporary world in which we live. The course is divided into four sections. In the first unit, we read and discuss the work of Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, and Marshall Sahlins on myth and ritual, focusing in particular on the ways in which different cultures construct categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, pure and impure, while also creating the "in between" spaces within which both creativity and transgression emerge. On this foundation, we move to the second unit in which we discuss the structural relationship between ritual, power, and transgression in western contexts, taking the majority of our examples from early modern European and American history. In the third section of the course, we consider what an anthropological perspective can reveal about some seminal events in 20th century history, and we end the course by considering how anthropological theory informs two critical areas of current concern: immigration and national security. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

ANTH 301(F)Sexual Economies

This course examines various forms of sexual labor in a variety of global contexts with an emphasis on contemporary anthropological and sociological research and its implications for public policy. Our topics include: (a) traditional sex work (e.g., pornography, escorting, street prostitution, brothels, sex tourism), (b) sexualized labor without physical contact (e.g., stripping, burlesque, phone/online sex), and also (c) contemporary debates about sex trafficking and sex worker migration. Because of our ethnographic focus, the readings for this class will frequently foreground the lived experiences of sex workers from a variety of nations, races, classes, and backgrounds in order to explore the broader social implications of our subject matter. A key component of this course is a field trip to New York City to meet with sex workers and sex worker rights advocates. (Note: students should be advised that we will necessarily encounter and discuss adult content and images that some may find offensive.) [ more ]

ANTH 312(F)Paradoxes of Human Rights: Addressing Violence Against Women

In recent decades, violence against women has become a major target for human rights activism. Most people take the connection between violence against women and human rights activism for granted. Yet gendered and sexual violence have only recently been framed as human rights issues. In this course, we examine this recent transformation, focusing on the paradoxes and possibilities of a human rights framework for addressing issues of gendered violence. We will do so by comparing different humanitarian and human rights-based interventions as they play out in places from Trinidad and Tobago to the American college campus. We'll explore a range of research on the topic in order to complicate and expand our understanding of both gendered and sexual violence as well as the institutional interventions designed to engage it. Along the way, we will examine the history of human rights as a means to imagine social justice. In the first half of the course, we will read critical texts concerning violence, human rights, humanitarianism, and gender. We will then turn to historical and ethnographic studies of human rights, finishing with several case studies of human rights work on gender and violence. [ more ]

ANTH 314(S)Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora

This course explores the visual arts of the contemporary African Diaspora from the Caribbean, Islamic Mediterranean, Europe, and the United States. The first half of the course examines art historical and anthropological theories utilized in analyses of global contemporary art. The second half of the course uses original works from WCMA's permanent collection and the exhibition Fathi Hassan: Migration of Signs to consider areas of convergence and divergence in the practices of artists from the Atlantic and Islamic worlds. [ more ]

Taught by: Maurita Poole

Catalog details

ANTH 320(S)Cultivating the Local: Place-based Productions of Food and Agriculture

This course explores the relation between ideas and practices relating to nature, food and agriculture, and specific formations of place, locality and region. Through this course we will lay conceptual and theoretical foundations for understanding the productions of place, nature, food and agriculture, and the interconnections among them. How do socially constructed ideas about nature, agrarian landscapes, and even particular environmental qualities such as soil and water, shape the formation of categories such as city, country, and region or even of specific food products? Through what processes do particular food products come to be distinctively place-based? How do we understand the seeming shift to place-based agriculture and food production, in the context of an industrialized and increasingly intricate global food system that has often homogenized and standardized food production? How is locality produced through food and agriculture, and how are food and agriculture produced through claims to locality and place? These interconnections, and the relations of power interlaced in them, are salient in contemporary praxis, and the course builds on grounded, conceptual understandings to explore contemporary phenomena such as the appellation d'origine controlee in France's wine producing regions, the development of Geographic Indication within the World Trade Organization, the formation of "Organic Uttarakhand" that is the subject of my own research, and the affective economies generated through artisanal food production. Through an interdisciplinary approach that brings together scholarship in anthropology, social and cultural history, sociology, and cultural geography, this course aims to foster expansive, grounded and critical understandings about the connections among nature, food, agriculture and place-making. [ more ]

ANTH 324Empires of Antiquity

Not offered this year

Cycles of rise and collapse of civilizations are common in our human past. Among the most fascinating cases are those of empires, conquest civilizations, or states that encompass a number of different ethnicities, polities and peoples. However, their rise and often rapid collapse begs an important question: how stable have empires been in human prehistory? Are they intrinsically unstable political forms? The course will address these questions by examining the major empires of the Old and New World in pre-modern history: Persian; Assyrian; Mongol; Roman; Chinese; Ottoman; Aztec; and Inca empires. Using readings by political scientists, historians, epigraphers, archaeologists and political anthropologists, we will consider the causes of the expansion and collapse of these empires. We will also explore their sociopolitical and economic structures as mechanisms for their maintenance in order to provide a cross-cultural comparison of the differential success and final decline of all these empires. [ more ]

ANTH 326 T(F)Time and Space

Often considered a mere backdrop to daily life, this course challenges that time and space are not inert, but are instead social products. Exploring a span of western science and philosophy ranging from the Enlightenment to contemporary debates in and about post-modernism, we interrogate the concepts of time and space by situating them across cultural milieus. This course provides an introduction to classic and contemporary social science literatures on the sociocultural production and experience of time and space, including by such figures as Bakhtin, Lefebvre, and Benjamin. We will further take up anthropological analyses of concrete ethnographic materials from contexts in (but not limited to) the Amazon, New York City, Mombai, Melanesia, Paris, and Appalachia. Topics of major concern include memory, ritual, narrative, deixis, chronology and time-reckoning, embodiment, landscape, planetarity and cosmopolitanism, as well as the spatiotemporal organization of contemporary industrial and post-industrial societies. [ more ]

ANTH 328 T(F)Emotions and the Self

Everyone everywhere experiences emotions, and everyone everywhere is faced with the task of conceptualizing a self-hood and its place in the social world. This course analyzes a variety of recent attempts in the social sciences to come to grips with topics that have long been avoided: the nature of the interior experience and an epistemological framework for its cross-cultural comparison. Exploring the borderlands between anthropology, sociology, and psychology, we will bring the tools of ethnographic analysis to bear on central pan-human concepts: emotions and the self. By examining these phenomena as they occur in other cultures, we will be better placed to apprehend and challenge the implicit (and often unconsciously held) assumptions about emotions and the self in our own culture, both in daily life and in academic psychological theory. What are emotions? Are they things--neuro-physiological states--or ideas--sociocultural constructions? How are they to be described; compared? What is the self? How are selves constructed and constituted? How do various cultures respond to categories of emotion and self, and how can we develop a sense of the relationship between self and emotion? [ more ]

ANTH 331Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Magic

Not offered this year

Beliefs in magic, malign and otherwise, have been nearly universal in human experience. This course examines these beliefs in an attempt to understand their cognitive basis, symbolic effectiveness, and social consequences. In particular we will approach the question of "magical thinking:" is magical thought "mistaken science" or a universal non-rational way of seeing the world? What does the fact of presumably rational people holding apparently irrational beliefs say about the whole idea of rationality? Are witches self-aware agents who believe in the malign magic they practice, or are they innocent, marginalized victims of hegemonic powers? To answer these and other questions we will draw on case studies from a broad range of ethnographic and historic sources, including Aguaruna love magic, Azande oracles, Voodoo in Brooklyn, and witches in Renaissance Italy and twentieth-century England. [ more ]

ANTH 334Imagining Joseph

Not offered this year

Beloved son, rival brother, faithful servant, dreamer, seer, object of desire, lover, husband, bureaucrat, the figure of Joseph is one of the most fully-limned and compelling figures in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptural traditions. The story of Joseph unfolds over fourteen chapters in the Hebrew Bible, and is the subject of the fourth longest sura in the Qur'an. Through millennia, the story of Joseph has inspired a wealth of interpretations, commentary, apocrypha, re-tellings, and back-story, including an apocryphal book of scripture about Joseph and his wife, Asenath, Sufi poetry about Joseph and Zuleikha (Potiphar,s wife), a trilogy by the 20th century German novelist Thomas Mann, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, and many expressions in Western visual art. The course will explore these various expressions, looking to them for the ways in which Joseph has captured the imaginations of peoples and cultures across time and space. The course will be organized as a collaborative seminar in which the class will read the foundational scriptures together, followed by thematic discussions to which students will contribute insights from their own readings of particular peripheral texts. Students will learn the pleasures of close and intense exegetical reading in approaching the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, as well as the more expansive pleasures of linking post-scriptural expressions together. [ more ]

ANTH 335In Between: The Ritual Construction of Identity and Difference

Not offered this year

This course examines the categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, pure and impure, right and wrong that constitute cultural worlds, while also creating the middle zones that make cultural creativity possible. Beginning with an examination of "liminality" and rites of passage in the work of Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner, we will go on to look at Mary Douglas's seminal work on the construction of categories of inclusion and exclusion and other theoretical works on ritual and the sacred. In the course of the semester, we will consider a variety of cultural contexts in which liminality is of central importance, including transvestitism in traditional Native American and contemporary US cultures, various avant garde artistic movements, and the ritual construction of the suicide bomber/martyr in Islamist practice. [ more ]

ANTH 347Tribe and State on the Afghan-Pakistan Border

Not offered this year

One of the major challenges President Obama will face in his first term in office involves the perilous situation on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the problems in the region are generally framed in relation to Islamic extremism, the more fundamental issue is the failure of the Afghan and Pakistani governments to exercise control over the tribes that occupy the mountainous frontier. This course will look first at the history of the Afghan and Pakistani states and of the Pushtun and Baluchi tribes that are part of, yet independent from the states that surround them. We will go on to consider the role of Islam as a political force in the region, with particular emphasis on the ways in which outside religious groups, most recently al-Qaeda, have managed to gain a foothold in the borderlands, despite the historic resistance of the tribes to outsiders of any kind. The course will also examine the efforts of, first, the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, more recently, the United States and its allies to control the borderlands, and we will conclude with a consideration of the geopolitical implications if Afghanistan and Pakistan prove in the end to be "failed states." Readings will include theoretical discussions of tribe/state relations, British and Soviet era accounts of the frontier (non-fiction and fiction), ethnographies of tribal societies, and contemporary studies. [ more ]

ANTH 391(S)Insurgencies: Revolts, Revolutions, Wars of National Liberation, and Jihads

We often tend to think of warfare in the classic terms described by Clausewitz: states waging armed conflict against other states using uniformed armed forces that are distinct from non-combatant civilian populations. Throughout history, however, we may also encounter many instances of asymmetric conflict within states, colonies, and other political entities, involving combatants who are often indistinguishable from the general population and whose objectives are often unlike those of states: Peasant revolts, revolutions, wars of independence or national liberation, and other forms of resistance and civil insurgency pit the relatively weak against the power of the state and may succeed because, to use Mao's metaphor, the insurgents move among the people like fish in water. The close relationship between insurgent fighters and the supporting population makes the social structure, social values, social institutions--in short, the culture--of the society particularly relevant to understanding the nature of a given asymmetric conflict. In this course we will use theoretical and analytical concepts from anthropology, sociology, history, and political philosophy to examine asymmetric conflicts of the twentieth century and the present day. The course will be divided into three parts: in the first we will explore some of the theoretical literature on violence and warfare as well as some of the basic literature on tribal and peasant society, peasant revolts, wars of national liberation, guerilla warfare, and insurgencies. The second part of the course will be devoted to presentations prepared by small groups of students on case studies, e.g., the Hukbalahap insurgency in the Philippines, the communist revolutions of China, Cuba, and Malaysia, wars of national liberation such as those in Algeria and Vietnam, and other ongoing civil conflicts such as the Palestinian intifadah and "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans. The final portion of the course is devoted to an in-depth study of Iraq following the American invasion and to a consideration of the evolving nature of asymmetric conflict in a globalizing world. [ more ]

Sociology

SOC 101(F, S)Invitation to Sociology

An introduction to sociological analysis. The course focuses on the relationship of individual men and women to the social world and introduces students to systematic institutional analysis. Students will explore the intersection of biography, history, culture, and social structure as seen in the work of classical and contemporary social thinkers, including Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Veblen, Simmel, and Goffman. Special consideration will be given to the social and cultural problems of capitalism, rationality and irrationality in modern institutions and organizations, the psychological dilemmas facing the individual in modern society, and the problem of social order and conflict. [ more ]

SOC 202Terrorism and National Security

Not offered this year

An analysis of the roots, goals, and social organization of contemporary radical Islamist terrorism and of the state efforts to defeat it. A focus on: the recruitment, training, and indoctrination of Islamist terrorists; their ideologies and self-images; and case studies of specific terrorist attacks and the vulnerabilities of modern societies that such attacks reveal. The course analyzes the exigencies and dilemmas of ensuring public safety in a democratic society. Special attention to: the structure and ethos of intelligence work; the investigation of terrorist networks and their financing; the relationship between organized and semi-organized crime and terrorism; the legal dilemmas of surveillance, preemptive custody, and "extraordinary rendition" in democratic societies; and the technology and organization of ascertaining identities in modern society. The course also addresses the crisis facing European societies--particularly the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany--with growing populations of radical Islamist minorities who reject cultural assimilation into Western social or legal frameworks, a crisis paralleled in the United States, with important differences, by widespread illegal immigration. An assessment of the ideology of multiculturalism and its intended and unintended consequences in the fight against terror. The course also examines the threat of terrorists' use of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction and the defenses against such threats. Finally, it appraises the structure and content of mass media coverage of terrorism, as well as official and nonofficial propaganda on all sides of these issues. A Gaudino Fund Course. [ more ]

SOC 211(F)Race and the Environment

In contemporary societies, race remains an enduring impediment to the achievement of equality. Generally understood as a socially meaningful way of classifying human bodies hierarchically, race manifests itself in a number of arenas, including personal experience, economic production and distribution, and political organization. In this course, we will explore how race emerges in local and global environmental issues, like pollution and climate change. We will begin with a review of some of the landmark texts in Environmental Studies that address "environmental racism," like Robert Bullard's Dumping in Dixie and David Pellow's Garbage Wars. We will examine how and to what extent polluting facilities like landfills, oil refineries, and sewage treatment plants are disproportionately located in communities of color; we will also pay attention to how specific corporations create the underlying rationale for plotting industrial sites. After outlining some of the core issues raised in this scholarship, we will turn to cultural productions--like literature, film, and music--to understand how people of color respond to environmental injustice and imagine the natural world. [ more ]

SOC 215Crime

Not offered this year

An examination of crime, criminals, and crime-fighters. Topics include: violent urban youth gangs in America; the recruitment, socialization, argot, culture, worldviews, and ethics of professional criminals, both in America and in the international arena; the stages of criminal careers; the violence inherent in the drug trade; the trafficking of girls and women; the illegal immigration industry; white-collar scams, fraud, and financial depredations; identity theft; the work worlds and habits of mind of crime-fighters, with a special focus on the work of uniformed police officers, detectives, federal agents, and state and federal prosecutors; the symbolic representations of criminals and crime-fighters in American and international popular culture; and the crisis of public social order. Special attention to the nature of criminal investigation. [ more ]

SOC 216(S)The City

Modern humans have moved to the city, a site with concentrated powers of various kinds, this move has effected irreversible change in human life. We will examine these forces through readings in urban theories as well as ethnographic studies. We will address themes such as the organization of urban life, the political economy of cities, housing and homelessness, and urban planning. The city is also the chief site of cultural production and meaning, and our scope of interest will range from studying subcultures, to reading graffiti, to analyzing monuments. Bearing in mind the inexorable social change of past decades, we will reconsider some classical thought on urban life in the context of postmodern discourse, conceptualize the post-industrial and global city, and conclude with an examination of the problems faced by cities in developing countries. This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive introduction to urban studies. Students will become familiarized with both classical and modern urban theories, and in reading ethnographies they will have an opportunity to understand some fundamental methodological approaches to the study of the city. [ more ]

SOC 217Race(ing) Sports: Issues, Themes and Representations of Black Athletes

Not offered this year

Althea Gibson to the Williams Sisters. Julius (Dr. J) Irving to Michael Jordan. Jesse Owens to Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Throughout the 20th century, black athletes have broken through Jim Crow restraints, challenged racial stereotypes, and taken their sports to new heights of achievement. In this course, students will explore a range of black athletes in the 20th century, paying particular attention to the attitudes, stereotypes and experiences they endured. In addition, this course will prompt students to analyze the representation, perception, and commodification of black athletes in popular media forms. Students will trace trends, shifts and themes in representations of blackness across different sports and historical periods. Topics under study may include resistance against and affirmation of athletes as role models, racial slurs in sports broadcasting, common themes in commercialized images of the black male athlete, and distinctions in media coverage based on race and gender. Texts will include everything from critical essays and sociological studies to commercials and documentary films. In their final projects, students may put their newfound knowledge to the test by exploring their campus or hometown to investigate the role that race plays on their own playing field. [ more ]

SOC 218Law and Modern Society

Not offered this year

This class is designed to introduce students to the field of law and society. The course begins with an overview of the various theoretical perspectives on the subject, including Durkheimian, Marxist, Foucauldian, and Weberian analyses of law and society; as well as the work of those following in the different theoretical schools established by these scholars. Informed by the theoretical overview, the next part of the course considers empirical research in selected areas of law, including tort law, criminal trial procedures, abortion and divorce law, "community justice," and the adjudication of drug offenses. Recognizing that understandings of our own legal practices are enlightened through comparisons to other legal systems, the second half of the course is primarily historical/comparative in focus. In this section, through an exploration of several case studies, American legal processes and habits are compared with related legal practices in such places as England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Norway, and Canada. [ more ]

SOC 219Images and Society

Not offered this year

"This is obvious!" is what we say when we believe our point is irrefutable. But images are far less obvious than we may like to think. This course will create a forum for discussing the role of images in our lives, as well as the place of the visual in social inquiry. It will explore the variety of ways in which images -- and even vision itself -- are shaped by the social and cultural context in which they are embedded, develop skills for critical analysis of existing representations, and address the analytical possibilities and limitations of the study of signs and images. The course will touch upon a range of visual material, from advertizing to paintings, but the bulk of the course is dedicated to photography, both as an object of visual analysis and as, increasingly, a research method in social sciences. Topics for discussion include debates around truth in photography and the politics of representation, changing uses of photography in institutional settings, different photographic cultures and their anthropological and sociological significance, as well as the use of photography in social research. Primary sources for the discussions will be drawn from a variety of spheres, from Soviet propaganda posters to Balinese identity photographs, and will include the images we encounter in everyday life, media, politics, academia, "high" art and pop culture. [ more ]

SOC 240(S)Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

This course examines popular cultural contexts, asking what it means to be a man in contemporary societies. We focus on the manufacture and marketing of masculinity in advertising, fashion, TV/film, theater, popular music, and the shifting contours of masculinity in everyday life, asking: how does political economy change the ideal shape, appearance, and performance of men? How have products - ranging from beer to deodorant to cigarettes -- had their use value articulated in gendered ways? Why must masculinity be the purview of "males" at all; how can we change discourses to better include performances of female masculinities, butch-identified women, and trans* men? We will pay particular attention to racialized, queer, and subaltern masculinities. Some of our case studies include: the short half-life of the boy band in the US and in Asia (e.g., J/K-Pop), hip hop masculinities at home and abroad, and the curious blend of chastity and homoeroticism that constitutes masculinity in the contemporary vampire genre. Through these and other examples, we learn to recognize masculinity as a performance shaped by the political economy of a given culture. The course includes a field trip to a drag performance in Northampton. [ more ]

SOC 241(S)Meritocracy

Although far less than 1% of American college and graduate school students attend an Ivy League university, 40% of the top decision makers in the second Obama administration did. Is this fact a positive sign that the United States is governed by its most talented and capable members who have risen through hard work and equality of opportunity? Or a negative one pointing to the power of a corrupt and self-selecting elite? This course explores the theme of meritocracy-- rule by the intellectually talented--in comparative perspective. We will look at both old and new arguments regarding the proper role and definition of merit in political society as well as take the measure of meritocracy in present-day China, France, and the United States. The course concludes with a focus on the current debate over American meritocracy and inequality and will include one or more of the following authors: Joseph Kett (Merit), Charles Murray (Coming Apart), Tyler Cowen (Average is Over), and Christopher Hayes (Twilight of the Elites). [ more ]

SOC 242(S)Food and Society

The French critic Roland Barthes famously said that food is a system of communication. This multidisciplinary course is designed to introduce students to different ways of thinking about food through an exploration of the complex social and cultural rules that underlie food's consumption. Because our food choices communicate who we are--or what we aspire to be--the study of food reveals how societies throughout the world construct difference, whether religious, ethnic, national, or racial. The class will also examine nutrition, hunger, ideals of desirability in body image, and visual representations of food in advertising and art. Probable readings include: policy analyst Raj Patel on the global food system; sociologist Anthony Winson on the industrial diet; journalists Michael Pollan on ethical food choices and Jonathan Bloom on food waste; historian Rachel Laudan on cuisine and empire; and sensory scientist John Prescott on taste. [ more ]

SOC 244(S)What They Saw in America

This course traces the travels and writings of four important observers of the United States: Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G.K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb. The course will consider their respective journeys: Where did they go? Who did they talk to? What did they see? The historical scope and varying national origins of the observers provide a unique and useful outsider's view of America--one that sheds light on persisting qualities of American national character and gives insight into the nature and substance of international attitudes toward the United States over time. The course will analyze the common themes found in the visitors' respective writings about America and will pay particular attention to their insights on religion, democracy, agrarianism, capitalism, and race. [ more ]

SOC 252(F)Moral Life in the Modern World

This course attempts to locate and examine modern moral life (i.e., the ethical dimension of modern culture) in its broader historical and cultural context. The aim of the course is less to analyze and debate the theoretical moralities of philosophers and theologians, than it is to interpret and attempt to understand the lived moralities that people actually practice and carry out; that shape conduct and selfhood in the modern world. There are two parts to the course. Part I will provide a guided introduction to a range of contested issues in the study of ethics and morality: moralism, moral relativism, nihilism, genealogy, moral truth, and value freedom; the differences between normative and descriptive ethical inquiry; "thick" and "thin" moral concepts, and the historically variable relationships between lived moralities, theoretical moralities, and moral customs. In proceeding as such, this section of the course will provide students with an overview of "classical" positions on these issues and subsequent interventions. In Part II we will shift our focus to learning about how to interpret and understand lived moralities by considering case studies that take up the following: morals and market society; the morality of images, numbers, and things; moral life in corporate, urban, and suburban contexts; moral panics; business and environmental ethics; race and racism; depersonalization and colonialism, war and genocide. The course will furthermore examine ethics and morality "in," "through," and "of' literature, as students will select, read, and critique an appropriate work of fiction, e.g. by Milan Kundera, Don Delillo, Margaret Atwood, or Cormac McCarthy. [ more ]

SOC 263(S)Cold War Technocultures

With the Soviet Union?s collapse at the end of the twentieth century and the emergence of the United States as an unchallenged victor and "new world" hegemon, have we lost a sense of the drama, fear, and unbridled terror that permeated American life during the Cold War? In this course we will set out to understand Cold War American culture(s) by examining the intersection of politics, aesthetics, and a range of major technoscientific developments during this period. The course will take shape in three parts. Part I will explore the emergence and role of the computer in shaping the distinctly American style of thought aimed at Soviet "containment". We will furthermore trace historical treads connecting MIT's legendary Whirlwind computer, the SAGE continental air defense system, nuclear wargaming at the RAND Corporation, artificial intelligence, and the advanced technologies, management strategies, and atrocities of the Vietnam War. Part II takes up the symbolic potency of the space race, which we will use as a conduit through which to explore the following events and developments: Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight, the Apollo moon landing, and American civil defense; the postwar science of cybernetics and the emergence of the now iconic cyborg; the Club of Rome's {Limits to Growth}report and the Gaia hypothesis; plans backed by NASA for the industrialization, humanization, and colonization of outer space; and Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, '"Star Wars". Finally, case studies considered in Part III will focus on moments of conflict and resistance, appropriation, and unintended consequences of the preceding and other Cold War technological developments, among them antipsychiatry and environmentalism; Project Cybersyn, an infrastructural causality of the US/CIA-backed Chilean coup of 1973; the American counterculture and the countercultural roots of neoliberalism(s). [ more ]

SOC 267Race in the Americas

Not offered this year

This course is designed to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the historical development and changing dynamics of race in North America, the Caribbean, and South America. In doing so, we will take on the fundamental position that race is a meaningful classification of human bodies. The question we will keep in front of us at all times is this: How does social milieu determine the meaningfulness of race? Racial classifications, like all classifications, are collectively imagined, and appear mired in various spheres of social life. We will devote a fair amount of attention to the meaning of race in personal experience, economic production and distribution, political organization, and popular culture. The complexity of race will be explored within a number of writings by authors such as Michael Hanchard, Edwidge Dandicat, and Patricia Hill Collins. This EDI course explores the experiences and expressions of the culturally diverse peoples of African descent in the New World, as well as the myriad ways in which they confront, negotiate, and at times challenge dominant U.S. and/or European social hierarchies. [ more ]

SOC 268Class and Inequality

Not offered this year

This course is designed to explore, both theoretically and empirically, the theme of social structure and inequality in contemporary modern societies. One's position in social space largely determines one's consciousness, identity, values, attitudes, interest, and behavior. While inequality is ubiquitous, there are cross-cultural variations in the definition of status and consequent distribution of social conditions and opportunities among individuals. In modern societies, social space and individual status are closely interconnected with the economic system and, consequently, with the occupational structures and relations evolving from it. Currently, globalization and technological developments are rapidly transforming societies and patterns of inequality. In stable societies, changes in the economic and social sphere are evolutionary in nature. However, these changes come at an accelerated pace and are typically accompanied by initial chaos and turbulence in societies undergoing major systemic transformation (or even revolution). These societies provide excellent opportunities to study the relationship of social change and stratification. Therefore, an important focus of this course will also be on the systemic transition from state socialism to market democracies in Russia and Eastern Europe since 1989. [ more ]

SOC 291Religion and the American Environmental Imagination

Not offered this year

This course examines the relationship between religious and environmental thought in the modern United States. Focusing on the complex and closely linked legacies of Christianity, secularism, and popular spirituality, we will explore the religious and anti-religious roots of contemporary environmental discourse. Along the way, we will pursue a set of vexing questions about environmental thought: Is environmentalism a religion? If so, what kind of religion is it? If not, why not (and why do we even ask)? Is anti-environmentalism religiously motivated? Could religion be the cause of our ecological crisis? Could it be the solution? For answers, we will look to the writings of thinkers such as John Muir, Edward Abbey, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and Wendell Berry, as well as a number of lesser-known authors. We will read these authors alongside recent scholarship in the social sciences and humanities to understand how their thinking was influenced by social and environmental trends such as urbanization, industrialization, immigration, and globalization. We will also ask how religion has intersected with gender, race, class, and ethnicity to shape environmental politics in the twenty-first century. Finally, we will pay particularly close attention to episodes of conflict and cooperation between the environmental movement and religious conservatives during the past forty years, and we will analyze popular religious media from this period alongside the writings and visual productions of environmentalists. [ more ]

SOC 303Cultures of Climate Change

Not offered this year

This course asks why people think and talk about climate change in such very different ways. Climate change is a physical phenomenon that can be observed, quantified, and measured. But it is also an idea, and as such it is subject to the vagaries of cultural interpretation. Despite scientific agreement about its existence and its causes, many people do not see climate change as a serious problem, or as a problem at all. Many others see it as the most serious problem our species has ever faced. What are the sources of this disparity? Why can't we agree about climate change? How does something as complex and confusing as climate change become a "problem" in the first place? This course will explore a broad array of factors, from religion to race, class to colonialism. It will focus especially closely on the communication of scientific knowledge, risk perception, and environmental ethics, and it will apply a range of theories from the social sciences and humanities to a set of concrete case studies In the climate change debate, culture matters. By investigating how culture shapes the politics and policy of climate change, students will develop the interpretive skills required to understand not just this most contentious of issues, but environmental issues in general. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

SOC 305The Sociology of Black Religious Experience

Not offered this year

The United House of Prayer For All People. The Nation of Islam. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The African-American Buddhist Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. While each of these groups reflects a different spiritual tradition, all are examples of the rich religious expressions of Black Americans. This course will introduce students to the landscape of Black religious practices in the United States. We will begin with a historical survey of the literature on Black religions. Our review will yield some of the primary themes of the Black religious experience--the injustices of modern racism, the significance of liberation, and continued meaning of Africa as a homeland. We will then investigate how secular processes like industrialization, commodification, and the modern media, alter understandings of the sacred in Black experience. [ more ]

SOC 306Lessons of 'The Game': The Wire and American Culture

Not offered this year

The critically acclaimed television program, The Wire, ran for five seasons on Home Box Office (HBO) between 2002 and 2008. Set in "inner city" Baltimore, the program addressed a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to, the urban drug trade, law enforcement, local city politics, labor unions, education, and the newspaper industry. Though a work of "fiction," sociologist William Julius Wilson has called the show an important and instructive portrayal of the "deep inequality in inner-city America." By contrast, some scholars and critics have decried the series and indeed, courses like this one, as examples of mainstream America's fascination with and acceptance of African American drug use, criminal tendencies, and corruption. In this course, we will not deconstruct The Wire per se, but use select episodes from the series to explore key issues in Africana Studies, ranging from political geography to a history of Baltimore and the "War on Drugs." Students should have some familiarity with the show. Africana Studies will show select episodes during Winter Study. Readings will include texts about African American urban life, such as Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street and Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day. Due to its attention to crime, drug addiction, violence, and urban decay, this course is a part of the Gaudino Danger Initiative. [ more ]

SOC 311Espionage

Not offered this year

An exploration of the occupational world of intelligence officers. A focus on the 20th-century history of intelligence in the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and on the post 9/11 Western intelligence efforts against Islamist terrorists. An appraisal of the structure and ethos of intelligence work both in the field and in the headquarters analysis of field materials. An examination of the training, social psychology, moral rules-in-use, and world views of intelligence officers, including those engaged in counterintelligence and counterespionage. A look at remarkable intelligence successes and catastrophic failures. Extensive reading of memoirs written by former intelligence officers. [ more ]

SOC 315(F)Culture, Consumption and Modernity

How do lifestyles, fashions and trends appear and evolve? Are we authors of our own taste? What structures our choices of goods and activities? What is it that gives meaning to objects and makes them desirable? Are there non-consumer societies in the modern world? How has globalization changed the ways people consume in different parts of the globe? This course will explore the consumption and consumer practices as products of modernity and will analyze the political, cultural and social agendas that have transformed consumption over time. Politics of consumption (the way in which seemingly free and independent consumption choices aggregate into the existing system of global capitalism) will be treated alongside its symbolic element: the role of consumer practices in creating and articulating identities, building relationships and creating solidarities. It will look at fashion, advertising, arts and shopping in places as varied as nineteenth-century France, socialist Russia, and in contemporary United States, tracing both the mechanisms that structure patterns of consumption, and the implications that these patterns have for the larger social order. [ more ]

SOC 317 TThe Public and the Private

Not offered this year

The sharp distinction between the private and the public spheres is often taken as one of the defining features of the Western modernity itself. Furthermore, the existence and vibrancy of the public sphere is a crucial precondition for participatory democracy, whereas respect for privacy and provisions and guarantees that ensure personal autonomy remain fundamental for the daily operations of society. This tutorial course will address the public and the private as concepts that are always in a state of tension, and will explore these tensions from a sociological and historical vantage point. Topics include: democracy and the public sphere, publicity and its institutions, from the coffee house to the mass media, individual and collective identities, the "religion of individualism" and its rites and priests, public and private uses of space, the shifting lines of differentiation between the private and the public and the contestations of this distinction, as well as the impact of new technologies on the relationship between the public and the private. The tutorial will mainly address the Western cultural tradition, although it will involve intercultural comparisons, drawing on a wide range of literature, from Jurgen Habermas to Svetlana Boym, Nancy Fraser and Richard Sennett. [ more ]

SOC 318 T(F)Declining Significance of Race and Racism in U.S. Politics?

Historically, America has faced a dilemma. On one hand, the United States was founded on the principles of liberty and equality, and consequently the American ethos is largely characterized by individualism and egalitarianism. On the other hand, the U.S. has faced and continues to be challenged with matching its expectations and ideals of itself with reality, as there are on-going inequalities based on race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Nonetheless, one would have difficulty in arguing that American society has not improved at all, especially over the past half-century. The U.S. government -- via Congress, the Supreme Court, and Executive Orders of various Presidents -- has improved the well-being and status of racial minorities. Further, the overwhelming majority of American citizens eschew racist language and attacks on racial and ethnic minorities. Some would argue that the election of the United States -- first Black president is a clear indication that the country is approaching -- if not already realizing -- its post-racial, American Dream. But, scholars who have tried to measure the significance, impact, and effect of race on American politics are currently engaged in a highly contested debate on the extent to which racism has declined in this society. In this tutorial, we will explore a variety of debates concerning the role of race in American society and American Politics. Have racial attitudes improved over the past 60 years or has the language of racial animus simply changed over that time? Are racial minorities failing to live up the opportunities provided to them by the U.S. Constitution and various other laws or are there structural barriers that are too high for them to overcome? Is the election of minority leaders in majority white districts a sign that racial attitudes have an insignificant influence on candidate evaluation and elections or have minority candidates deracialized their campaigns in a way that may ultimately disserve minority groups? These are just a few of the questions we will consider. Students will be exposed to texts on at least two sides of various debates. [ more ]

SOC 319Ethnographic Approaches to Africana Studies

Not offered this year

Ethnography is the systematic study and recording of human cultures. It involves the collection and analysis of information from multiple sources including (but not limited to) first-person accounts, life histories, interviews, observations, and autobiographical materials. Within Africana Studies, ethnographic approaches have been utilized to reflect complex narratives of black experience throughout the Diaspora. This seminar is a critical introduction to the theory, method, and practice of ethnography in Africana studies. We will explore a variety of cultures and settings, and discuss the practical, methodological, and ethical issues related to ethnography. Three broad questions will dominate our discussions: 1) What are the theoretical, practical, and stylistic tools needed to fashion compelling ethnographies that get to the heart of what it means to document Africana experience? 2) What are the ethical and political implications of representing Africana perspectives in fieldwork studies? 3) What are the strengths and limitations of ethnography as a research method in Africana studies? Each student will utilize the materials covered in the course to research and write his or her own ethnography. [ more ]

SOC 324(S)Memory and Identity

Our sense of self is inextricably tied to our understanding of our past, both as individuals and as members of society. This sense of origins, however, is far from natural; it itself has its origins in the debates and politics of the time, and evolves under an array of influences. This course analyzes discourses of collective and individual identity and the mechanisms involved in the formulation of the individuals' sense of their place in the world. Topics include: media of memory, politics of commemoration, nostalgia and selective forgetting, narratives of trauma and of a "golden age," the invention of tradition, and battles over remembrance and heritage, such as the dispute over the ownership of Parthenon Marbles between Greece and the UK, or over the proper way to commemorate the victims of 9/11 in the US or the victims of Stalin?s purges in the post-Soviet space. This course fulfills the EDI requirement because it explores the diversity of the ways in which communities imagine and engage with their past, and puts struggles over memory in the context of groups' struggles for power and visibility. [ more ]

SOC 327(F)Feeling the Present

Feelings, moods, and affects are typically understood as bound to individual persons. However, this course examines not only how feelings and moods are profoundly collective but also why and how these collective moods have come to matter in contemporary culture, politics, and economy. Focusing on current and classic scholarship in critical political economy, neoliberalism, and affect studies - as well as film and popular culture - we will attend to the ways in which anxiety, depression, hope, rage, and other moods figure into everyday life, work, social movements, and other key sites. Topics considered include: mental health and the pharmaceutical industry; the social implications of financialization; the Tea Party and its political influence; the rise of social media; and the recent housing crisis. [ more ]

Taught by: John Andrews

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SOC 328 T(S)Immaterial Labor

In the last 50 years, the character of work and labor has fundamentally changed as the economy has increasingly involved transnational markets, media culture, and networked technologies. Although industrial production has not disappeared--far from it-- we have witnessed a dramatic rise in knowledge and information work, the service economy, advertising,finance,biotechnologies, and other kinds of labor whose "product" is fleeting, emotional, and/or affecting bodily capacities. As a result, the distinction between work and leisure is more and more blurred as activities from blogging to watching television to working out at the gym become economically valuable. Drawing on a range of classic and contemporary literatures on the subject (including those by Karl Marx, Paul Lafargue, Hannah Arendt, Kathi Weeks, Sylvia Federici, Hardt & Negri, Richard Sennett, and Sunder Rajan), this tutorial will examine how the proliferation of immaterial labor is reconfiguring our understanding and experience of class, race, nation, gender, sex, and everyday life. [ more ]

Taught by: John Andrews

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SOC 332(F)Life and Death in Modernity

Death is a biological fact. Death is also one of the few universal parameters in and through which social worlds and individual lives are created. Death, in other words, is a primary source of the material and symbolic activities through which humans work to construct, legitimate, and maintain social realities. To attend to "ways of death", then, is to attend simultaneously, if only indirectly, to "ways of life'--the hopes and fears, the ways and wants of a people. In this course we will ask: How, why, and with what manner of consequence has it come to be that, under late-western modernity, the aged, the sick, the dying, the bereaved, and indeed death itself, are routinely "set aside", hidden from view and thus awareness, institutionally sequestered from those of us among the living? We will attend to the historical emergence of the institutional forms that perpetrate this sequestration, and show how they have become tightly articulated with one another: hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, funeral homes, cemeteries. We will furthermore examine the peculiar bodies of expert knowledge that have arisen in tandem with these institutional forms, among them gerontology, thanatology, and bereavement therapy, showing how they have conspired in the pathologization and (bio)medicalization of aging, death, and grief. Other topics to be explored include the commercialization, commodification, and consumption of health, well-being, youth and longevity, and the emergence of anti-aging medicine, techniques of human optimization, and "popular" rationalities of human life extension. [ more ]

SOC 368(F)Technology and Modern Society

With widespread use of new social media, controversial developments in such bio-technical practices as the cloning of mammals, rapid advances in various forms of telecommunication, and the increasing sophistication of technological weaponry in the military, the triumph of technology remains a defining feature of modern life. For the most part, modern humans remain unflinchingly confident in the possibilities technology holds for continuing to improve the human condition. Indisputably, technology has benefited human life in innumerable ways. However, as with other features of modernity, technology has also had significant, albeit largely unanticipated, social consequences. Working within a sociological paradigm, this course will focus on the less often examined latent functions of technology in modern society. It will consider, for example, the social effects of technology on community life, on privacy, and on how people learn, think, understand the world, communicate, and organize themselves. The course will also examine the effects of technology on medicine, education, criminal law, and agriculture and will consider such counter-cultural reactions to technology as the Luddite movement in early nineteenth century England, Amish agrarian practices, and the CSA (community supported agriculture) movement. [ more ]

SOC 370(S)Immigrant Social Movements: Bridging Theory and Praxis

What routes are available to immigrant communities seeking to fight for inclusion and political participation? Do undocumented immigrants have rights in the United States and if so, what are these rights? Also, what agencies, political bodies or local/national organizations are responsible for making such determinations? Focusing on the activism of undocumented immigrant communities (parents, youth and allies), this course analyzes political mobilization by a group of individuals thought by many not to have rights. In doing so, comparisons will be drawn with the strategies and campaigns of those in the LGBT community and that of civil rights activists of the 1960s. Seeking to understand the origins and effects of what anthropologist Nicholas DeGenova refers to as "migrant illegality," students in this course will become familiar with the factors leading to international migration, the role of laws and federal/state policies in criminalizing and disenfranchising migrants, and the various forms of resistance in which undocumented communities have engaged in order to fight oppression and marginalization. Readings and course materials will be highly interdisciplinary drawing from disciplines such as ethnic studies, sociology, anthropology, political science and legal studies; course readings will be supplemented by films and an experiential learning component. As part of this component students will meet outside class hours to work with a local community-based organization over the course of the semester and write a 15-page final paper that connects course readings with their fieldwork experience. This course also works under the Exploring Diversity Initiative theme of "power and privilege" in examining the legal, cultural, social and political conditions that lead to the creation of a migrant underclass. [ more ]

Taught by: Kevin A Escudero

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SOC 371(S)Science, Technology, and (Bio)medicalization

"Medicalization" is a term that appears with great frequency in historical and broadly social scientific studies of twentieth century American medicine. In brief, medicalization refers to those processes by which a myriad of previously {non}medical problems, once defined as ethical-religious, legal or social (e.g. drug and alcohol addition, shyness, obesity), are brought within the purview of medical science and redefined as medical problems, usually in terms of "illness" or "disorder". We will begin the course by attending to the history of medicalization and its consequences. Taking guidance from key theoretical works and exemplary case studies, we will arrive at an understanding of medicalization as a {technical} process, and modern medicine as a quite potent form of {social control}. We will then move from a consideration of medicalization to biomedicalization; from the management of human life to transformations of "life itself" by way of post-World War II technoscientific interventions aimed at "optimizing" the vitality of individuals, groups, and entire populations. In particular, we will consider empirical case studies of technoscientific developments that have made possible the work of optimization that defines biomedicalization: molecular biology, pharmacogenomics, biotechnologies, imaging techniques (EEG, PET, and fMRI), robotics, and transplant medicine, among others. Finally, we will attend to how processes of biomedical optimization have produced new ways of seeing, knowing, and imagining human bodies, such that biology is increasingly less representative of "destiny" than it is of possibility. To this end, the course will conclude with a consideration of speculative technoscience and the ethics and politics of human enhancement. [ more ]

SOC 385The Foundations of American Society

Not offered this year

An examination of the social, cultural, epistemological, and moral foundations of contemporary American society. This seminar will pay special attention to the: economic and social consequences of the de-industrialization and concomitant globalization of the American economy and America's new debtor-nation status; social and cultural effects of ongoing massive immigration, legal and illegal; increasing bureaucratization of every sphere of life, especially the growth of the leviathan state apparatus; proliferation of claims on public and private bureaucracies fueled by adroit and competing advocacy; clashes between the manifold cultural frameworks that give meaning to personal experiences; institutionalization of adversary political cultures, on both the left and right; entrenchment of centrifugal ideologies of multiculturalism and diversity; polarization of our elites and stalemating of America's political system; and the remarkable multiplicity of moral codes that often conflict with presumably common laws. In all, the course addresses a crucial question: who are we now as a nation? It proceeds entirely through discussion and student presentations of lively contemporary materials. Students are expected to have read certain classical sociological and political texts before the class begins. [ more ]

SOC 387Propaganda

Not offered this year

A sociological analysis of the phenomenon of mass persuasion in modern society. The course will examine the institutional and technical apparatus of modern propaganda and the role of intellectuals and technicians in shaping and disseminating propaganda. The symbolic content of specific kinds of propaganda--political, commercial, social, and organizational--will be considered with attention to propaganda that seeks to overthrow social structures as well as maintain them. The course will proceed through a series of intensive case studies with a particular focus on propagandists themselves, considered as experts with symbols, and on the institutional milieux in which they work. Among other examples, we will examine the U.S. Committee on Public Information during the First World War; the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda; the propaganda machinery in contemporary states and non-state actors of both the left and right; conservative and liberal "public interest" groups; propaganda in contemporary social movements and national political campaigns; the workings of corporate and university personnel offices; and advertising and public relations agencies in the United States. Throughout the course, we will analyze how the language, ideologies, and visual symbols of particular varieties of propaganda seem to affect mass audiences. [ more ]