(Introduction to) Cultural Anthropology
Spring 2021; Fall 2020
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.
Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism, and Decolonization
(previously Decolonization: A Native American Studies Approach)
Fall 2020; Fall 2019; Fall 2018
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.
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.