Courses

  • ANSO 205Ways of Knowing

    Last offered Spring 2020

    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? How do qualitative and quantitative approaches to social inquiry differ? How are they similar? What is the importance of history to sociological and anthropological research? How do social researchers use archival and other documentary materials to interpret society? What is the relationship between empirical data and the generation of social theory? 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? We will approach these problems both abstractly and concretely, through readings in epistemology as well as a series of case studies, drawing upon the field experiences of departmental faculty and guest speakers from both inside and outside the academy. The course will also feature hands-on training in field methods, in which students design and undertake their own pilot field projects. [ more ]

    ANSO 305Social Theory

    Last offered Fall 2019

    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" and "culture," and have these constructions withstood challenges over time? 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 402Senior Seminar

    Last offered Spring 2020

    This capstone seminar combines intensive discussion and individual research. Half of the course will be dedicated to the discussion of current debates central to the concerns of both anthropology and sociology, such as the ethics of conducting fieldwork, humanitarianism and relief, global public health, poverty and the city, and environmental conservation. Among the topics discussed, the ethical dilemmas of conducting ethnography will be a common theme. The second half of the course will be devoted to independent individual original projects which should have a major ethnographic component. At the end of the course, students will present their projects to the seminar. [ more ]

  • ANTH 101How To Be Human

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Is there such a thing as 'human nature'? This course is an introduction to cultural anthropology (also known as social or socio-cultural anthropology), the study of human society in all its profound variety. Through deep, sustained, systematic participation in and observation of a particular social context, anthropologists seek to comprehend and illuminate the human condition. Anthropologists' insights into the ways in which human institutions-language, economy, religion, social stratification, law, sexuality, art, the state, and many more-are culturally constructed and reproduced have transformed the way the world is understood. Puncturing ethnocentrism, anthropology's attentiveness to the ideas and practices of cultures in every part of the globe vastly enriches the archive of human answers to human problems. The distinctive methods of the discipline enable anthropologists to discover patterns and phenomena not discernible in other modes of enquiry. With such findings anthropologists are able to make critical interventions in public discourse and to demonstrate how deeply we are all shaped by cultural forces. [ more ]

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

    Last offered Fall 2015

    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 134 TLeaving the World Behind: The Literature of Reclusion

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Living in a time of political and social turmoil, Confucius told his followers: "When the realm has the Way, show yourself; when it lacks the way, hide." Reclusion here is a moral choice, justified by the ethical decline of the state. But it could also be a mortal necessity in a period in which government service was a distinctly hazardous pursuit. In other contexts becoming a hermit could instead be figured as aesthetic stance meant to preserve one's artistic integrity against the dominant claims of society. This course looks at the literature of reclusion-living a life of seclusion from society-in a range of different cultures and periods, from ancient China to contemporary America. With sources that include poems, essays, novels, and films, we will investigate a set of issues surrounding radical seclusion. What different forms does reclusion take? Can one be a hermit without being completely separated from society? What is the relationship between hermits and the state-to what extent does one depend on the other? What are the philosophical and moral implications of eremitism? Is separating oneself from human society an inherently immoral act? What is the relationship between reclusion and technology in the contemporary world? What is the nature of solitude and can it be experienced in a group (for example, in contemporary "intentional communities")? While most of our work will focus on textual analysis, there will be an experiential component to the course as well. Each student will design and implement their own experiment in (short-term) eremitism. [ more ]

    ANTH 138 TSpectacular Sex

    Last offered Spring 2018

    From Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime show to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, spectacles captivate us. Spectacles may be live shows, media events, or even everyday performances ranging from interactive advertisements to viral video sensations. But what are the uses of spectacle? Why are some compelling while others fall flat? How do spectacles control society or maintain social norms? And, importantly for our purposes, how does spectacle shape gender in society? Or from another angle, how does sexuality infuse spectacle? This tutorial introduces students to theories of spectacle ranging from the ancient Greeks to Marxist-inspired thinkers in the 20th century. In particular, we will examine how feminist thinkers have contributed to this literature and how theories of spectacle relate to questions of gender and sexuality. Our weekly readings focus on pairings of theoretical readings with writing on popular cultural examples and case studies. Some possible topics include sporting events, charity ad campaigns, music videos, political events, and social media. [ more ]

    ANTH 208The U.S. and Afghanistan: A Post-Mortem

    Last offered Fall 2014

    The United States attacked and defeated the Afghan Taliban regime over in the course of a few short weeks in 2001. Within a few years, 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 easily defeat. At the same time that it was facing a more difficult military challenge than anticipated, the United States got bogged down in the process of nation-building, as well as efforts at social reform. This course examines the history of American involvement in Afghanistan, beginning with the Cold War when the U.S. used Afghanistan as a test case for new models of political modernization and economic development. We will go on to discuss the U.S. support for Islamist political parties during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the consequent rise of the Taliban, and the role of Afghanistan in the September 11th attacks and the "War on Terror" that followed. The course will conclude with a consideration of the impact and legacy of the two decades of nation-building and social reform carried out by the United States since 9/11. [ more ]

    ANTH 210The Challenge of ISIS

    Last offered Spring 2017

    What is ISIS and what does it want? Using historical and anthropological sources and perspectives, the course considers the origins, ideology and organization of the Islamic State. Beginning with an examination of early radical movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Afghan mujahidin and Taliban, and al-Qaeda, the course will go on to investigate how ISIS derives important aspects of its ideology and organization from these earlier movements and how it deviates from them. We will look at unique aspects of the movement, such as its use of social media, its extensive destruction of ancient historical sites, its staging of spectacles of violence, and its recruitment of Muslims from Europe and North America. We will also examine the ideological constitution of the movement, including its attitude toward and treatment of non-Muslims, its conceptualization of itself as a modern incarnation of the original Islamic caliphate, the ways in which it justifies its use of violence, and its apocalyptic vision of the present-day as End Time. Finally, we will evaluate current responses to ISIS, in the West and among Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere, in terms of their effectiveness and strategic coherence. [ more ]

    ANTH 212Foundations of China

    Last offered Fall 2019

    This course examines the foundational period of Chinese civilization, from the earliest evidence of human activity in the geographical region we now call China, through the end of the Han dynasty in the early third-century CE. This is the period that saw the creation and spread of the Chinese script (a writing system that would be the dominant one in East Asia for thousands of years), the teachings of Confucius (whose ideas continue to play a role in the lives of billions of people today), the construction of the Great Wall (which is not, as it turns out, visible from space), and the creation of the imperial bureaucratic system (that was, in essence, the progenitor of the modern bureaucratic state). We will proceed chronologically but focus on a set of thematic topics, including language and writing, religion and philosophy, art and architecture, politics and economics, and science and technology. While this course is entitled "Foundations of China," we will take a critical perspective on narratives, both Chinese and Western, that see Chinese history as an unbroken history of a single "civilization." [ more ]

    ANTH 214The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

    Last offered Fall 2018

    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 215Performance Ethnography

    Last offered Fall 2019

    The course aims to explore the theory, practice, and ethics of ethnographic research with a focus on dance, movement, and performance. Traditionally considered to be a method of research in anthropology, ethnography is the descriptive and analytical study of a particular community through fieldwork, where the researcher immerses herself in the culture of the people that she researches. In this course students will be introduced to (i) critical theory that grounds ethnography as a research methodology, (ii) readings in ethnographic studies of dance and performance practices from different parts of the world, and (iii) field research in the local community for their own ethnographic projects. This is primarily a discussion-based seminar course and may include fieldwork, attendance at live performances, film screenings, workshop with guest artists etc. No previous dance or performance experience is assumed or required. [ more ]

    ANTH 216 TUrbanism in the Ancient World

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This is a course on cities in the ancient world, which will examine four major ancient urban centers (Nineveh and Nimrud, Iraq; Teotihuacan, Mexico; and Angkor, Cambodia) and end with a sustained, in-depth exploration of urbanism in prehispanic Maya civilization. As more and more people move into cities across the world, human societies are becoming forever transformed. This transformation into an urban globalized world has ancient roots at the beginning of the first civilizations in Euroasia and the Americas. We will delve into the nature of the urban transformation by first exploring sociological and anthropological definitions of urbanism, and recent studies of modern urbanism. We will look at Nineveh, Nimrud, Teotihuacan, and Angkor to consider how ancient urbanism was distinct from modern cities, while at the same time, ancient urbanites had to deal with similar issues as residents of modern cities. We will then examine in more depth the cities of prehispanic Maya civilization, answering such questions as: how different were Maya cities from other premodern ones? Is there one type of Maya city or many? How different was life in Maya cities from life in Maya villages? What were the power structures of Maya cities? How common were immigrants and slaves in these ancient cities? [ more ]

    ANTH 219The Art and Archeology of Maya Civilization

    Last offered Fall 2013

    The ancient Maya civilization was one of the most sophisticated and complex cultures of prehispanic Central America. Its complex calendrics, astronomy, mathematics, art and hieroglyphic writing system are celebrated 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 through the rich archaeological remains and 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 review of the archaeological, iconographic, and ethnohistorical evidence. [ more ]

    ANTH 222Heroes, Saints and Celebrity

    Last offered Fall 2018

    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

    Last offered Spring 2012

    According to the most recent census conducted in China in 2010, of the 1.3 billion population of China, more than 110 million (8.49%) were ethnic minorities (shaoshu minzu). Most of the minority groups 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 (ethnic group); 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. We will examine how social differences and hierarchy are shaped and discuss various ways of achieving equity for ethnic minorities. Throughout the course, the teaching techniques of role-play and debates will be adopted to encourage students to compare ethnic minority issues in China with similar issues in the United States. Students are also encouraged to come up with real-world solutions and recommendations for policy-making at the government and community levels for China and the United States. [ more ]

    ANTH 225Fact/Fiction/Film

    Last offered Spring 2020

    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 ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ANTH 226Spiritual But Not Religious

    Last offered Fall 2017

    Today, more than one in five people in the United States identify as "none" when asked about their religious affiliation. Yet that does not mean that religious sentiment or spirituality is on the decline. On the contrary, talk of "spirituality" is more pervasive than ever in popular discourse. Increasingly Americans claim that they are "spiritual but not religious" or that they prefer "individual religion" over "organized religion." This course seeks to understand and investigate this phenomenon. What is the lived experience of being "spiritual but not religious"? What counts as spirituality? Is there a meaningful distinction between spirituality and religion? What does this distinction assume about the nature of organized religion? What is the history that led us to this ideology of individualized spirituality? And what are the social and political implications of this trend? We will explore these questions and study this phenomenon through an engagement with ethnography (the qualitative research method generally described as "participant-observation"). Over the course of the semester, students will be expected to conduct an ethnographic research project within local communities in Williams College and Williamstown. Alongside our central readings on spirituality, we will also be studying some background in the theory and practice of this methodology. Throughout the semester, students will work together on developing the practical skills necessary to conduct an ethnographic project, and will be gradually executing their own individual projects. This will include: designing a feasible project and research question, selecting research sites and interlocutors, taking field-notes and conducting interviews, and finally analyzing data and writing an ethnographic essay. [ more ]

    ANTH 227Language and Society: What Does Your Speech Say About You?

    Last offered Fall 2017

    Sociolinguistics is the study of how aspects of society influence the way language is used by the society members. In this course, we will examine the inter-relationships between the way language is used in various social contexts affecting that usage. How and why do languages change? How does language reflect a person's identity? How does language intersect with power relations among individuals within a society? Does language vary according to gender? How are language varieties formed, and what determines their status within speech communities? How and why do speakers code-switch among different varieties? These are some key questions that we will examine in this class, drawing on readings that focus on different languages. [ more ]

    ANTH 228Jihad

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Most studies of the global jihad movement focus on ideology, operations, and strategy. Numerous studies have also focused on the individual psychology of those who join jihad groups. Often ignored are the cultural dimensions of Islamic jihad. This course examines both the "global" culture of jihad--those cultural elements of the movement that are common across national and linguistic borders--and the particular ways in which jihadi groups reflect and respond to the local cultures in which they operate. Among the topics to be considered are the ways in which jihad adherents use ritual, poetry, graphic imagery, dress and grooming codes, music, film, social media, dream interpretation, and mythology to fix their place in the world and advance their political and social agendas. The course will also examine the role of violence in creating a distinctive and exclusionary social milieu within jihad groups and in defining the relationship between these groups and the societies that surround and, in some cases, support them. Of particular interest for the course will be the ways in which cultural elements of jihadi groups and the jihadi "lifestyle" are mobilized to attract new recruits to the jihadi movement. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ANTH 230Musical Ethnography

    Last offered NA

    Music provides a constant accompaniment to most of our lives, from mundane activities to personal or collective moments of celebration and grief. Often, we experience music's impact on us without fully considering how it shapes our ideas and experiences. Drawing on ethnomusicology, anthropology, and related fields, this course explores how music can illuminate people's practices of being-in-the-world. Musical ethnography describes both the means by which scholars pursue this line of questioning, and also the written work that results from such an investigation. This course features a hands-on approach to musical ethnography. Students will each conduct ethnographic fieldwork in a musical community within Williamstown and the surrounding area. Coursework will survey approaches to methodology (modes and degrees of researcher involvement, practical skills related to documentation), issues of ethics, and social and musical analysis. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ANTH 232Town and Gown: Investigating the Relationship of College and Community

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Team-taught by an anthropologist and a journalist, this course investigates the relationship between Williams College and the surrounding communities of Northern Berkshire County via ethnographic/journalistic research conducted by students. The course will look at several case studies centered on "town-gown" relations in different eras and locations in order to contextualize and provide comparative material for understanding the relationship of Williams to its neighboring communities. Among the topics to be considered and possibly investigated will be the social and economic effects of colleges on local communities, the role of alcohol and athletics in town/gown relations, and how the increasing corporatization of academic institutions has changed the nature of town-gown interactions and the place and role of institutions of higher education in their communities. The focus of the course will be on student research, and a large percentage of class time will be devoted to learning the basic techniques of ethnographic and journalistic research, including interviewing, oral historical research, survey research, and participant-observation. Each student will conduct a major research project of their own devising, which will culminate in an investigative report and a public presentation. [ more ]

    ANTH 233Spiritual Crossroads: Religious Life in Southeast Asia

    Last offered Spring 2019

    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

    Last offered Spring 2012

    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 235Refugees and Migrants

    Last offered Fall 2018

    An overflow of refugees to the EU and alarmist electoral campaign rhetoric in the U.S. have intensified the issue of international migration around the world. Right- and left-wing politicians and their constituents, human rights activists and state officials, journalists and NGOs discuss, argue, and mull over causes and consequences of population change, strategies of migration management, and predicaments of social integration. In this course, we will examine the emerging conditions of international migration. Specifically, we will focus on how contemporary welfare and labor regimes, claims on citizenship rights, immigration rules, public deliberations, and interethnic and racial experience shape the movements of people and affect their lives by controlling their bodies, subjectivities, social networks, health, and labor. We will draw on domestic and international case studies as we examine a controversy surrounding the Arizona immigration law, DACA debates, challenges of a migration crisis in EU, rural-to-urban migration in India, and a complexity of refugee flows in the Caucasus and the Middle East. We will briefly engage with the subtleties of migration estimation, such as the politics of population censuses, and will analyze consequences of immigration on host populations. [ more ]

    ANTH 240Work as a Cultural System

    Last offered Spring 2020

    "You know my reputation," sang Billy Joe Shaver, "I am everything I do." In many ways we are homo faber, the species that makes its world and we are defined by what we make, by the work we do. This course will undertake a broad survey of work as cultural systems across time and space. How do societies define work, how do they organize it? Who controls the processes of work, who controls the product of work? When is work an act of pure creation and when is it stultifying labor? How is work enabled and how is it compensated? What defines the difference between work and leisure and how are they valued? How does control over access to work, the organization of work, and the appropriation of its products determine difference, power, and equity in a society? These questions will guide an examination of work drawing on works of philosophy, history, ethnography, literature, and film examining people at work ranging from hunter-gatherers to tin miners, from slaves to corporate managers, from merchant mariners in the age of sail to physicians struggling to adapt to computerized medical records. [ more ]

    ANTH 242The Country and the City in the Classical World

    Last offered Spring 2020

    A growing urban-rural divide is defining political discourse around the world. The interrelation and tension between "city" and "countryside" are not new, however, but date back to the time when cities first began. How do cities occupy and transform, interact with and displace rural landscapes? What are the values, stereotypes, and ideals--as well as artistic, literary, and architectural forms--associated with the city and the countryside? What role does one play in the political, social, and economic life of the other? With a focus on ancient Greece and, especially, Rome, this course will combine archaeological evidence and contemporary scholarship with primary sources ranging from Hesiod, Theocritus, Vergil, and Propertius to Cato the Elder, Varro, Vitruvius, and Pliny the Elder, to examine an array of topics including land surveying and colonization; agrarian legislation; the urban food supply; rustic religion in the city; urban parks and gardens; and the concept of the pastoral. Together, we will explore the city and the countryside - not just as places, but also as states of mind. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

    ANTH 243Reimagining Rivers

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Rivers are the circulatory systems of civilization, yet for much of modern history they have been treated as little more than sewers, roads, and sources of power. Today they are in crisis. Rivers and the people who rely on them face a multitude of problems, including climate change, pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and ill-conceived dams. These problems will threaten human rights, public health, political stability, and ecological resilience far into the future unless we learn to manage rivers more justly and sustainably. Can we reimagine rivers before it is too late? This course will pursue this question by examining the social, cultural, and political dimensions of conflict over rivers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Combining approaches from a wide range of social science and humanities disciplines and focusing on case studies in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, it will explore a diverse array of sources: film, fiction, ethnography, history, journalism, legal texts, and more. [ more ]

    ANTH 246 TIndia's Identities: Nation,Community, & Individual

    Last offered Spring 2020

    This tutorial considers India's legacy as a booming Asian democracy that is built upon deep and enduring divisions. Why is India's growing population so often described in terms of multiple identities or fragmenting oppositions---including religion, gender, caste, and class? What are the historic roots and recollections of key moments of structural violence in modern Indian history that produce ongoing social conflict as well as social fluidity? We pay particular attention to key historic moments such as Partition, and key communal riots in Gujarat, Hyderabad, and Delhi as well as regions of India such as Jammu & Kashmir in order to understand the struggle for individual subjectivity and identity within a landscape of stark social hierarchies. We will cover climate emergencies, resource scarcities, and ongoing struggles for power and status across very different parts of India. Our readings include ethnographic, sociological, historical analyses as well as fiction, oral history, and popular media sources that attempt to portray India¿s diverse and fragmented society. [ more ]

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

    Last offered Spring 2015

    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 249The Sacred in South Asia

    Last offered NA

    The jinn--Islamic spirits born of fire--are sought out for their healing and other powers not only by Muslims in Delhi, but by Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, as well. In parts of Bengal statues of the Hindu goddess Durga are traditionally sculpted by Muslim artisans. Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka contain tombs of Muslim Sufi saints and shrines of Hindu deities. South Asia--where a fifth of humanity lives--provides some of the most striking examples of pluralism and religiously composite culture in our contemporary world. Yet at the same time, strident religious majoritarianism has been a defining feature of the politics of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for decades, and haunts Nepal and Bangladesh as well. Are these two modes of religious being--pluralistic and composite on the one hand, singular and majoritarian on the other--reflective of two different conceptions of selfhood? What if we turn from questions of community and 'identity' to questions of unseen power and the sacred? This course is an exploration of lived religion in South Asia. It is simultaneously a study of popular Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and an introduction to the anthropology of religion. Centered on in-depth studies of popular sites of 'syncretic' ritual practice (shared across religious difference) as well as studies of mass mobilizations that seek to align the religious community with the nation, we approach from multiple angles what the sacred might mean in modernity. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ANTH 255Buddhism: Ideas and Practices

    Last offered Spring 2019

    This course introduces students to Buddhism by examining its ideas and practices as they have taken place in actual social contexts rather than as disembodied textual objects. After examining the main ideas and narratives of the tradition, we turn our attention to Thailand where we examine how these ideas and narratives have shaped a whole range of practices, from meditation to shamanistic rituals. We then consider the transformations that Buddhism is undergoing in contemporary society, examining the rise of meditation movement, the changing role of monks and laity, the resurgence of the nun order, the rise of Buddhist social activism and the development of new Buddhist social philosophies. We ask questions such as: How can Buddhism adapt to a modern global consumerist society? What are the transformations involved in this process and the role that Buddhism can play in such a global society? Should Buddhists take advantage of the opportunities of this new global culture or should they adopt a critical stance toward its consumerist values? [ more ]

    ANTH 256Buddhism, Sex, & Gender: #MeToo Then and Now

    Last offered Fall 2018

    This course considers the feminist voices that have been part and parcel of Buddhist practices, texts, and institutions for most of its 2500-year history. We will conduct a historical genealogy of Buddhist voices that illustrate the fluid and disruptive role of sex, gender, caste, and class in relation to individual behavior and social relations. How did the Buddha's inner revolution produce a set of practices that both reject and reinforce existing binaries and social hierarchies of sex and gender, and with what effects? We will trace a feminist voice that decries harassment, assault, and systemic sexism within Buddhist communities from the first female disciples (Theri) of the Buddha to the current #MeToo era of embattled toxic masculinity. Along the way, we explore a literary canon that contains misogyny and 'she devils' alongside a rich tapestry of female divinities, transgender fluidity, and female liberation. We pursue and intersectional analysis of Buddhist traditions and texts by considering the multiple forms of social hierarchy--gender, sexuality, race, and class--that Buddhism has attempted to transcend. We begin by considering three women in the Buddha's life-his mother (Maya), his stepmother/aunt (Gotami), and his wife (Yashodhara)--as well as the tales of the first enlightened Buddhist women whose topics include prostitution, patriarchy, sexism, and pathetic husbands, as well as their own decaying bodies and beauty. Our next theme is the myriad ways that gender is both produced and deconstructed in Buddhist discourses on enlightenment and the human body. Our final theme considers a range of monastic memoirs, including a Buddhist black nun who left Harvard to take ordination in Thailand, and a Dutchman who studied Zen Japan. We close by examining the current debates in the U.S. and Asia that seek to combat systemic racism, sexism, and casteism in Buddhist traditions. [ more ]

    ANTH 262Language and Power

    Last offered Spring 2020

    A language is a dialect with an army and a navy." This (originally Yiddish) aphorism points to ways in which language, often imagined to be a neutral or apolitical medium of communication, proves in practice to be a social domain fully implicated in the operations of power. How do we create community - and social exclusion - by the way that we talk? What role does speech play in the accumulation of cultural capital? How are racism and colonialism sustained or subverted by language practices, and how can speech transform the world? This introduction to linguistic anthropology draws together classic works of linguistic and semiotic theory with studies of the politics of actual speech grounded in rich and particular cultural and historical contexts, from witchcraft accusations in rural France to the partition of Hindi and Urdu in colonial South Asia. Students will gain familiarity with key concepts (speech acts, performatives, code-switching, language ideology), themes and debates in the social scientific study of language. Assignments include regular postings of 1-page critical response papers and an ethnographic project analyzing a series of speech events in our local community. [ more ]

    ANTH 269 TMindsight: Mindfulness and Medicine

    Last offered Spring 2020

    This course offers a social analysis and historical genealogy of meditation and mindfulness from its roots as a Buddhist practice through its modern applications in a variety of social settings including hospitals and clinics, schools & communities where it has been used to improve health outcomes, education outcomes, and other social outcomes. Throughout, we are interested in the scientific evidence that have tried to show how meditation and mindfulness can alter human experience, behavior, and well-being. We begin by considering how mindfulness and meditation practices were introduced and developed by the Buddha and continue to be taught and practiced today in contemporary settings, before turning to the rapid rise of scientific research on mindfulness in recent decades. How and why has research on mindfulness and meditation exploded since 2000 and how does this relate to better understandings of human emotions, human behavior, and human development? We critically examine the use and misuse of modern technologies and models developed by clinical psychiatry and biomedicine to better understand the relationship between the human brain, behavior, and emotions. We ask how meditation and mindfulness has been used to improve the training of doctors & teachers, as well as patient/provider encounters. Throughout, we are interested in how applied research and interventions of mindfulness training with medical training, schools, and other social domains has been used to generate a 'science of personal transformation' that is trying to harness the adaptability of human minds, brains, & behaviors. Students will be expected to engage in mindfulness practices during the semester. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ANTH 270Object and Place/Memory and Nation

    Last offered Spring 2014

    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. [ more ]

    ANTH 272Sex and the Reproduction of Society

    Last offered Fall 2014

    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 281The Seeds of Divinity: Exploring Precolumbian Art & Civilization in a Museum Exhibit

    Last offered Spring 2019

    For all ancient civilizations, the gods were a powerful force, affecting all aspects of human lives and dominating ancient art. This course will explore concepts of divinity in five civilizations in Precolumbian Central America: Aztec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, and Nayarit. The course examines how the broad concept of divinity is materialized in everyday life. We will query how the human body is used as the prism through which concepts about humanity, the human soul and the supernatural are perceived and depicted in the art of these civilizations. This is a project based course, and each student will study one or more art objects from these five civilizations, and consider how these objects could be presented in a museum exhibit. [ more ]

    ANTH 287Propaganda

    Last offered Spring 2019

    We live in the age of mass persuasion. From commercial ads to political campaigns, from mass media "news"-both fake and real-to large scale movements for social change, we are constantly bombarded by powerful messages that aim to capture, hold, and impact our attention and direct our actions. Drawing on symbolic socio-linguistic analysis, we will examine the institutional and technical apparatus of modern propaganda and will discuss the role of intellectuals, "attention merchants," and receptive audiences in creating the propaganda machine. We will pay special attention to campaigns that aim to overthrow social structures, or to ensure their maintenance and functioning. We will engage with explicit messages received via propagandistic media and implicit directives that aim to silence, obfuscate, and erase. Theoretical discussions will be complemented with intense, in-depth investigations of case studies of persuasive techniques in the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda, Cold war culture wars, Middle Eastern and Post-Soviet regimes, U.S. and Russian electoral and political campaigns. As we explore the overwhelming diversity of persuasive techniques of contemporary propaganda apparatus, we will turn our attention to various ways through which it impacts and molds our individual selves: from organizing dreams and desires to shaping autobiographies. We will conclude the course by creating our own examples of persuasive mass communication. [ more ]

    ANTH 297 TTheorizing Magic

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This is a course about magic. It is not about stage magic, sleight of hand, or the art of pulling rabbits out of hats. You will learn no card tricks. But instead we will learn about those people who believed in the reality of certain powers; from the ability to summon good or evil spirits, transform base metals into gold, predict the future, or manipulate matter by thought alone. The problem of how to theorize magic has long been a cause of concern for the natural and social sciences. Many a sociologist and anthropologist has imagined that belief in magic should have vanished with modernity (despite much evidence to the contrary). Meanwhile, philosophers of science have been long fascinated with the demarcation problem-figuring out grounds by which to distinguish legitimate sciences (like astronomy) from their magical or pseudoscientific cousins (like astrology). We will trace these discussions and problematize them by looking at the beliefs of self-defined witches and magicians. This should put is in a position to interrogate the construction of concepts of magic, science, and religion and show how the boundaries between these categories emerged historically. Topics to be discussed will include: the rationality of magic, the fine lines separating magic, science and religion, the persecution of witches, and the role notions of magic and superstition played in European modernization and colonization projects. The tutorial sessions will be customized to student interests, but texts will likely include selections from primary works in translation, such as Cornelius Agrippa's Occult Philosophy, Giordano Bruno's On Magic, Aleister Crowley's Magick Liber Aba, as well as selections from secondary literature, perhaps including Marcel Mauss, A General Theory of Magic, Max Weber, "Science as Vocation," Tanya Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witches' Craft, Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Larry Laudan, "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem," E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft and Oracles, and Magic among the Azande, and/or Kelly Hayes, Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality and Black Magic in Brazil. [ more ]

    ANTH 299The Body in Power

    Last offered Spring 2020

    The thesis of this course is that ritual plays a crucial role not only in legitimizing and mobilizing political power, but also in determining whether people decide to act in defense of or dissent against the status quo. In the first part of the semester, we focus on the ways in which different cultures construct categories of inclusion and exclusion, safe and dangerous, while also creating rituals for ensuring the preservation of the dominant social order against all that is transgressive and undermining to those in power. Of particular importance to our discussion will be consideration of how the body is ritually mobilized as an instrument of persuasion and control. On this foundation, we move to an examination of how political rituals are used to undermine established orthodoxies, mobilize popular dissent, and bring down those on top. Among the topics to be discussed are the role of martyrdom and beheadings in the rise of the Islamic State, the use of symbols and ritual interventions in framing both sides of the abortion debate, and the expanding importance of social media in protests movements around the world. The final unit of the course will consider a current controversy (e.g., police violence against African-American men) in light of the concepts discussed during the semester. [ more ]

    ANTH 301Sexual Economies

    Last offered Fall 2018

    This course examines various forms of sexual labor around the world in order to better understand how gendered and sexual performances are used in a variety of cultures and contexts for material benefit. Our topics include "traditional" forms of sex work such as street prostitution, pornography, and escorting as well as other forms of sexualized performances for benefit such as stripping or camming. We also discuss current issues and debates about discourses of "sex trafficking." Course readings come from a range of fields, but focus most heavily on anthropology, sociology, American studies, and gender studies. The readings for this class will frequently foreground the lived experiences of sex workers from a variety of nations, races, classes, religions, and backgrounds in order to explore the broader social implications of our subject matter. The format is largely discussion-based, with short lectures supplementing the reading with summaries of current scholarly and activist debates. We will have either guest speakers or a field trip to hear from people working in various commercial sex sectors. [ more ]

    ANTH 305The Gay Menagerie: Gay Male Subcultures

    Last offered NA

    Bears. Cubs. Otters. Pups. Twinks. Radical Fairies. Leathermen. Mollies. Drag queens. Dandies. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Gay men, including gay trans men, have organized themselves into various subcultures within their community for centuries. This seminar is devoted to exploring these subcultures in (a mostly US-context) in greater detail using ethnographic texts, anthropological studies, historical accounts (including oral histories), and media. Topics include cruising and flagging, the anthropological significance of gay bars, histories of bath house culture, rural vs urban queer experiences, the ball scene, drag, diva worship, the reclamation of "fabulousness and faggotry," the leadership roles of trans women and effeminate gay men in activist movements, gay gentrification, the growth of gay consumerism/ gay tourism/homonationalism, hierarchies of masculinity in the gay community (i.e., masc for masc culture), HIV/AIDS and the politics of PrEP, chemsex, the role of racialized dating "preferences," genealogies of BDSM and leather culture, sexual health and discourses of "risk," the politics of barebacking and other sexual practices, queering consent, and the effects of hookup apps on gay culture. In addition to lectures, and discussions, there will also be some low-key performance-studies based exercises in queer praxis (e.g., drag workshops, mock debates, animal improvisation, role playing, etc.) [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ANTH 311Islam and the Critical Study of Secularism

    Last offered NA

    Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, successive Islamist movements have sought to transform Muslim states along religious lines. In Euro-American discourses on political Islam, such blatant disregard for the separation of religion and state is often seen as a tragic failure of secularization. Islam, in other words, is understood as a religion out of place in the modern world. While the global resurgence of religion in the face of much scientific and material progress has tempered scholarly enthusiasm for the secularization thesis, contemporary Islamic religiosity is increasingly viewed as an aberration from the regular course of history. Moreover, as scholars rewrite the script of secularization by unearthing modern secularism's European-Christian heritage, they unwittingly bolster a narrative of civilizational difference between Islam and the secular West. Our understanding of Islam is thus inextricably tied to its oppositional framing as the other of secularism. In this course, we will critically assess Euro-centric representations of Islam as created through canonical and critical discourses on secularism. Rather than assuming a natural opposition between Islam and secularism, we will examine the various modalities of power, institutional formations, habits of thinking, normative presuppositions, and cultural and visceral sensibilities that configure their agonistic relationship. This examination amounts to deconstructing the very category of the secular in its cognitive and sensory dimensions. To accomplish this task, we will rely on the work of Talal Asad and his interlocutors in Religious Studies, Anthropology, Continental Philosophy, Postcolonial Studies, and Comparative Literature. The course content is divided into 2 modules. Module A: "Theorizations" will examine Euro-centric theories of secularism and problematize their portrayals of Islam as an intrinsically asecular religion. In Module B: "Secularism Beyond Europe," we will read postcolonial critiques of secularization and examine its alternative trajectories in non-European contexts. Crucially, we will shift from a conventional emphasis on the state by comparing Islamic and secular disciplines of subject formation. By the end of the course, students will be able to appreciate how secular legal, political, and cultural institutions have re-defined religion in the modern world. Further, they will be able to discern the ways in which contemporary Islamic movements are both responses to and manifestations of a global secular condition. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ANTH 322Waste and Value

    Last offered Fall 2017

    What is trash and what is treasure? In what ways does value depend upon and necessitate waste, and how is the dialectic between the two inflected by culture? When we 'throw away' things at Williams College, where exactly do they go, and who handles them 'down the line'? What are the local and global economies of waste in which we are all embedded and how are they structured by class, race, caste, gender and nation? In this seminar we critically examine the production of waste - both as material and as category - and its role in the production of value, meaning, hierarchy and the environment. Readings include ethnographic accounts of sanitation labor and social hierarchy; studies of the political and environmental consequences of systems of waste management in the colonial period and the present; and theoretical inquiries into the relation between filth and culture, including work by Mary Douglas, Dipesh Chakrabarty and Karl Marx. Geographically the foci are South Asia, Japan, and the United States. There is also a fieldwork component to the course. In fieldtrips we follow the waste streams flowing out of Williams - to an incinerator, a sewage treatment plant, recycling and composting facilities and other sites - and students individually conduct ethnographic research into the everyday social life of waste in our community. [ more ]

    ANTH 323Democracy and Citizenship in the Age of Multiculturalism

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Democracy (and its particular implementation in the United States) is regularly taken as an unconditional ideal for the rest of the world. In this class, we will analyze democracy as a culturally and historically specific form of social relations and meanings. We will carefully examine a broad range of phenomena that pertain to democracy--for instance, cultural notions of participation in public life in Post-Socialist Germany or categorization of citizens in contemporary India, attachment to homeland among migrant workers in Russia or transnational rhetoric of Chinese bloggers. By so doing, we will study local meanings, circulating discourses, multiple contestations, and changing forms of power in regimes that are heralded as democratic. Our focus on citizenship (broadly defined)--i.e., a recognized right to be different while being accepted as a part of a national community--will bring to light complex issues in the relationship between the state and its subjects. We will discuss how men and women, the abled and the disabled, the migrants and the natives identify with their statuses and define their place in state structures. Anthropological studies of citizenship and diversity of forms of belonging and identification in democratic states will enable us to understand cleavages of power inequality and conceptual predicaments of social fairness in the contemporary world. Ethnographic studies from around the world will be used to provide specific examples of the ability and failure of democratic regimes to govern their varied populations. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ANTH 324Empires of Antiquity

    Last offered Fall 2012

    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 328 TEmotions and the Self

    Last offered Fall 2019

    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 330The Documentary Project: Ethnography and the Visual Narrative

    Last offered Fall 2019

    The goals of ethnography and documentary work overlap. Both strive to communicate a compelling sense of people's lives, and to connect them to broader struggles and issues faced by others. Further, ethnography as a method emphasizes a close and sustained interaction, or "engagement" between the practitioner and her subjects. In this class, students will have the opportunity to practice both engagement and compelling presentation, by working throughout the semester on planning and executing a documentary project. The course will emphasize the use of visual narratives accompanied by text and audio drawn from interviews. Students will practice different types of documentation, and consider techniques for approaching, imaging and interviewing subjects. The practical aspects of developing a project, gaining access, working in unfamiliar environments and editing both visual and audio material will be reviewed. Conceptual topics will include myths about "truth" and "objectivity" in visual media, tensions between the goals of the documentarian and her responsibilities to her subjects, and differences between the documentary and ethnographic point of view. Acceptance into the class requires technical competence in photography or videography (as evidenced by prior coursework or portfolio), and a demonstrated ability to work independently and to commit to a long-term project. Participants should expect to spend significant time working off campus. [ more ]

    ANTH 331Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Magic

    Last offered Spring 2009

    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

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Beloved son, rival brother, faithful servant, dreamer, seer, object of desire, lover, husband, bureaucrat, 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

    Last offered Spring 2011

    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 337Race, Sex & Gender in Brazil

    Last offered Spring 2019

    The course introduces students to anthropological literature of Brazil as well as Brazilian novels and films. Its focus is on understanding the history and contemporary culture of Brazil through attention to racial justice, including the country's unique history and legacies of slavery in comparative context. It also examines questions of gender, including the history of feminism in Brazil and current debates related women's equality such as Brazil's abortion laws, domestic violence, sexual tourism, and job opportunities for women. Lastly, we also examine LGBT history in Brazil and dive into writing about queer culture there. NOTE: The seminar will include a mandatory spring break trip to Rio de Janeiro, during which time students will visit important historical sites, museums, and relevant cultural attractions. They will also meet collectively with faculty members from several universities and NGOs to learn about the research and projects our Brazilian hosts are engaged in. Students also have their own individual exploratory research projects there related to social justice, which are integral to the seminar. These form the basis of their final research paper. Students should also be aware of the physical demands of the trip, which include extensive walking, some hiking, and exposure to summer heat and the elements in the Atlantic Rainforest. Thanks to the Global Initiatives Venture Fund, the cost of the trip is covered for all students enrolled. [ more ]

    ANTH 340Artisan and Connoisseur

    Last offered Spring 2016

    In recent decades Americans have increasingly taken up the small-scale hand-work production of specialized goods as a livelihood, depending on connoisseurs who appreciate and are willing to pay high prices for their goods. Products ranging from cheeses to wooden boats have secured markets enabling lifestyles that appear to challenge classic capitalist modes of labor and consumption. We'll explore this movement. Students will conduct original research resulting in a major paper and presentation. To elaborate: We will explore the differences among traditional craftsmen, hobbyists, and contemporary artisans, considering the nature of creativity and hand-work. We will use Marx's concepts of the alienation of labor and commodity fetishism as a frame for considering the ways in which both artisans and connoisseurs appear to be resisting modern capitalist modes of production and consumption. But we will also look at the ways in which artisans' articulation with capitalism and industrial production has shifted over time, beginning with the Arts and Crafts movement around the turn of the last century, through the "hippies" of the 1960s and '70s, to more recent entrepreneurial artisans and those engaged in the "Maker Movement." The course entails a commitment to undertaking an original, possibly ethnographic research project in which a student undertakes a detailed investigation of the production and consumption of an "artisanal" product, involving a preparatory paper, a preliminary proposal, and culminating in a research paper of at least 20 pages and a class presentation. [ more ]

    ANTH 341Caste, Race, Hierarchy

    Last offered Spring 2017

    Caste in India looms large in global social thought as a kind of benchmark against which hierarchical social systems across the world are measured. This prominence has much to do with British colonial ideologies of rule, but it also has a deeper and different history: the Buddha compared caste to Greek slavery, early modern Jesuits related it to the system of European estates, and since the nineteenth century, anti-caste radicals from Dalit, or "untouchable," backgrounds have drawn a sustained comparison between the forms of oppression they face and those with which African Americans contend in the United States. Reciprocally, thinkers from W.E.B. DuBois to Toni Morrison have deployed the category of caste in their writings on race. What can the study of caste in postcolonial South Asia contribute to global debates over the persistence of "traditional" forms of social hierarchy? What are the stakes of bringing caste and race into the same conversation, and what are the implications of refusing to do so? In this seminar we will acquire a thorough grounding in the anthropological literature on caste and then investigate the politics of the caste-race comparison over the last hundred years. Assignments include weekly postings of 1-page critical response papers and either a research paper or an interview-based, ethnographic final project examining "caste" in one's own community. [ more ]

    ANTH 346Islam and Anthropology

    Last offered Spring 2016

    If anthropology has helped to define Islam in global thought, Islam has returned the favor, holding a critical mirror to the anthropological endeavor perhaps more than any other traditional "object" of study. This course examines anthropological studies of Islamic societies for what they teach us both about Islam and about anthropology. We begin with foundational social theorists whose studies of religious phenomena helped give rise to the field of anthropology of religion. We then survey influential efforts to construct "ideal-type" models of Muslim society based on anthropological and historical knowledge, alongside efforts to critique, historicize, and redirect the model-building project (notably by Talal Asad and Edward Said). The second half of the course is devoted to ethnographies that explore, from a variety of perspectives and in several regions (Morocco, India, Egypt, Syria), questions of human agency, hierarchy and resistance, and Islam as discursive resource, ethical project, and embodied community. [ more ]

    ANTH 347Tribe and State on the Afghan-Pakistan Border

    Last offered Fall 2011

    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 350Queer Tongues & Lavender Linguistics

    Last offered NA

    This course in linguistics provides an introduction to linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, and folklore studies using topics and approaches related to gender and sexuality. It is a methods course based in empirical research principles, but a basic familiarity with the broad strokes of queer/feminist theory may be helpful. One goal of the class will be learning to read and write in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and how to construct and use IPA "change charts." We then build on this as we turn to sociolinguistics as students will learn how to do Discourse Analysis and Conversation Analysis, using WGSS-oriented topics (e.g., upspeak, vocal fry, so-called "gay voice," the gendered nature of turn-taking and interrupting.) We then turn to an extended unit on queer folklore and folklife, learning how anthropologists and folklorists use motif type indexes (e.g., Propp Functions, Thompson Type Index, etc) to study oral narratives and how feminist/queer theorists can use these to analyze gender in folk/fairytales and other stories. We also read several linguistic anthropologists' ethnographies of queer communities' language practices in global context. The semester concludes with a unit on LGBT slang, argots, and profanity. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ANTH 371Medicine and Campus Health in Disruptive Times

    Last offered Fall 2019

    This class uses the methods and theories of critical medical anthropology and medical sociology to help students design and pursue innovative ethnographic projects that explore campus health or community health. Students will use an array of ethnographic techniques such as observant participation, interviewing, focus groups, and qualitative surveys to explore our campus community comprised of students, faculty, and/or staff, that build on weekly discussions, feedback, and design exercises. We situate our campus health projects within the wider context of how power and intersectionality inflect and structure health and well-being locally and globally. Our case studies explore how structural racism shapes medical education, pediatric care, and maternity care in the US, how the spread of US psychiatry inflects the landscape of global mental health, and how queer activism responded to the HIV/AIDS crisis. We consider how disruptive moments like COVID-19 or HIV/AIDS serve as focal points that reveal underlying inequalities of health outcomes and access. We consider how disruptive moments like COVID-19 or HIV/AIDS serve as focal points that reveal underlying inequalities of health outcomes and access. We attend to the parallel roles of narrative in medicine and ethnography, as we contrast the discourse of providers & patients as well as researchers & interlocutors. Throughout our goal is to better understand the strengths and limits of ethnographic inquiry while exploring the challenges of collaborative and participatory research within communities always already structured by power, privilege, and engaged practices. [ more ]

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

    Last offered Spring 2015

    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 ]

    ANTH 397Independent Study: Anthropology

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Anthropology independent study. [ more ]

    ANTH 398Independent Study: Anthropology

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Anthropology independent study. [ more ]

    ANTH 412Graphic Sex: Queer Ethnographic Writing

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This seminar examines recent and canonical work in queer anthropology, exploring how different cultures construct sexual and gender identities and subjectivities, and what happens when dominant paradigms such as the Euro-American LGBT model become enmeshed in globalization, late capitalism, and consumerism. We begin with a series of case studies highlighting alternative gender and sexual formations in various cultures around the world, emphasizing how these seemingly "authentic" local categories are themselves the products of historical shifts, colonial relations, and political economy. We also examine how these categories overlap, conflict with, subvert, or syncretize with the increasingly global category of "gay." In addition to reading queer ethnographies, we will also learn the methods required for doing ethnography ourselves, including interviewing techniques, participant observation, writing thick description, data analysis, and editing. [ more ]

    ANTH 493Senior Thesis: Anthropology

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Anthropology senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

    ANTH 494Senior Thesis: Anthropology

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Anthropology senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

  • SOC 101Invitation to Sociology

    Last offered Spring 2020

    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, 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 201Science, Technology, and Human Values

    Last offered Spring 2020

    This course offers an introduction to science and technology studies, or STS. A radically interdisciplinary field of inquiry, the roots of STS stretch through the philosophy, history, and sociology/anthropology of science and technology. Students will become acquainted with major STS schools, methodological strategies and research trajectories through intensive reading and analysis of classical and contemporary works in the field. Considerable attention will be devoted to exploring the nature of science and technology, their relationships to and interactions with one another, society and the natural world, and the influences these interactions exert in shaping what humans value. A fundamental goal of the course is to cultivate awareness and understanding of the social organization of technology and scientific knowledge production, and the technoscientific structuring of modern social life broadly. The course as such is aimed at attracting from all divisions those students who are intellectually adventurous and inclined to think critically about the place and prominence of science and technology in the modern world. [ more ]

    SOC 210Networks of Power: Technology in Human Affairs

    Last offered Spring 2019

    Do we control our technologies, or do our technologies control us? This course will explore different philosophies of technological progress, particularly the constructivist and determinist theories, by examining major technological innovations that shaped modern society, including the telegraph system, electrification, radio and television broadcasting, and the internet. Each of these innovations entailed the construction of a complex network designed to serve a mix of public and business interests, and each resulted in wide-ranging and often unforeseen changes to people's lives. Guided by pertinent readings in the history and philosophy of technology, we will look critically at the forms and consequences of technological change, seeking answers to a series of complex and important questions: Is the course of technological progress an inevitable byproduct of scientific and engineering advances, or is it contingent on social and political circumstances and choices? Does technological change reinforce the social and political status quo or challenge it? Are technological and social progress synonymous, or is there a tension between the two? One of the goals of the course will be to provide students with a more informed and critical perspective on the technological upheavals that continue to shape society today. [ more ]

    SOC 211Race and the Environment

    Last offered Fall 2018

    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 212Understanding Social Media

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Over just the last twenty years--beginning with Napster and MySpace and continuing through Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram--the rise of social media has had a profound influence on the way we live. It has given a new rhythm to our daily routines, shaped the way we inform ourselves and converse with others, and transformed media and entertainment, politics and public discourse, and many other aspects of culture. This seminar course will undertake a broad and critical examination of social media, looking at it from historical, economic, legal, social, and phenomenological perspectives. The topics addressed will include social media's effects on self-image and self-formation, its influence on protest movements and political campaigns, its use as a conduit for news and propaganda, and the way commercial interests and technical characteristics have shaped its design and use. Through pertinent readings and lively discussions, and drawing on students' own experiences with social media, the course will illuminate social media's benefits and drawbacks while providing a foundation for thinking about possible legal, regulatory, and personal responses to this far-reaching and still unfolding social phenomenon. [ more ]

    SOC 215Crime

    Last offered Spring 2014

    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 216The City

    Last offered Fall 2018

    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 218Law and Modern Society

    Last offered Spring 2020

    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

    Last offered Spring 2016

    "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 advertising 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 Indian studio portraiture, and will include the images we encounter in everyday life, media, politics, academia, "high" art and pop culture. [ more ]

    SOC 221Money and Intimacy

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Can money buy love and care? The course will consider this taboo question from a sociological perspective. We will look into how relevant this question has been over the course of history, what forces have contributed to the shift in thinking about it, and, most importantly, how sociological research helps us understand its current ramifications. We will discuss a wide range of aspects of family life: the relationship between arranged marriage and romantic relationship, the role of inheritance in family and social life, the distribution of resources in the context of modern family forms (most notably remarriages), and the outsourcing of care for dependents. Intimacy bears different value and content in these changing contexts. The course will further look into the changing character of new economy where "people's skills" are ever more required from employees (emotional labor) and where intimacy, care, and/or sex constitute purchasable commodities. A reflection on the growth of new technologies will complicate some of the discussed concepts and notions, but throughout a common denominator of our discussion will be the role of social inequality. [ more ]

    SOC 228The Panopticon: Surveillance, Power, and Inequality

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Surveillance is built into the very fabric of modern life. From CCTV cameras, to supermarket loyalty cards, to the massive gathering of personal data on social media sites, people participate in today's "surveillance societies" just by doing everyday activities. This course uses the metaphor of the "Panopticon" as a doorway to engagement with traditional and new forms of surveillance. First described by philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham, the Panopticon is a physical structure that enables one observer to see all inhabitants without those inhabitants knowing if they are being observed. In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault famously expanded thinking on the Panopticon as a metaphor for the "disciplinary" power that lies at the heart of inequality in modern society. Since Bentham and Foucault's time, however, surveillance technologies have changed significantly. To what extent does the concept of the Panopticon give us purchase on today's surveillance societies? How does watching people with new digital and algorithmic surveillance technologies shape the exercise of power and, in turn, (re)produce forms of inequality? Are these technologies always bad? Can they be used for good? Topics include: the historical origins and expansion of surveillance in modern societies, the emerging total surveillance state in Baltimore City, the U.S. military drone program, and whether social media is turning us all into self-surveillance addicts. [ more ]

    SOC 230Memory and Forgetting

    Last offered Fall 2019

    On the surface, remembering generally confronts us as a deeply personal act. What is more private than nostalgic reverie or the secrets of a dark and painful past? Yet even "individual" memories take shape through social frameworks, and we also remember "collectively" through shared myths, narratives, traditions, and the like. This course will explore the social dimensions of memory and remembering as well as their inevitable counterpart--forgetting. How do social frameworks inform our individual understandings of the past and shape our sense of selfhood? How and why are figures from the past cast as heroes or villains? How do collectivities celebrate past glories, and how do they deal with shameful or embarrassing episodes? How do economic and political power relations shape struggles over the past? In an increasingly global society, can we speak of "cosmopolitan" or "transcultural" forms of memory? Topics will include self-identity, memoirs, and oral history; memorials, museums, and monuments; reputations, commemorations, and collective trauma; silence, denial, and forgetting; and transitional justice, official apologies, and reparations. [ more ]

    SOC 232Symbols and Society

    Last offered Spring 2016

    Human beings, as Kenneth Burke put it, are "symbol-using, symbol-making, and symbol-misusing" animals. Indeed, among humans, symbols help to substitute for "instincts." Symbols guide our actions, shape our emotions, and enable us to coordinate with others. Symbols may generate solidarity across wide spaces and among people who have never encountered one another face-to-face. They may also inflame conflicts and exaggerate distinctions, even promote violence. This course will examine the role of symbols and symbolism in modern society, exploring how words, gestures, images, and icons give shape and form to social life. The first part of the course will provide a broad introduction to the sociological study of symbols. The second part of the course will pay particular attention to the role that symbols play in politics and nationhood. How do symbols such as flags, anthems, values, ideals, monuments, and memorials promote solidarity and common identity across space and time? When and why do nations struggle over symbols, and what influence do these symbolic struggles have on collective life? What role do symbols play in war, conflict, and violence? Topics will include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the 1995 Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum in D.C., the "Ground Zero cross," and the recent debates over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and beyond. We will focus primarily on the U.S., but will also work to make comparisons. [ more ]

    SOC 234How Emotions Work

    Last offered Spring 2020

    What could be more personal and unique than one's own emotions? Over the last century, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and social psychologists have challenged this taken for granted view of emotion, revealing just how much context, institutional structures, and history shape feeling. Emotion does not just emerge from an individual's brain and body; it is also a product of intersubjective dynamics outside the individual. In this deeply interdisciplinary course, students explore how societies shape emotion. Beginning with psychological research on the brain/body connection, we build a capacious model for how social context, norms, and institutions interact with individual psychology to produce both conscious and unconscious forms of feeling. As the course progresses, we zoom further out from the individual level and unpack emotional dynamics at the national, cross-cultural, and civilizational levels. Along the way, we take a deeper look at specific emotions, including love, shame, sympathy, sadness, and happiness. The course concludes by focusing on a pressing social problem--the seemingly global crisis of mental illness on college and university campuses. What is causing this crisis? What can we do to address this issue right here in our community? [ more ]

    SOC 236Making Things Visible: Adventures in Documentary Work

    Last offered Spring 2019

    Photography, like ethnography, is an art of looking carefully and taking notice. This course will explore the overlaps between documentary photography and field methods of social science, concentrating particularly on the genre in which the two intersect: the photo essay. The students will learn methods of visual narrative and storytelling, using techniques of interviewing, still photography, and video. Concurrently, we will explore a number of examples of investigative work that blend word and image. We will ask questions about the changing practices and expectations associated with the documentarian's role, and the evolving media in which such work can be presented. Lastly, we will discuss ethical questions that haunt documentary work, including issues of responsibility and politics of representation, as well as the perennial question of whether "objective representation" is even possible or desirable. Experience in photography and/or video is not required, but students will be expected to master basic technical skills in image acquisition and audio editing taught in a separate lab section. Students should also be prepared to interact extensively with people in the community and spend a significant time off campus doing fieldwork. [ more ]

    SOC 240Performing Masculinity in Global Popular Culture

    Last offered Fall 2017

    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 241Meritocracy

    Last offered Spring 2019

    Although less than 1% of Americans have a degree from the country's top 30 colleges and universities, 39% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 41% of federal judges, 44% of the writing and editorial staff at the New York Times, 64% of Davos attendees, and 100% of Supreme Court justices do.Is this a positive sign that the United States is governed by its most talented and capable members who have risen through hard work and equal 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 intelligent--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 Singapore, France, and the United States. The course concludes with a focus on the current debate over American meritocracy and inequality. [ more ]

    SOC 244What They Saw in America

    Last offered Spring 2018

    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? With whom did they talk? 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 248 TAltering States: Post-Soviet Paradoxes of Identity and Difference

    Last offered Fall 2018

    Critics and apologists of Soviet-style socialism alike agree that the Soviet ideology was deeply egalitarian. Putting aside for a moment the very reasonable doubts about how justified this perception actually was, it is still worth asking, how did people who lived in the world in which differences in rank, class, gender or ethnicity were not supposed to matter, make sense of their postsocialist condition, one in which new forms of difference emerged, and old ones assumed greater prominence? And how do these encounters with difference impact current events, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the persistent tensions between East and West Germans? This tutorial will examine new dilemmas through ethnographic studies and documentary films that aim to capture in real time the process of articulating and grappling with newly discovered divides. We will focus especially closely on Russia, but will also read studies on East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia and Ukraine. This course fulfills the DPE requirement by exploring comparatively the ways in which people in different countries made sense of the social, cultural and political heterogeneity of the postsocialist condition. [ more ]

    SOC 263Cold War Technocultures

    Last offered Spring 2015

    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 264Transnational Activism: Practice, Problems, Ethics

    Last offered Spring 2020

    The world's got problems. These problems don't respect national boundaries. This class looks at how activists have engaged across borders and with transnational institutions in order to address transnational problems like class inequality, sexism, homophobia, climate change, and more. It asks: what are the different forms that transnational activism takes and how have transnational activists have advanced their goals? Why and how have transnational activists' efforts have failed? What are the practical and ethical difficulties associated with transnational activism? What does ethical transnational activism look like, and can it also be effective? While focusing especially on the role of transnational activism in combating sex and gender-based inequities, we will also engage with activism that targets the other axes of oppression with which sex and gender-based oppressions are inextricably entwined. [ more ]

    SOC 268Class and Inequality

    Last offered Fall 2013

    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 283Religion and Capitalism

    Last offered Spring 2016

    Up through the 1960s it was popular to claim that the world was becoming increasingly and inevitably secular, with the development of modern capitalist social relations as a signature cause. Today the 'secularization thesis' is largely defunct. Instead one sees the vibrant return of religion to social, economic, and political prominence in most parts of the world--at the very same time we are experiencing through globalization and the information revolution the most dramatic economic advances in a century. This course investigates the historical and contemporary relationship between culture and economics, religion and capitalism, in their most encompassing forms. In investigating this theme, our cornerstone will be Max Weber's famous argument from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Along the way we will discuss both the origins of capitalist society as well as its more recent transformations through the rise of the welfare state, consumerism, and globalization. We will also discuss changes in religion under the influence of capitalism including romanticism, Pentecostalism, moralistic therapeutic Deism, and the 'God gap' between largely theist Africa, South and West Asia, and the Americas on the one hand and largely atheist Europe and East Asia on the other. The focus of the course is on Christianity in Western countries both historically and in the present, but we will spend time discussing religion (particularly Pentecostalism) and capitalism in the contemporary Global South as well. [ more ]

    SOC 291Religion and the American Environmental Imagination

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course examines the relationship between religious and environmental thought in modern America. Exploring a broad range of practices and beliefs, we will examine the religious (and anti-religious) roots of contemporary environmental discourse. Rather than survey the environmental teachings of organized religious groups, our focus throughout will be on ambiguous, eclectic, and fascinating traditions of "eco-spirituality" and popular "nature religion." Where do these traditions come from? What is their relationship to science, to secularism, to politics, and to the search for environmental justice? Starting with the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century, we will trace a roughly chronological line to the present, taking long detours into several modern religious trends and movements, including the revitalization and contestation of Native American religions, Wicca and neo-pagan ecofeminism, and evangelical Creation Care. Focusing on the writings of activists and radicals from a variety of religious backgrounds, our overarching question throughout the semester is one of the most critical we face in modern environmental thought: what is the relationship between spirituality and the just, sustainable society? [ more ]

    SOC 301Social Construction

    Last offered Fall 2018

    "Social construction" can often seem like the great collegial insight. By now, you've all heard that categories such as race, gender, and sexuality are in some sense not part of nature, but instead are created and maintained socially or culturally. The idea of social construction has been vital to critical race theory and queer theory, and, in this course, we will push ourselves into philosophy of science to see whether or not these same insights apply to everything. If we know that "Whiteness," "heterosexuality," and "masculinity," for instance, are all socially constructed, we will ask if the same is true of "electrons," "money," "the solar system," and "climate change." Can it be that all of our reality is socially constructed? Or does social construction have limits? If so, what are they? We will also ask more fundamental questions, such as: What does it mean to say something is socially constructed? How does social construction relate to claims that an aspect of the world is "real" or "not real?" Is social construction a theory about language, power, culture, societies, human perceptions, or the limits of science? What kind of political, ethical, ontological, or epistemological work do theories of social construction do? We will begin with different accounts of the social construction of race, gender, and sexuality. In the second part of the course, we will dig deeper into philosophical debates about social construction as such. Then we will explore constructionism about natural science. In the last part of the course, we will change gears and explore look at cutting-edge work in the theory of social science aimed at explaining the construction and ontology of social worlds. The class will culminate in a project in which students will put their social construction theories into practice. [ more ]

    SOC 303Cultures of Climate Change

    Last offered Spring 2019

    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. [ more ]

    SOC 308What is Power?

    Last offered NA

    What is power? Despite the importance of notions of power across the social sciences, there is a broad lack of consensus. Is power essentially domination or resistance? Is it freedom, empowerment, privilege, or oppression? Are there forms of unequal social power which are morally neutral or even good? Is power the kind of thing held by individuals, races, genders, classes, discourses, causal mechanisms, institutions, or social structures? What is the connection between social and physical power? Does power obey laws? How does power relate to technology? Or knowledge? Or agency? Or ideology? This course begins with the observation that power is often described as a causal relation--an individual's power is supposed to equal their capacity to produce a change in someone else's behavior. This suggests that the better we can understand the nature of cause and effect, the better we can understand power. Fortunately, in recent decades philosophers have made significant progress in theorizing causation. Hence, this seminar will put two very different bodies of theory in conversation: critical theory about power and philosophy of science about cause and effect. We will trace classic philosophical accounts of power and causation (in European and Chinese philosophy), as well as more recent developments in philosophy of science, political theory, and other fields. The insights we gain in this course from analyzing the nature of power should empower us to more effectively transform society. It will help students in the social sciences to understand the nature of causation in the social world, and it will help students interested in political action to better understand the nature of power. Thinkers to be considered may include: Aristotle, Amy Allen, Hannah Arendt, Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Nancy Cartwright, Foucault,Gramsci, Byung-Chul Han, Han Feizi, Giddens, Hobbes, Hume, Locke, Steven Lukes, Machiavelli, J.L. Mackie, Marx, Nietzsche, Sunzi, and Max Weber. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    SOC 314The Social Ecology of Racial and Gender Inequity

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Why the political furor over monuments? What would a feminist city look like? Does racial justice require integration? This course trains your focus on space and place, asking you to take a socioecological perspective on race, gender, and other axes of privilege and marginalization. In it, we examine how ideas about race, gender and more shape space as well as how the design of space reinforces social constructs and power relations. After examining specific regions (the city, the suburb, the country) and their relation to one another, we examine specific sites (public transport, public toilets, libraries, houses). The course enables students to better understand the tenacity of inequity by drawing attention to its spatial dimension while at the same time introducing students to -- and providing students tools to engage in -- spatial interventions designed to disrupt vicious social-spatial cycles. [ more ]

    SOC 315Culture, Consumption and Modernity

    Last offered Fall 2017

    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 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. We 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 consequences that these patterns have for the larger social order. [ more ]

    SOC 317 TThe Public and the Private

    Last offered Spring 2011

    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 319Ethnographic Approaches to Africana Studies

    Last offered Spring 2012

    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 their own ethnography. [ more ]

    SOC 324Memory and Identity

    Last offered Spring 2019

    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 struggles over the proper way to face the difficult past around the world, with a particular emphasis on the United States and on the memory wars in the post-Soviet space. [ more ]

    SOC 326Being Mortal

    Last offered Spring 2020

    One of the defining features of the human condition is our awareness of our own mortality. How do we cope with this awareness? How does it influence our social institutions? We will begin by exploring how social theorists such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Ernest Becker, and Peter Berger grappled with mortality and its significance for human social life. We will then turn to the social institutions that structure our confrontation with mortality today. How, why, and with what consequences has death been ¿sequestered¿ in modern Western societies and set aside from the social world of the living? What rites and rituals remain for coping with death and dying, and how do our cultural assumptions influence the experiences of grief, loss, and mourning? How does modern medicine¿which is oriented toward cure but must ultimately confront the inescapable realities of aging and death¿deal with mortality? How have hospice, palliative care, and debates over physician-assisted suicide changed the landscape in recent years? How do societies cope with collective losses in the aftermath of wars, disasters, and atrocities? Our focus will be on the United States, but we will also consider cross-cultural comparisons. [ more ]

    SOC 328American Social Dramas

    Last offered Fall 2016

    As Shakespeare wrote memorably in As You Like It, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Sociologists have heeded Shakespeare's wisdom, arguing that social and political events are "performances" that take shape in accordance with familiar cultural scripts, and indeed that social actors implicitly interpret real-world events using plot structures from literary and dramatic genres such as romance, irony, comedy, and tragedy. We will explore this thesis through the lens of contemporary American political events, including the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, September 11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2012 presidential election, and current debates over Confederate symbolism. We will also pay careful attention to the unfolding drama associated with the 2016 presidential election. How do social performances and struggles to "control the narrative" shape the meanings and outcomes of political events? Are they merely "spectacles," or wellsprings for genuine civic participation? What role do political comedy, satire, and social media play in shaping the trajectory of contemporary events? Major authors will include Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, J.L. Austin, Erving Goffman, and Jeffrey Alexander. Throughout the semester, each student will develop a significant project on a political event of their choosing. [ more ]

    SOC 329Work and Future of Capitalism

    Last offered Fall 2019

    What does it mean to work? How does capitalism shape the way we work? What might work look like in the future? In this three-part course, students engage with global capitalism's past, present, and future, asking analytic and normative questions about work and the trajectory of capitalism. The first part of the course examines the historical origins of capitalism and leading theories about what capitalism is and how it stratifies the world into social classes. A central theme in part one will be how capitalist labor relations shape meaning and subjectivity, particularly the experience of dignity. In part two, we examine recent and emerging trends in capitalist labor, such as global commodity chains, the death of the career, the rise of the "gig" economy, platform capitalism, and even the seemingly inevitable end of work itself as entire occupations become automated by machine learning. A key question will be how these transformations exacerbate and/or alleviate longstanding inequalities from capitalism's 19th century past. Through a series of essays, culminating in a final paper, the course concludes by asking students to imagine what work might look like in the next century. Should we continue to work at all? What kinds of productive activity should we value, and how would we go about restructuring (or even overturning) capitalism to allow them to flourish? [ more ]

    SOC 330Technology, Culture and Society

    Last offered Spring 2016

    An introduction to major trajectories of theory and empirical research in the sociology and history of technology: the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), Large Scale Technological Systems (LTS), Actor-Network Theory (ANT), and cultural studies of technoscience broadly. Students will also become acquainted with a number of philosophical positions on technology: instrumentalist, Marxist, cultural/ substantivist, humanist and posthumanist. Topics to be explored include technology, (post)industrial capitalism, and the nature of modern power; the role of technology in giving shape and weight to social institutions and forms of agency; technology, individualism, and everyday life in the modern world; technological determinism; resistance and accommodation to technological change; technology as a point of view and total way of life (culture); language, quantification, computerization, and (tele)visual media; and technology and environment. The course is furthermore designed to allow students to explore and research topics not appearing on the syllabus in the main. [ more ]

    SOC 332Life and Death in Modernity

    Last offered Fall 2016

    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 (bio)medicalization of aging, death, and grief. Other topics to be explored include the commodification and consumption of health and well-being; the emergence of anti-aging medicine and "popular" rationalities of human life extension; cryonic suspension, zombies, and the paranormal. [ more ]

    SOC 334Social Studies of (Pseudo) Science

    Last offered NA

    What makes science science? Where does science end and pseudoscience begin? What (if anything) separates the crackpots from the innovators? Philosophers of science have long labored over the so-called "demarcation" problem: how to analytically hive off "science" from "non-science." In this course we will survey the history of these philosophical labors, underscoring the inherent limitations of approaching demarcation as an analytical problem amenable to solution in the abstract. Operating instead in a largely sociohistorical register, we will consider demarcation as a practical problem scientists take up and negotiate in the concrete, in a range of different contexts and for a variety of ends. What is at stake in scientists' efforts to establish boundaries between what counts as scientific knowledge and what does not? How are these boundaries created, maintained and contested, and by whom? This course will speak to these questions by focusing on how and under what circumstances various doctrines that have aspired to science have nevertheless been met with the designation of "pseudoscience." Students will work through primary and secondary materials on a range of cases, among them parapsychology, intelligent design, climate change skepticism, eugenics, nanotechnology, dianetics, and UFOlogy. The aim is neither to debunk nor to validate, but rather to develop an understanding of how science and scientific authority operate in practice, in a given historical moment, by way of attending to instances of pseudoscientific designation. [ more ]

    SOC 350Max Weber & Critical Theory or Rationalization & Its Discontents

    Last offered Spring 2017

    We live in an age characterized by unprecedented technological and scientific progress--we have unraveled the building blocks of life, witnessed the birth of stars at the edge of the galaxy, and harnessed the power of the atom--and yet modern life often appears fundamentally meaningless and lacking in ultimate value--we work, we eat, we excrete, we die, perhaps in the interim shuffling paperwork, sucking up to our boss, and asking ourselves, "What kind of dining set defines me as a person?" Few thinkers have explored the roots of this modern ennui as thoroughly as Max Weber, a German sociologist often regarded as the single most important social theorist of the twentieth century. Weber wanted to know why it was European civilization in particular that gave birth to the grand trifecta of rationality, science, and capitalism and how we have become enslaved by the very things that were supposed to have set us free. Weber's key innovation was to trace the grand trajectory of Western "rationalization"--the historical attempt to produce a world in which "one can, in principle, master all things by calculation." Further, he demonstrated how this rationalization produced not just mastery over nature, but also "the disenchantment of the world" - value fragmentation, hyper-specialization, bureaucracy, and ultimately the "iron cage" of modernity. The first part of this course will follow in Weber's footsteps by studying his theory of rationalization and by exploring it in different social spheres, such as the economy, the law, the professions, and the secularization of religion. The second half of the course will look at Weber's legacy in Critical Theory. It will show how thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Georges Bataille, Jürgen Habermas, Max Horkheimer, Michael Löwy, and Alasdair MacIntyre suggested various lines of flight from the iron cage of modernity. [ more ]

    SOC 362 TStories We Tell

    Last offered Fall 2017

    From The Moth to StoryCorps to Williams College's own Storytime, stories are ubiquitous in contemporary society. Indeed, sociologists have argued that social life is itself "storied"--that we locate ourselves within familiar narrative structures, using them to "construct" identities and "tell" our lives. Stories, in this view, are not only the stuff of literature, but also the very fabric of social life: the foundation for individual and collective identities. This course grapples with the role of stories and storytelling in modern social life. What role do stories play in constituting personal identity? What cultural templates structure the stories we tell? Why are memoirs so popular, and how can we explain the more recent resurgence of interest in oral forms of storytelling? What role does storytelling play in politics and social movements? Specific topics will include confessional culture, podcasts, memoir, politics, and social change. Along the way, we will pay explicit attention to medium, and consider how sociologists might learn from journalists, documentarians, and memoirists to convey stories from their own research. [ more ]

    SOC 363Cold War Technocultures

    Last offered Fall 2018

    In this seminar students will pursue sociohistorical analyses of Cold War American culture(s) by attending to key points of intersection between politics, aesthetics, and major technoscientific developments during this period. Part I will focus principally on the emergence of the computer and its role in shaping American infrastructure and styles of thought aimed at Soviet "containment." We will trace the historical threads connecting MIT's "Whirlwind" computer project and the SAGE continental air defense system; nuclear wargaming at the RAND Corporation and the aesthetics of "thinking the unthinkable"; the science of cybernetics and the prospect of automation; and ultimately the role of computation, intermedia, and systems logic in perpetrating the atrocities of the Vietnam War. Part II will take up the Cold War space race--from Luna 2, Sputnik I, and Yuri Gagarin to Projects Mercury, Gemini, and the Apollo moon landing. Within this context we will also consider the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report; plans backed by NASA for the industrialization and colonization of outer space; and the place of science-fiction as a Cold War aesthetic (print, televisual, cinematic). Part III, finally, will explore key moments of conflict, resistance, appropriation, and unintended consequences of Cold War technoscientific developments, among them antipsychiatry and environmentalism; Project Cybersyn, an infrastructural casualty of the U.S./CIA-backed Chilean coup of 1973; the New Left, the American counterculture, new social movements, and the countercultural roots of new media and neoliberalism. [ more ]

    SOC 368Technology and Modern Society

    Last offered Fall 2017

    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 371Medicine, Technology, and Modern Power

    Last offered Spring 2017

    Medicalization: those processes by which 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." Part I: The history of the medicalization thesis; medicalization as a technical process; modern medicine as a form of social control; critiques of the medicalization thesis. Part II: From medicalization to biomedicalization; from the management of human life to the transformation of "life itself" by way of post-World War II technoscientific interventions aimed at "optimizing" human vitality. Empirical cases for consideration will be drawn from those technoscientific developments having made possible the work of optimization that defines biomedicalization: molecular biology, pharmacogenomics, biotechnologies, imaging techniques, robotics, and transplant medicine, among others. Finally, a consideration of 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. The course will to this end conclude with a survey of emerging issues in speculative technoscience and the ethics and politics of human enhancement. [ more ]

    SOC 372Time and Temporality

    Last offered Spring 2019

    Duration, rhythm, speed, pace, trajectory, sequence, articulation, busyness, boredom, flow--time is one of the most fundamental categories of our experience of reality. Since the founding of the discipline, sociologists have been interested in how time, while seemingly given and natural, is deeply influenced by history and society. This two-part course will introduce students to the sociological analysis of time and temporality. In part one, students will explore the emergence of the so-called "modern western temporal order"--the sense of time that many people take for granted as the way things are. We will excavate the historical roots of schedules, clocks, calendars, and time zones; examine how capitalism and colonial conquest disseminated particular notions of time around the globe; and discuss leading theories of how constructions of time change through history and vary among communities. In part two, we will focus on one of the most frequently lamented and celebrated qualities of modern temporality: acceleration. Is the world speeding up? Why do so many people feel always pressed for time? What are the promises and limits of speed, acceleration, and ceaseless change for building a robust democratic society? [ more ]

    SOC 386Going Nuclear: American Culture in the Atomic Age

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Following the first use of nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of World War II, atomic science has fueled Americans' fears, hopes, nightmares, and fantasies. This course will examine various aspects of American nuclear culture in the early-Cold War period. It will consider topics ranging from the Manhattan Project to delivery of the bombs for combat, scientists' movements to abolish atomic weapons and expand peaceful atomic energy production, and the destructive consequences of the bomb's initial use and subsequent testing. The class will also investigate the role of the nuclear arms race in the Cold War, the development of civil defense and bomb shelter culture in the United States, and dystopian fiction about the nuclear apocalypse. Employing both historical and sociological perspectives, we will explore the interactions between science, diplomacy, politics, and culture in the nuclear age. [ more ]

    SOC 397Independent Study: Sociology

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Sociology independent study. [ more ]

    SOC 398Independent Study: Sociology

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Sociology independent study. [ more ]

    SOC 493Senior Thesis: Sociology

    Last offered Fall 2019

    Sociology senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

    SOC 494Senior Thesis: Sociology

    Last offered Spring 2020

    Sociology senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]