Monday, 5:00pm – 7:45pm
The City and the Country; Infrastructures of Bio/Geo/Socio/Techno-logical Being in the Postcolonial World Anthropologists have taken note of the urbanization of the world's population, and in globalization, of the generalized (if uneven) extension of technologies and ideas across the planet that have deservedly demolished some of the discipline's former idylls (isolated cultures, "primitive" peoples, etc.). But in their turn to modern life and urban worlds, anthropologists have not taken sufficient account of the degree to which social theory and urban life itself actively conceal the urbanites' utter dependence on the rural. In the characteristic mode of the anthropocene, the 'country' is a repository of nature, of "raw ingredients" (energy, resources, building materials, water, crops, food animals, and cheap rural-to-urban migrant labor) of proper modern human life. This course strives to undo the urbanocentrism of social theory (and of the unexamined parameters of kinds of habitus or semiotic ideology embedded in our urban lives) by (1) undertaking a genealogy of regimes of knowledge pertinent to notions of civilization, citizenship, and life in and of the res pública, the "public thing" and the modes of being that it shapes; (2) tracking the historical extension through colonialism, and then through neoliberal governmentality, of these European ideas and practices, understood as the material, epistemological, ontological, and ideological infrastructures supporting the domination and exploitation of some persons (natives, people of color, laborers, women) by others (white European men); (3) investigating, via a turn to theories of materiality, the material infrastructures by which the rural/urban dichotomy is sustained while provisioning cities from, and excreting their wastes to, the once inexhaustible, now imperiled, countryside; (4) examining how the city's plans, built forms, and social as well as biological hygienic regimes aim to shelter persons from the "elements of nature", while also channeling, storing, and using them, and seeing how they divide human from non-human life, aiming to exclude vermin and microbes (and human undesirables) while delivering, storing, and consuming the products of plants, animals, microbes, and human undesirables; (5) analyzing the ways the urban/rural distinction, and within the city, the private/public one, participate in the classification and construction of persons according to distinctions of race, class, and gender; (6) attending to how those distinctions (and that between indigenous "natives" and settler Europeans or their post-colonial heirs) were and are constituted through property regimes (generally granting the common kind to native peoples, the private kind to Euro-settlers), differently enabling or blocking the transmission of lineage privilege via inheritance; (7) investigating how the urban/rural distinction, the property forms of colonial capitalism, and the effacement of the city's dependency on the countryside, entrenched presumed ontological distinctions between Europeans and natives, or whites and peoples of color, or bourgeoisie and laborers, or men and women; (8) studying, with an eye to Goffman and also performativity theory, and both in every life and in commemorative or festive events, the ways that the city's built form, and the ways it perspectivally arranges the rural as "landscape", serves as a performative stage for enacted commentary upon the emplotted interactions of the cast of characters it houses. Finally, (9), the course attends to the ways these urbanocentric ideas and practices, viewed from the vantage of the city's most privileged (urban elites, Europeans, whites, males) have become (along with the extension of credit) central to capitalist/corporate strategies for achieving global governance, whether through their private ownership of life itself, or through conditionality agreements which undermine the sovereignty of the nation state, which apart from indigenous reservations, are the last repository of collective property left standing in the wake of decolonization. All in all, the course aims to build an anthropology of cities, not just in them, while keeping the city's dependence on the rural (and of all that classed as "nature") keenly in mind.