Fall 2019 Courses

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ANTH 001 Intro to Cultural Anthropology

(Ibrahim, King; multiple sections) – Most people know that anthropology is the study of cultures and cultural differences 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 in 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. 

ANTH 175 Crisis & Creativity in the Arab World

(IKing; TR 2:00pm-3:15pm)Beginning with an overview of anthropological and journalistic approaches to the Arab world over the last half-century, this course will employ a cultural framework in order to understand the political, socioeconomic, media, and technological developments since just before the Arab Spring protests of 2011. We will then trace the repercussions of these developments locally, regionally, and globally. The course will focus on the multifaceted crises that have recently enveloped Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, resulting in the largest refugee crisis of the last 60 years.

ANTH 207 Love and Hate in the Digital Age

(Ibrahim ; MW 11:00am-12:15pm) – “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” These sensational headlines are just an example of recent popular discussions in the media about how digital technology is affecting humans and our social and intellectual skills. How have anthropologists, whose bread and butter is the study of communication and social life, studied the rise of the digital age? In this course we will explore the complex and nuanced terrain that is human-technology encounters, focusing on the intersections of race, class, and gender with digital technology.

ANTH 240 African Cultural Modernities

(Mikell; TR 2:00pm-3:15pm) – This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of social relations and cultural conceptions of various peoples in sub-Saharan 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.

ANTH 245 Cultures & Sexualities

(TBD; TR 11:00am-12:15pm) – This course combines anthropological concepts with recent developments in gender and queer theory to understand cultural diversity in concepts of gender, sexuality, and sex across continents. The class focuses on cultural norms, institutions, and historical processes that have influenced possibilities for gender and sexuality in different places and times. Readings approach to gender and sexuality from a number of theoretical standpoints including identity, desire, practice, scientific and medical subjectivity, institutional categories, and political stance. We will consider gender and sexuality in conjunction with concepts including social construction, performativity, intersectionality, governmentality, globalization, and hegemony. Readings incorporate ethnographic examples from several continents related to masculinity, femininity, marriage, reproduction, hetero-and homo-normativity, non-binary gender categories, and queerness. These case studies will provide students a basis for understanding how theory relates to lived experience.

ANTH 256 Disabilities & Culture

(Onder; TR 3:30pm-4:45pm) – This course will take an anthropological approach to issues of culture and identity, with a particular emphasis on the field of “Disability Studies” – which encompasses varieties of differences in physical, mental, and other forms of ability. Examples will come from around the world and close to home. Guest speakers, field trips, performances, and interesting class projects are being developed for the course. Topics to be addressed will include: Deaf Culture and the issue of Ableism in the majority hearing population; Autism, Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity; Disability Rights, Disability Justice; Veterans with Disabilities; Caregiving, Services, Dependency; “Supercrips,” Exceptionalism, Individualism; Visible and Invisible Identities; Stigma; and Cultures around the world — the U.S. “normal” is not the only “normal”. 

ANTH 275 Soldiers, Citizens, War, & State

(Bickford; TR 9:30am-10:45am) – Starting from the viewpoint that war is not a natural, biological “necessity” or inevitability, this course explores the diverse connections between war and culture, and how both shape and construct the other. War and militarization play key roles in the modern nation-state, and much of what we view as “normal,” “everyday,” “common sense,” or “taken for granted” is related to the military and war. Throughout the class, we will focus on militarization, warfare, gender, sexuality, the family, language, technology, torture, trauma, and resistance, to name but a few of the ways war and culture are related in everyday life and experience. We will focus on the modern nation-state, the role of the military in the state, how states create soldiers, and what states do with soldiers and civilians in the pursuit of policy objectives. Who are the victims? Who are the perpetrators? What does it mean to wage war for a nation-state and its citizens, and what does it mean to the object of war and violence? How do people resist war, militarization, violence, torture, and terror? 

ANTH 316 Cupcakes, Pies, and Power

(Bickford; TR 12:30pm-1:45pm) – Using cupcakes and pies as our starting points, this class will examine the intersections of food and culture in the greater Washington, D.C. area and beyond. Starting with an overview of food and culture in anthropological thinking and theory, we will move on to a consideration of the cupcake and the pie as symbols of identity, political economy, gentrification, gender, and power in Washington, D.C. Through the lens of the cupcake, for example, we will investigate why cupcakes have become such popular items of consumption, and what this conspicuous consumption tells us about how people think about themselves, the city, and the meaning of food in their lives. We will do the same with pies, and compare and contrast the consumption of each. The course will involve an examination of theoretical texts on political economy, foodways, and identity, mapping, and ethnographic fieldwork and analysis. 

ANTH 320 The Ethnographic Imagination

(Mikell; M 2:00pm-4:30pm) – An overview of the ways in which anthropologists have studied and written about cultural systems in a number of world regions. Using ethnographic case studies, the course explores the nature of anthropological research, concentrating on various schools of thought and approaches to ethnography, including early functionalism and more contemporary ethnography that focuses on experimental writing, collaborative ethnography, and historical approaches to studying culture. The anthropologists we will be reading examine such issues as “race,” political organization, gender roles, identity politics, the city, and violence. 

ANTH 358 Doing Anthropological Fieldwork

(Brennan; W 3:30pm-6:00pm) – Ethnographic research examines the way people make sense of the world and act upon it based on their own perceptions, experiences, and history. Anthropology sets itself apart from related fields in Social Sciences and Humanities by emphasizing sustained and intimate engagement with people’s lived experiences. Doing anthropological fieldwork “involves placing oneself in the research context for extended periods of time to gain a first-hand sense of how local knowledge is put to work in grappling with practical problems of everyday life and with basic philosophical problems of knowledge, truth, power, and justice” (AAA 2013). This course offers an introduction to various methods and techniques for conducting ethnographic research. You will get a chance to design your own research project as you become familiar with methods like participant observation, interviewing, collecting life histories, collaborative research, archival research, and working with visual and material culture. The readings serve as a guide to theoretical debates and critiques that resulted in a transformation of ethnographic methods from colonial origins in late 19th-century Europe and America to its contemporary manifestation.