Spring 2022 Anthropology Course Offerings
Most people know that anthropology is the study of cultures and cultural difference around the world, but few know what anthropologists actually do. What was once the study of ‘distant’ and ‘exotic’ cultures and peoples by immersing oneself their daily lives has over the course of the 20th century developed into a critical approach to studying difference no matter how far or near it might occur. As a discipline, anthropology has studied and debated issues of race, ethnicity, language, religion, belonging, power, class, gender, and sexuality across the globe. In more recent times, it has also come to embrace the study of institutions like medicine, trade, and law. Come see how an understanding of an anthropological way of thinking can broaden your views on the world and how it works.
The role of vision and the visual in ethnographic research, anthropological scholarship, and pedagogy is easy to take for granted. Visual anthropology critically examines how we see, what we see, and why we see what we see. A prominent anthropologist of the late 20th century, Mary Douglas, noted that “in perceiving the world, we do not perceive passively. In seeing the world, we create the world.” The key ethnographic methodology of “participant observation” itself indicates the importance of watching, surveying, and searching for clues to the meaning of human interaction. “Being there” is crucially a matter of seeing there. But do we see in the same ways, or perceive the same things, that our communities of research do? Does anthropology approach the act of seeing from a different perspective than disciplines such as cognitive psychology, art history, and media studies? What is the importance of unquestioned assumptions, choice of frames, and power imbalances between the observer and the observed? This class will examine visual anthropology historically, beginning with the visual spectacles of other, exotic societies as depicted in travel literature, prints, photography, and early films. We will then survey the development of visual anthropology as a defined subfield of the discipline, the types of questions visual anthropologists have asked, how they’ve studied the visual, and how they have used new technologies of photographic and video technologies, and how these new technologies have reframed the questions we ask and the politics of research. The final project of this course will be the production of 10-minute ethnographic films
The class will involve a deep dive into human-technology interfaces, with future ethics taking a central concern as technology develops exponentially. Can regulations keep up? Do we need to consider robot ethics? Can human biases embeddedness within machine learning algorithms be understood or do they constitute black boxes? These are some of the questions this course will explore. Students will: • Understand current and future trends in AI • Develop critical thinking around ethics and philosophy of human machine enhancement • Learn how bias is encoded into algorithms • Debate how to regulate AI • Explore potential futures through literature and film • Debate robot personhood
How do racial, gender, and sexual inequalities frame political and social life? Using ethnography – the medium by which anthropologists present their findings – as books, films, and even graphic novels, we explore how anthropology approaches problems of structural inequality and injustice. In both, the anthropologist or filmmaker is the primary medium through which the reader gains an intimate glimpse into the lives of others. Explore how anthropology goes beyond the headlines to connect you to the real people caught up in powerful, often unequal, global forces.
Further to its physical properties, water affects most domains of social life – religion, politics, family, law, and morality – and connects them. This level course examines contemporary water issues through a range of conceptual frameworks from political ecology, social and technology studies and law to explore ontologies of water use, hydraulic infrastructures, modes of water governance, the production of scarcity, water rights, movements and protests, water justice and climate change. Ethnography allows us to perceive how the everyday, complex relations of water users, pipelines, private companies, technicians, climatic fluctuations, ministers and NGOs and upstream countries may be intertwined at different temporal and spatial scales. As the examples traverse varying domains such as international politics, economics, law and development, we will explore these in turn.
This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of social relations and cultural conceptions of various peoples in subSaharan Africa. We will examine modern developments — including historical causations like colonialism — and how these historical processes have determined and continue to shape contemporary life in Africa. The course will also analyze religion and cosmology, politics, economics, trade and agricultural networks, family, kinship and household production, African art, medicine, and perceptions of gender and personhood in Africa.
Medical anthropology is a fascinating and fast-developing branch of anthropology with great potential for careers in anthropology, medicine, public health, international aid and development, and environmental studies. We will examine medical systems from a cross-cultural perspective, learning about traditional theories of health and illness while keeping in mind international politics and the effects of globalization. Topics include: the cultural history of clinical medicine and medical anthropology, traditional medical practices from around the world, folk and alternative health care systems, race, class, and gender in health care and health disparities in the U.S., and the relationship of human health with environmental health. There will be an individual case study assignment on the impact of contemporary problems (such as income inequality, war, instability, gender disparities, displacement and refugee status, and others) on health and health care in majority Muslim communities.
This class explores the culture of the National Basketball Association through the lens of racial capitalism. The 1st Quarter (what is racial capitalism?) explores historical analyses of racial capitalism that both explain and critique the economic system as it has expanded. The 2nd & 3rd Quarters (time & space) look at real-world examples from history. The 4th Quarter (who wins?) takes the critical tools we have learned and applies them to the current NBA season, in order to practice making sense of the world that racial capitalism is determined to produce. Classes feature op-eds, Twitter threads, films, highlight clips, and music alongside course readings, with an aim toward crafting practical tools for understanding the cultures, histories, and formations of racial capitalism.
How have societies across time and in different places developed and practiced law? What can cross-cultural comparison and the use of ethnographic methods reveal about law, legality, and notions of justice? And how might these insights inform contemporary debates around criminal justice reform, freedom of speech, or attempts to address global economic inequality? In this course, students will embark on a critical introduction to legal anthropology. Course readings will immerse students in the ways different cultures have devised legal systems to resolve social conflict, prosecute and punish crime, create categories to organize social relations such as across gender or race, and to secure and maintain political legitimacy. We will also examine contemporary approaches to the anthropological study of law by looking at cutting-edge research underway including indigenous rights, international criminal law enforcement, transnational financial and economic regulation, migration, and the role of contemporary social movements in the United States, like Black Lives Matter, and globally, like climate change activism, to bring law closer to justice.
This course is a bi-local one with the professor in Doha, and students in both DC and Doha. The class timings will remain the same in Doha. For students enrolling in the DC section, the class will run from 9:30am to 12:00noon up to 12 March. From 13 March the class timing will be 10:30am to 1:00pm. Course description: This course covers some of the most significant debates in the social sciences and the humanities today: fairness and justice. A wide-ranging scholarship in cultural and political anthropology have attempted to unearth the meanings of diversity and inclusion at the level of the societies and states they study. This course will expand these efforts to ask several questions: Does the notions of justice and fairness vary cross-culturally? What does it mean to be included and or excluded? How do we understand what legal scholar Lani Gunnier calls “the tyranny of the majority”? How can we bring a new understanding of the persistent hierarchies of power, systems of exclusion and discrimination against minorities? Through the lenses of analyzing gender, class and race, the seminar will cover debates within a broader Africana context. Seminar materials will include ethnographies, films, and novels drawn from Africa, African-American and Caribbean societies to understand the mediation of differences in a diversity of contexts and situations.
Turkish Culture has exploded beyond ethnic, national, and regional boundaries due to social media, film, music, and a vast body of television serials. This course will use these genres to examine Turkish culture and also its receptions in places far beyond the Republic of Turkey. New forms of media have created hybrid sensations – such as when a Turkish mafia boss released a wildly popular weekly series of revelations about government corruption from the United Arab Emirates, or when rappers joined together to create a long-form music video taking up issues such as environmental justice and censorship. This course will examine themes such as neo-Ottomanism as portrayed in film and television and delve into the uses and abuses of social media for diplomatic outreach, surveillance, and political activism.
This is a CBL course and will require an asynchronous, out-of-classroom element. This course tackles the intertwined issues of settler state formation, capitalist dispossession, mobility, and bodily sovereignty. We will read about native people’s refusal of state-imposed borders, enslaved individuals’ survival strategies through forced migration, contemporary migrants’ resistance to being criminalized, and the human toll of militarized borders. As a community-based learning class, students will work with community-based organizations that fight for migrant and racial justice. They also will help build an oral history archive on experiences with migration — and being separated from loved ones — in the COVID era.
This seminar surveys major social theories and debates that inspire and inform anthropological analysis. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate a range of theoretical propositions concerning such topics as agency, structure, ecology, subjectivity, history, technology-social change, power, culture, and the politics of representation. Ultimately, all theories can be read as statements about what it means to be human and the worlds that people come to inhabit and create. We will approach each theoretical perspective or proposition on three levels: (1) in terms of its analytical or explanatory power for understanding human behavior and the cultural and natural world; (2) in the context of the social and historical circumstances in which they were produced; and (3) as contributions to ongoing dialogues and debate.