(Introduction to) Cultural Anthropology
This course introduces students to the field of cultural anthropology: The study of human cultural diversity or how people make meaning in the world. We will study key topics in the field, including anthropological approaches to the concept of culture, globalization, and power and inequality. Students will learn to see with an “anthropological eye” by investigating cultural worlds and global interconnections “from the ground up” that privileges the perspectives of marginalized peoples.
Afterlives of Empire
Different ways of being dead can ground radically different moral and ethical sensibilities. Is the afterlife a space liberated from mundane social inequalities like white supremacy that govern the living? Or are the dead vulnerable to state violence? How does one adequately care for the dead in the wake of mass trauma, such as colonialism, slavery, and genocide? This course places frameworks from the anthropology of religion into conversation with the anthropology of care in order to extend a critique of biopower (the governance of life and populations) into the afterlife, grappling with forms of violence and care that exceed the life/death binary. We will investigate the metaphysical assumptions and everyday practices of modernist projects to govern life, as well as alternative ways in which people make life with the dead beyond these regimes.
Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism, and Decolonization
(previously Decolonization: A Native American Studies Approach)
This class introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of Native American and Indigenous Studies. Students learn about Native American histories often marginalized or left out in high school and college curricula, problematizing the politics of their own educations. Students express special appreciation for this course as a primer on critical theories of settler colonialism as it intersects with multiple, interlocking systems of domination and visions for a future that do not take the settler state as a primary reference point.
This class takes the Water is Life Movement as an entry point into issues of environmental Justice, Indigenous knowledge, self-determination, and the nature of nature. My students have been profoundly excited to learn about Indigenous critiques of the Anthropocene and theories of resurgence, which help the deepen their understanding of climate change. These frameworks emphasize that climate change is not the result of generic human (anthropos) behavior, but specific ways of relating to land and extracting wealth. Students note that this means that climate change is not inevitable and that the root driving forces can be addressed through social transformation, even as they develop a more robust understanding of what such a transformation would need to entail in the context of settler colonialism.
Global Journeys: Social Memory and the Politics of the Past
This course will investigate how narratives about the past are constructed in the present, using New Orleans as our principle case study. We will pay particular attention to how public commemoration and social memory can function to make white supremacy and colonialism appear normal and natural, but also how these accounts can be “denaturalized” in order to make space for other kinds of accounts. How does our understanding of the past shape our ability to imagine what might be possible in the future? Whose perspectives are placed at the center of dominant historical narratives, and whose are marginalized? How do people struggle over historical representation? What kinds of alternatives become possible in the spaces opened up as statues of white supremacists are torn down?
Worlds of Culture: Global Ethnographies
This course surveys a sample of ethnographies offering detailed anthropological studies of a range of geographic regions and cultural themes. I have selected the ethnographies for this semester around an underlying question: How can we re-envision and transform our everyday institutions (including anthropological theory and practice) in order to build a more ethically desirable world on a wounded planet? We will begin the semester around the questions posed in the recent article, “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn.” What does letting anthropology burn mean; and what does it mean to conduct anthropology in a burning world? How can ethnographic research can deepen our understanding of social possibilities for life in the ruins of capitalism, the plantation, and colonial empire?
Deep Historical Perspectives on Native North America
This course surveys Native American histories in eastern North America from the peopling of the continent to today with a sustained emphasis on how Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing can transform our understanding of the past. Students read archaeological sources side by side with NAIS critics writing from anthropology, literary criticism, and performance studies, asking whose perspectives are centered or marginalized in different accounts. Assignments include opportunities to integrate oral traditions and archaeology.
The Anthropology of Religion
This course inquires into diverse religious and spiritual expressions across the globe, offering an alternative to Eurocentric assumptions that religion is fundamentally about myths, superstitions, and supernatural beliefs. Instead, students learn to situate ritual practices in their specific historical and political contexts and investigate how these may be entangled with local environmental knowledge.