Culture and Humanity
This course is an introduction to cultural and social anthropology. In the course we examine human society comparatively, paying close attention to the forms of knowledge and belief that structure individual and collective action and modes of social organization. We are interested to explore human existence in all its diversity, looking at a wide variety of human life. Exploring this diversity requires us to ask questions, to interrogate our own understandings of the world. How do humans form attachments to ideas about ethnicity and race, identity and nationality? Who holds prestige or political power in society, and why? How do understandings of death influence the lives of the living? These and similar questions are ones that anthropologists have long grappled with, and we will delve into them in our readings and discussions. To understand how anthropologists have sought to raise -- and to answer -- these questions, we investigate the characteristic research and writing method of the discipline, ethnography. We will ask what kinds of knowledge can be gained through long-term, immersive research with human communities, and we will seek to understand the relationship between ethnographic method, social theory, and anthropological knowledge. In doing so, we’ll explore the development of anthropology as a discipline, asking how anthropologists’ views of society and culture have changed over time.
Books we have read in this course include:
Keith Basso. 1996. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press.
Heonik Kwon. 2008. Ghosts of War in Vietnam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Bronislaw Malinowski. 1984 . Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. Long Grove Illinois: Waveland Press.
Sally Engle Merry. 2006. Human Rights And Gender Violence: Translating International Law Into Local Justice. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Sidney W. Mintz. 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Elisabeth Sifton Books.
John Monaghan and Peter Just. 2000. Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
*Image Credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Wedding Dance. c. 1566. Detroit Institute of the Arts.