COURSES


ETHNOGRAPHY, GLOBALIZATION, AND CULTURE | INTERNATIONAL LAW AND POLITICS | LAW, CULTURAL MEANING, AND POWER  |  RELIGION AND THE LIMITS OF THE LAW  |  TRANSNATIONALISM, MODERNITY AND RETHINKING DIASPORA  |  THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF AFRICA  |  ANTHROPOLOGY AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL THEORY |  FIELD METHODS IN CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

ETHNOGRAPHY, GLOBALIZATION, AND CULTURE

As scholars of social change grapple with the changing scope and scale of global human interaction and the speed and sites of interconnection, amongst the most challenging developments have been how to make sense of global interconnections. This course examines the intersection of globalization processes with social and cultural diversity explored through the use of ethnography. The goal is to understand the cultural dimensions of social change with the added goal of grounding students in theories of social change and various forms of circulation as well as to ponder the limits of theorizing globalization as a unique form of social change. We will cover scholarship that explores issues related to modernity, transnational formations, growing economic equality, bio-genetics, changing forms of corporality, diasporic formations, shifting identities and the processes of subject formation within specific historical and contemporary contexts.

INTERNATIONAL LAW AND POLITICS

This is an introductory course in international law and politics and explores legal and political approaches to the study of states, their actors, the afterlife of their decisions, and the political challenges of co-operation and enforcement. Taking international law to be law that deals with the relationships between states, or between persons or entities in different states and international politics to be how states and non-state actors cooperate and compete on political issues, we will begin by examining theories, histories and philosophical foundations concerning the emergence and rise of modern state sovereignty, notions of citizenship and the rise of the individual. We will then examine the role of international law in addressing issues relating to economic investment, human rights, the rule of law, international criminal law, and the management of international trade and laws of war. The goal is to acquaint students with concepts and ideas for understanding the contemporary statecraft. This ranges from relationships among a range of actors in international and new regional domains (from states to activists and transnational NGO mobilizers, to the media, the UN and other inter-governmental organizations and victims), to the analytic tools for exploring the actors and institutions that characterize world politics.

LAW, CULTURAL MEANING, AND POWER

Since the beginning of the shaping of anthropology as a discipline, anthropologists have been concerned with questions about the maintenance of order, particularly in stateless societies.  Early anthropologists found that the study of law provided insights into these and larger questions about societal norms and culturally shaped attitudes.  Gradually the sub-field of legal anthropology took shape with these concerns in mind. Today, some have argued that we are living in an age in which the political is increasingly being displaced into the realm of the legal yet ethnographic fieldwork has shown that we have entered a period in which people are increasingly using political strategies to make legal claims. Scholarship on new social formations such as human rights movements, the invention of a notion of civil society, the growth of non-governmental organizations, and the “rule of law” has become all the more important.

New forms of legal language are becoming key resources in daily life; thus understanding the relationships between law and culture as well as law and politics is becoming all the more critical in the contemporary period.  By asking how relationships between legal, cultural and political realms are structured, we will study changing approaches to law in anthropological work.  The course will examine how law provides tools for both social struggle and social control and will explore classical and contemporary texts in legal and political anthropology in order to detail the cultural dimensions of law and law’s changing relationship to discipline.

RELIGION AND THE LIMITS OF THE LAW

The late twentieth century resurgence of religion in world affairs has been among the most politically charged phenomenon of our time.  From the rise of transnational religious networks, to controversial legal challenges to religious rights, to state-sponsored trials for religious minorities, the issues remain critical and volatile.  In this light, this course explores contemporary issues dealing with the dueling principles of religious freedom set alongside cultural practices and the role of the nation-state in managing, accommodating and disengaging with protections based on religious difference and legal questions. By examining recent and emerging scholarship on religious practices embedded in legal/political/moral controversies, the central goal is to explore the ways that new uses of religion and the law are changing the ways that scholars are engaging these topics.

The course will be taught in seminar format and students will engage with the historical, theoretical and ethnographic literature on this topic. Themes will range from formations of secularism and genealogies of religion, debates over freedom and its fictions, and the social construction of law as it relates to dilemmas over pluralism, evidentiary questions and anthropological interrogations of the role of trials.

TRANSNATIONALISM, MODERNITY AND RETHINKING DIASPORA

As anthropologists continue to grapple with changing notions of “the field” from local to global, this course covers ground breaking, recent and emerging scholarship.  The goal is to explore both pragmatic and theoretical problems of modernity, transnationalism, and diasporas in specific historical and ethnographic contexts.  Drawing on a range of analytic tools about how we might understand the dynamics of transnational formations– from theories of connections, to scapes to vernacularization, to mappings, to friction–the course will emphasize the interrelations between international and transnational cultural processes and more circumscribed forms of practices.

THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF AFRICA

This course will examine scholarship related to the development of the anthropology of Africa with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of the course is to explore the founding tenets of anthropological inquiry and methods and to ponder how those developments contributed to anthropological understandings of Africa in the scholarly imagination and its relationship to other ways of knowing. By asking why particular questions emerged and how those inquiries were presented, we will explore the social and political contexts in which particular studies emerged and assess the coherence and value of those analyses.  A central goal will be the evaluation of sources and methods of constructing arguments through which students will be encouraged to assess different ideological and/or theoretical approaches used in scholarly writing on Africa.

ANTHROPOLOGY AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL THEORY

This course is centered on the work of a few key theorists around which we will explore the relationship between culture and power, freedom, agency and social reproduction.  We will assess the relationships between the individual, society, the state and its fictions, as well as questions having to do with how to understand and theorize social change.  We will begin by exploring the foundations of contemporary anthropology and its relationship to coloniality and postcoloniality and then move to explore the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School as an intervention into Marxist theorizing.  This will be followed by a focus on three of the most influential social theorists of the mid to late 20th century: Antonio Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Agamben, and supplemented with the work of thinkers such as Achille Mbembe, Jean and John Comarofft, Judith Butler, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.  Class discussions will emphasize contemporary debates concerning the relationship between power, cultural politics and processes of naturalization.

FIELD METHODS IN CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

The objective of this course is to provide an introduction to ethnographic field methods in cultural anthropology.  The focus is on using and analyzing qualitative research methods in order to develop the skills to conduct and pursue socio-cultural exploration and analysis.  We will examine a wide array of fieldwork approaches (referred to as techniques) ranging from data collection procedures such as participant observation, structured and semi-structured interview techniques, event analysis, and survey development.   Data analysis will involve making sense of ethnographic data collection techniques, text coding and survey coding.  The course is divided into twelve weeks and organized into three main sections: (1) Anthropology and the Making and Unmaking of a Science, (2) Ethnographic Field Research: Techniques and Methods, and (3) Reflections on “the state” of the Ethnography.  Students should expect to spend a considerable amount of time with their own project development, data collection, and analysis, as well with offering feedback to others.   The readings and discussions will be combined with actual fieldwork-based projects by which students will collect data and analyze findings.  Much of the emphasis will be on learning fieldwork techniques and putting them into practice—that is, the hands-on implementation of ethnographic techniques in highly controlled contexts.