Contemporary Anthropological Theory
Fall 2021: Tues / Thurs 2:00pm-3:15pm
This is a graduate-level survey of contemporary anthropological theory (also open to advanced undergraduates). As a survey course, we will 'sample' distinct theoretical traditions and stances that makeup both the historical focus of anthropological theorizing and pushes the boundaries of what we might consider anthropology. This question itself—what makes a theory anthropological, and are there genuinely anthropological alternatives to the taken-for-granted 'canon' of theories rooted in Western philosophy?–will be taken up in this seminar as we consider both some of the major contemporary debates and frontiers of these debates in the discipline and beyond the discipline.
Anthropologists develop theory in order to better understand the human condition. This course will focus on more recent theoretical understandings of human (and even non-human) experience. We will discuss how different theoretical perspectives in the contemporary landscape compete with one another, and cover some of the significant debates that contemporary scholars engage in as they seek to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
This course will follow a seminar style. What this means is that students are expected to participate as we collectively work to make sense of the daily readings. I may wax in and out of lecture mode as I share ethnographic examples from my own research or try to situate or explicate particular theoretical points, but student participation and rich discussion is critical. As a result, your participation in the seminar is paramount, and will thus constitute an important part of the final grade. The syllabus will include an array of reading and multi-media materials, and it is critical that you come prepared each session to discuss your take on the materials for each seminar discussion.
Books to Purchase
(other readings will be provided as PDFs)
Das, Veena. (2006). Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Schein, Louisa. (2000). Minority Rules: The Miao and the Feminine in China's Cultural Politics. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Takeuchi, Y. C. R. (2005). What is modernity? : writings of Takeuchi Yoshimi. New York: Columbia University Press.
Asad, Talal. (2003). Formations of the secular : christianity, islam, modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Laidlaw, James. (2014). The Subject of Virtue: An Anthropology of Ethics and Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Strathern, Marilyn. (2020). Relations: an anthropological account. Durham: Duke University Press.
Robbins, Joel. (2020). Theology and the Anthropology of Christian Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Foucault, Michel. (1995). Discipline and punish : the birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books.
The following reading schedule is subject to change.
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