Courses in sociocultural anthropology and linguistics are grouped in five areas of concentration. These are informal tracks students can use to develop expertise in a particular part of the discipline. The courses in each area complement each other, allowing students to study related topics from a variety of perspectives and develop a more coherent understanding of the field. The five areas are: 1. culture, symbols, and representation: media, art, language, heritage, and symbolic systems; 2. politics and society: politics, law, race, gender, sexuality, violence, economy, and the state; 3. science and medicine: medical anthropology, global health, and science studies; 4. religion, secularism, and the body; 5. cultures of the world: ethnographic studies of world regions.
Language, Power, and Identity
ANTH-UA 16 . Das. 4 points.
Examines how speakers enact their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and socioeconomic class through everyday conversations, narratives, performances, literacy activities, and public debates. Explores how identification strategies and beliefs about language reinforce or contest normative power structures. Considers bilingual education and accent discrimination, multilingualism and youth counterculture, migration and code-switching, linguistic nationalism and xenophobia, and literacy and neo/liberalism in different areas of the world.
ANTH-UA 29 Identical to RELST-UA 642. Zito. 4 points.
Explores the relationship between cultures of religious practices and the human body: the body as medium both for ritual and religious experience; the body as locus for virtue and sin; the split between mind and body. Looks at the body in various situations—gendered, sexualized, covered, naked, suffering, disabled, altered, missing—and interrogates notions of representations and ideals, from the religious ban on representing the human body to divine anthropomorphism.
Anthropology of Religion
ANTH-UA 30. Abercrombie, Myers, Oliphant, Zito. 4 points.
Examines the cultural nature of basic beliefs and values manifested in both simple and complex societies. Discussion of time and space, causality, myth, prophecy and divination, witchcraft and magic, and mysticism.
Witchcraft: An Anthropological Approach
ANTH-UA 31 . 4 points.
Examines witchcraft through interdisciplinary study, including how theories of causation and reality are modified by culture and society and the way that social theorists have judged witchcraft in relation to social stability, conflict, and change. Considers both nonliterate, non-Western examples and cases from Europe and New England where historians have made extensive use of anthropological techniques.
Conversations in Everyday Life
ANTH-UA 32. Das, Schieffelin. 4 points.
We spend a great deal of our time talking: whether face-to-face, on the phone, texting, or via another communicative technology, our feelings and ideas are constantly being exchanged. Investigates how conversation shapes our lives in culturally and linguistically diverse urban communities and presents the theories and methods for analyzing the roles that talk plays in medical, work, and school settings, where miscommunication frequently occurs.
Salvation and Revolution
ANTH-UA 34 . Myers. 4 points.
Examines revolutionary movements in both traditional and industrial societies in terms of how violence, coercion, prophecy, and radical thought impel social change. Analyzes utopian communities, prophetic movements, cargo cults, religious sects, and terrorism from various social scientific perspectives.
ANTH-UA 35 . Hansen, Rapp. 4 points.
Analyzes cultural practices and belief systems surrounding illness, suffering, and healing in medical systems around the globe. Healing specialists may be trained in both indigenous and cosmopolitan medicine; patients and healers both confront the structures of health resources and problems of improving health care.
Global Biocultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Health
ANTH-UA 36. Hansen. 4 points.
Surveys the mutual shaping of culture and biology in diverse contexts around the world. Starts with sociocultural theories of biocultural process and ends with ethnographies of disability, drugs, food, place, pain, and biotechnology. Examines the relationship between larger political economic structures and individual subjectivities.
Anthropology of Indigenous Australia
ANTH-UA 37 Myers. 4 points.
Considers a range of Aboriginal Australian forms of social being and pays significant attention to the changing relationship between Indigenous people and the settler nation of Australia. Explores how Aboriginal people have struggled to reproduce themselves and their traditions in their own terms, asserting their right to forms of cultural autonomy and self-determination.
Indigenous Australian Art: An Analytical Survey
ANTH-UA 38 Myers. 4 points.
Focuses on regional and historical variations of Aboriginal art in the context of the history of a settler nation, while considering the issues of its circulation and evaluation within contemporary discourses of value. Topics include the cosmological dimensions of the art, its political implications, its relationship to cultural identity, and its aesthetic frameworks.
Family and Kinship
ANTH-UA 41 . Abercrombie, Khan, Myers, Rapp. 4 points.
Explores cross-cultural diversity in the organization of family life and kin relationships. Discusses how anthropology's cross-cultural perspective helps illuminate new or controversial family arrangements in Western societies.
Memory, Heritage, History, and Narrative
ANTH-UA 43 . Abercrombie. 4 points.
Surveys memory, social continuity, and representation of the past and historical change in order to understand the techniques, locations, and kinds of social memory that bridge the gap between remembered personal experience and the externally received representations of museology and history. Focuses on narration and self-narration, embodied public performance, and struggles over remembrance.
Ethnography and Ethnohistory of the Andes
ANTH-UA 47 . Abercrombie. 4 points.
Examines the archaeological record, iconography, painting, music, chronicles, archival documents, and the social and cultural legacies of living peoples in order to understand pre-Columbian societies and trace the transformation of indigenous societies under Spanish colonialism and republican rule. Also introduces contemporary ethnography of the region, including rural indigenous peoples and urban social life.
ANTH-UA 48 . Abercrombie, Myers. 4 points.
Surveys various symbolic systems, considering their use in myth, ritual, literature, and art and the kinds of anthropological theories applied to explain their power and forms. Approaches theory through case studies, providing a diverse view of world cultures. Emphasizes non-Western, nonliterate societies, though some material from the West is also used.
Peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa
ANTH-UA 101 Identical to SCA-UA 101. 4 points.
Examines accounts of traditional ways of life, the history of colonial contact with Europe, and consideration of life in contemporary African states. Utilizes anthropological studies as well as historical works, novels, and autobiographies, many by African authors. African material is related to broader issues of social theory, ethnicity, social change, and the ties between culture, society, and values.
Contemporary Issues in the Caribbean
ANTH-UA 102 . Khan 4 points.
Provides an anthropological perspective on Anglophone, Hispanophone, Francophone, and Dutch Antilles societies. Reviews how colonial history has structured the race, class, gender, ethnic, and national identities of Caribbean peoples and how these structures have in turn been shaped by the cultures and subjectivities of local communities. Contemporary topics include tourism, sexuality, the arts, health care, transnationalism, and diasporas.
Anthropology of Latin America
ANTH-UA 103 . Abercrombie, Dávila. 4 points.
Surveys society and culture, with emphasis on class, ethnicity, and nationhood. Examines some of the fundamental characteristics of Ibero-American civilization both in its historical development and in its transformations across a variety of regional and class contexts. Discusses the complex interrelationships between country and city and between "popular" and "elite" culture by examining ethnographic case material and a few general interpretative works.
Anthropology of South Asia
ANTH-UA 104. Ganti, Rademacher. 4 points.
Introduces the cultures and societies of the Indian subcontinent. Focuses not only on the history and ethnography of South Asia, but also on the major concepts and debates in the anthropological study of the region. Topics include caste, kinship, gender, religion, material culture, nationalism, ethnic conflict, globalization, and the South Asian diaspora. It is a reading, writing, and discussion oriented course that is run along a seminar format – that is we will engage closely with the texts assigned for the course.
Anthropology of Europe
ANTH-UA 111 Abercrombie. 4 points.
Explores cultural systems and social structures in modern European societies. Uses ethnographic case studies and film to examine issues such as ethnic and national identity, the impact on everyday life of shifting territorial and social borders, ritual, and religious behavior.
Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality
ANTH-UA 112 Identical to SCA-UA 112. Abercrombie, Rapp, Stout. 4 points.
Compares women's and men's experiences, activities, resources, powers, and symbolic significance as they vary within and between societies. Social and historical approaches in the analysis of how gender relations are affected by major social transformations. Emphasizes changes in gender roles, current transnational migrations, social movements, international relations, and the role of the military.
Culture, Power and Visual Representation
ANTH-UA 122 Ganti, Ginsburg, Stout. 4 points.
Photography, film, and other visual practices as modes for representing culture and sites of cultural practice. Examines the emergence of, as well as the contestations around, the genre of ethnographic film and its relationship to wider debates about documentary and nonfictional film practice. Considers the relationship between representation, power, and knowledge as manifest in cross-cultural representation.
Media, Culture, and Society
ANTH-UA 123. Ganti, Ginsburg, Stout. 4 points.
This course examines the social and political life of media and how it makes a difference in the daily lives of people as a practice – in production, reception, or circulation. It is organized around the following key questions: What is media? What role do media play in producing or shaping our sense of reality? What is the relationship between media and culture? How is media implicated in social change? It provides an overview of the increasing theoretical attention paid to the mass media by anthropologists, and focuses on concrete ethnographic examples. It examines cross-culturally how the mass media have become the primary means for the circulation of symbolic forms across time and space and crucial to the constitution of subjectivities, collectivities, and histories in the contemporary world. Topics include the role of media in constituting and contesting national identities, in forging alternative political visions, in transforming religious practice, and in creating subcultures. The types of media forms we will examine range from commercially driven movie-making to small-scale video production, from cell phones to Facebook, and from news reporting to popular television. We will read about media practices in diverse parts of the world, from Australia to Turkey, from India to Nigeria.
Anthropology of Art
ANTH-UA 125. Anderson, Myers. 4 points.
The starting point is to ask "What is art?" in comparative cultural perspective. Analyzes aesthetics in cross-cultural context; the notion of style; the relation between art, technology, and skill; the entanglement of primitivism and modernity; the role of class and taste in appreciating art; art and value in the marketplace; art and museum practice; tourist art and the value of authenticity; and colonial and postcolonial art.
Religion and Media
ANTH-UA 220 . Oliphant, Zito. 4 points.
Analyzes how human hearing, vision, and the performing body have been used historically to express and maintain religious life through music, voice, images, words, and rituals. Examines more recent electronic media such as cassette, film, television, video, and the Internet. Students should note that an anthropological/historical perspective on studying religion is pursued in the course.
ANTH-UA 315. 4 points.
Nations and nationalisms have been among the defining phenomena of the modern epoch. Yet in some contrast to other central phenomena of modernity such as classes, cities, revolutions, industrialism, or capitalism, the terms of nationhood are extraordinarily plastic. A central aim of this course will be to encourage systematic reflection about the power of this plasticity, and to cultivate the habit of thinking about nations and nationalisms in the plural, as variable along a number of dimensions. By fostering a close and critical engagement with an emergent canon of key writings, this course leaves students equipped to do independent work in this or related areas.
Topical Seminar in Social and Cultural Anthropology I, II
ANTH-UA 320, 321. Abercrombie, Anderson, Das, Dávila, Ganti, Ginsburg, Grant, Hansen, Khan, Merry, Myers, Oliphant, Rademacher, Rapp, Rogers, Stout, Zito. 4 points per term.
Analyzes and assesses selected key issues in the discipline. See the department's website for specific topics each term.
Race, "Difference," and Social Inequality
ANTH-UA 323 Identical to SCA-UA 323. Khan. 4 points.
Examines how historical, social, and cultural contexts shape the forms that identities take, looking in particular at ideas about race and racial identity. We work with two premises: (1) race must be understood in relation to such other identity categories as gender, class, sexuality, and ethnicity, and (2) race is expressed in both obvious and subtle ways; thus, racial identity is implicit as well as explicitly expressed. Utilizes nonfiction, fiction, and films.
Reimagining Community: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Belonging
ANTH-UA 325 Identical to SCA-UA 200. Dávila, Khan. 4 points.
Examines different notions of "community" through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Readings are drawn from anthropology, history, feminist studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, and philosophy. We read these texts both as theoretical representations of "community" as well as historically embedded artifacts that are part of the larger machinery in the production of knowledge.
Language and Law
ANTH-UA 329 . Schieffelin. 4 points.
Explores how speakers ranging from small children to litigants in courts attempt to settle their differences. Comparative materials illustrate theories of disputes and dispute resolution, examining the power of language and the language of power in a variety of settings (e.g., mediation, arbitration, trials). Class includes fieldwork trips to small claims court. Students audio-record cases and transcribe and analyze them according to different analytic perspectives.
Human Rights and Culture
ANTH-UA 331 Prerequisite: Culture, Power, and Society (ANTH-UA 1) or permission of the instructor. Merry. 4 points.
Topics include female genital cutting, honor killing, trafficking of persons, and indigenous peoples' rights to culture. Considers how the human rights system deals with tensions between global standards and local ways of life. Examines the meanings of rights and of culture in these debates and shows the implications of adopting an anthropological analysis of these situations.
Violence, Gender, and the Law
ANTH-UA 332 Prerequisite: Culture, Power, and Society (ANTH-UA 1) or Law and Society (LWSOC-UA 1). Merry. 4 points.
Explores the nature of violence as a concept that incorporates both physical harm and cultural meanings. Reviews law and violence in the context of non-state societies, colonialism, international law and human rights, and transitional justice. Focuses on gender-based violence, such as domestic violence, rape, sex trafficking, genocide, and wartime violence. Examines law as a system of ordering relations and controlling conflict in contexts as diverse as small bands and global institutions.
The Color of Race in the Americas:Post-Racial Mythologies
ANTH-UA 333 . Khan. 4 points.
Examines race and color as fundamental social and ideological building blocks of the Americas, as well as the related issues of identity, similarity, and difference in social relations. Considers how race and color are embedded in the cultural landscape and how "mixed race" and "color continuums" do (or do not) democratize social hierarchies. Employs ethnographic and interdisciplinary approaches.
ANTH-UA 344. 4 points.
From New Age sweat lodges to Soviet Siberia, shamanic spirit mediums have been construed as everything from healers to magistrates to visionaries to political subversives. This course explores anthropological literature on shamanism in Asia and the Americas in order to ask how we constitute and appropriate the exotic. By focusing on the core figure of the shaman, we look also to track a twentieth-century history of anthropological reasoning.
Body, Gender, and Belief in China
ANTH-UA 350 Identical to RELST-UA 350. Zito. 4 points.
Provides an extended and historical exploration of categories basic to social life such as gender, body, and family. Examines the images of family and positions of women in the classics; factors in ritualist and Taoist notions of body; and discusses changes in the practices of filiality over time. Analyses of secondary monographs are combined with work in primary sources.
Belief and Social Life in China
ANTH-UA 351 Identical to RELST-UA 351. Zito. 4 points.
The Chinese word for "religion" means "teaching." Explores what Chinese people "taught" themselves about the person, society, and the natural world and thus how social life was constructed and maintained. Examines in historical perspective the classic texts of the Taoist and Confucian canon and their synthesis as well as Buddhism, especially Ch'an (Zen). Discusses the practices of filiality in Buddhism, Confucian orthodoxy, and folk religion.
After Religion? Rethinking Our Secular Age
ANTH-UA 352 Identical to RELST-UA 638. Offered every other year. Oliphant. 4 points.
By exploring some of the many different forms of the secular found around the world and over time, we call into question the power of the universal tale of modernization that sits at the foundation of the "secularization thesis." Explores what it means to live in a "secular age"—a framework which, although often invisible or implicit, establishes and limits much of what we experience, expect, and encounter in our daily lives.
Anthropology and Transnationalism
ANTH-UA 400. Das, Dávila, Ganti, Khan. 4 points.
Addresses the ongoing reconstruction of world order and its accompanying disorder. Examines changes in how people earn their livelihoods; how cultures are transmitted and hybridized; how migrating populations maintain connections to their homelands; how group identities are constructed and asserted; and how social movements arise around newly politicized issues. Discusses changing roles of nation-states and the growing significance of transnational, diasporic, and globalized social relations and cultural forms.
The Social Life of Food: Producing, Selling, Cooking, Sharing, Eating
ANTH-UA 410. Abercrombie. 4 points.
Draws on ethnographic material from a wide range of cultures, as well as feature films and our own observations and interviews, to consider such topics as the material dimensions of food production, distribution, and consumption (e.g., food scarcity or abundance) and the cultural meanings and social distinctions encoded in food practices (e.g., how food is used cross-culturally as a marker of social identity and as a source of meaning).
Ethnographic Approaches to Urban Environmental Change: Theory and Method
ANTH-UA 490 identical to ENVST-UA 490. Rademacher. 4 points
Cities are dynamic, concentrated sites of human activity. They are often places we associate with social, political, and economic structures- of trade, investment, science and property. But what do cities have to do with ecology and environmental change? In this course, we explore the intersection of social and environmental processes in cities, and across the urban continuum. We will use scholarly resources and methods from anthropology to ask, how does nature come to be defined and delineated in cities? How are spaces of nature in cities governed, owned and controlled? When and how are people marginalized by environmental interventions, and how do they contest that marginalization? Our aim is to better understand how and why struggles over the environment and struggles for social justice and equity intersect.
LatinX Art and Visual Culture
ANTH-UA 533 identical to SCA 533. Davila. 4 points
This course examines the history of Latinx contributions to the artistic vitality of the United States and will introduce students to some of the contemporary artists, debates and institutions that support Latinx art in NYC and beyond. We will pay special attention to the relationship between Latinx and Latin American art and consider linkages between museums, private and governmental art stakeholders and communities. We will visit studios, speak to artists and also learn about the role of contemporary art markets in shaping Latinx art worlds.
Formations of Indigeneity
ANTH-UA 605 Formerly ANTH-UA 320. Prerequisite: Culture, Power, and Society (ANTH-UA 1) or equivalent. Myers. 4 points.
Through a case study of materials concerning indigenous people in Australia and North America, investigates the consequences (cultural, sociological, policy) of a development that has taken place throughout the world. Many of the peoples in whom anthropologists are interested—those organized into small-scale, kinship-based societies—are encapsulated as indigenous minorities within nation states dominated by other cultural traditions. Examines how the capacity and practices of these peoples to reproduce themselves and their traditions on their own terms has been limited, undermined, co-opted and, on occasion, reinforced.