Graduate Course Schedule

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Winter 2023

ANTH 34201 Development of Social Cultural Theory – 2a Instru.: Francois Richard
Building on the foundational writing covered in the first quarter of the course, this seminar will survey major perspectives in, and critical responses to, contemporary social theory. We make little effort to develop a coherent or progressive narrative, as the assigned readings explore the relations among the canonical arenas of “culture,” “power,” “nature,” and “history” in diverse and sometimes contradictory ways. With varying degrees of influence, however, all raise lasting anthropological questions. With these materials, recent anthropology investigates how diverse social practices generate the entities and domains that have long concerned social research – individual, society, nature, the state, sovereignty, politics – even as the field uses ethnography to interrogate the terms themselves. Through reading these works we will reflect on their substantive interventions over the last few decades, and we will reflect on their impact in anthropological debates on the part of contemporary social theorists. Seminar discussions will emphasize debates concerning the anthropology of the state, practice anthropology, postcoloniality, forms of capital, governance, and biopolitics, as well as engage scholarship on cosmopolitanism, subjectivity, modernity, enlightenment, sovereignty, the political, and social change. The hope is that everyone will find some particularly useful and powerful resources for thinking through their own ethnographic and historical research arenas.
ANTH 34202 Development of Social Cultural Theory – 2b Instru.: Francois Richard
Systems II examines the development of key concepts in anthropology since the discipline's institutionalization in the early 20th century. The course takes a genealogical approach to "anthropological theory" by tracking the formation, uptake and entailments of different problem-spaces in anthropology-that is, the distinct complex of questions-and-answers around key themes and problems, which animate the discipline's various modes of knowledge production. The course takes seriously the interplay of ethnographic inquiry and theory building and of professional practice and public engagement in the development of anthropology as a modern (and postmodern) discipline. While many of the concepts explored here will be recognizable as part of the "bread and butter" of anthropological research, the course is less interested in providing a comprehensive survey of 20th century anthropology than in interrogating the discipline's signature style of theory building through ethnographic engagements in "the field." We start from the premise that anthropological theory is a dialectical practice through which realist arguments about the historical world(s)-and the human's place in it-are honed through empirical encounters and pushback from anthropology's ethnographic subjects. Ultimately, the course hopes to track how anthropological ways of knowing intervene in the world through the making and stabilizing of particular lived concepts; that is, we ask after theory's historical formation.
ANTH 37203 Language in Culture II: Narrativity Instru.: Susan Gal
This is the second part of a two-quarter sequence on the role of language in social life. Each part can be taken separately. The second quarter explores the role of language ideologies and discursive practices in the organization of institutional aspects of social life: nations, states, work places, global organizations, economies. This year, we will focus on narrativity in sociocultural process. How do storytelling events -- face-to-face or mass mediated, written or oral -- shape identities, stereotypes and political economies? How are people's ideas about ways of speaking and modes of expression shaped by their social positions, institutional locations and values; and vice versa? How is difference, in language and in social life, made – and unmade -- through narratives? How and why are some social differences persuasive -- as stories and images -- and made the basis for action, while other differences are ignored or erased?
ANTH 50750 Dis/Enchantments Instru.: William Mazarella
In a time of planetary crisis, anthropologists and other scholars are trying to think beyond the human, beyond the Enlightenment subject, beyond the anthropocentrism of received social theory. The premise of this seminar is that the human has gone beyond the human all along, albeit in ways that are not often recognized in today’s posthumanist debates. We will explore other, older genealogies of thinking and being that have at once desired and tried to harness the explosive potential of self-loss as a modality of self-knowledge. Examples will include ‘participant observation’ as fieldwork method, theologies of participation and consubstantiality, transference and telepathy in psychoanalysis, and more. The aim is to productively derail us from prevailing cliches, so that we may better draw on archives that are at once stranger and more intimate than they at first appear.
ANTH 51935 Anthropologies of the Line: Cartography, Materiality, Design Instru.: Mareike Winchell
Maps can be approached in many ways: as models for spatial and material refashioning, as symptoms of historical erasure and territorial transformation, or as techniques of colonial displacement and dispossession. As evident in recent (and ongoing) struggles over pipe-lines, lines also arise as infrastructural forces of mobility and extraction to which particular histories of spatial attachment and displacement adhere. This course pushes the study of cartography beyond the problem of territory and governance, refocusing attention on the manifold labors of “the line.” Lines are the basis for borders, constructing modern states and dividing landscapes, but they are also graphic media for writing and thus embody the powers of representation historically associated with that form. How do we think the relationship between writing and cartographic design, desires for intelligibility and projects of geographic remaking, modes of mediation and the material (physical, territorial, ecological, bodily) worlds that are variously crafted, transformed, and undone through the rendering of a line?; Building from anthropology as well as geography, aesthetic theory, cartographic studies, post/colonial theory, environmental studies, and theories of representation/ design, this course pursues new ways of thinking with and about lines as they reshape landscapes and re-form bodies, rendering design a renewed site both of political struggle and desire, of claim-making and aesthetic critique.
ANTH 52510 Violence, Trauma, Repair Instru.: Natacha Nsabimana
This course offers an interdisciplinary encounter with three rich concepts of abiding interest to scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences: violence, trauma, and repair. A central goal for the seminar is to think through the relationships between these concepts and their effects in our contemporary world. We think about what is stake in thinking political violence in terms of trauma and notions of repair or social justice claims formulated through the language of human suffering, legal repair, and human rights. The course readings will focus on four historical contexts that will serve as touchstones throughout the course: the Holocaust, the legacies of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Rwandan Genocide, and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
ANTH 52615 Theorizing the State in Africa Instru.: Kathryn Takabvirwa
In this course, we will examine the ways the state has been theorized in Africa, as shifts within the discipline of anthropology engender shifts in the conceptualization of political life in Africa. The course asks how the theorization of the state in Africa relates to that of the state more broadly in Anthropology, and beyond. In it, we will consider the variegated histories of how state forms emerged in Africa, interrogating the ways colonialism, independence movements, and the postcolonial have informed political formation. We will study the representational politics and discursive practices of how the state is thought and made from within and outside the continent. The course asks: is there such a thing as an ‘African state’? Even as anthropologists are studying the state ‘from the ground up,’ what would it look like to rethink the state from outside of a western canon? The class will draw on a range of sources and materials including African literature, ethnographies, films, music, and political philosophy.
ANTH 52621 Invisible Landscapes Instru.: Sarah Newman
This seminar is part of a larger series of events organized around the theme of "Invisible Landscapes." It will be linked to events on other campuses and a series of collaborative workshops held at UChicago. Both the "Invisible Landscapes" project and the course explore landscapes which, for different reasons, have not always been conspicuous: from ubiquitous infrastructures revealed beneath jungle canopies by technological advances (i.e., LiDAR) to sophisticated geo-biological manipulations carried out by the inhabitants of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans, from famous aqueducts of the Romans in the deserts of Arabia to giant earthen monuments built by communities in prehistoric England. The class is comparative and incorporates examples from many parts of the world from the Neolithic to the present. The central questions are the following: How can one think about ancient landscapes without forcing them to accommodate current notions of landscape, of nature and culture, of monuments and infrastructure, etc.? What are the various archaeological, ethnographic, historical, and scientific methods and combinations of methods that can shed light on both these landscapes and the people who inhabited them?
ANTH 54333 Water Futures Instru.: Teresa Montoya
Future-oriented terminology frames not only the necessity of water for the survival of all life on earth but also as the basis for social mobilizations around everything from climate change and fossil fuel extraction to socioeconomic disparity and declarations of Indigenous sovereignty. To understand and confront these urgent dilemmas, this graduate seminar explores the sociocultural, political, and material dimensions of water. Through engaged group discussion and individual case study development, we will consider the following: How has water figured into historical debates over property, rights, and ownership? How are cultural categories of water translated, or not, into contemporary regimes of water governance? How are realities of water scarcity and insecurity informed by other racialized and gendered disparities? What is at stake for theorizing water through broader scales and temporalities of crisis? This course grounds current debates over water futures in a longer trajectory of hydrological and commodified abstraction toward a relational frame of water thinking in the fields of Anthropology, Geography, and Indigenous Studies.
ANTH 54520 Political Exile: Past and Future Instru.: Natacha Nsabimana
This graduate seminar examines relationships between exile and collective belonging. We ask: 1) Are there particular historical formations forged in the wake of exile? 2) What is nationhood, collective belonging under conditions of anticipated flight? 3) How may we think the temporality of political subjectivity in exile?    We begin with a focus on forced movements from a ‘home’ and narratives of loss, longing and return. The second part of the course moves to historical narratives that emerge out of the experience of collective displacement. We end by gesturing toward the aesthetics of exilic belonging and diasporic imaginations.   Moving from ethnographic, literary and visual texts to essays that straddle multiple continents, the class aims to consider the kinds of semiotic structures made possible by 20th and 21st century historical-political formations in which exile, whether as experience or figuration, is fundamental.
ANTH 57400 Film Semiotics: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Cinema Instru.: Constantine Nakassis
In this seminar we explore a series of topics in the semiotics of film as approached through the semiotic theory developed out of linguistic anthropology: topics will include revisiting questions of structuralist film semiology; iconicity, textuality, and the poetic function; indexicality and ontology; deixis and enunciation; voicing and structures of looking; performativity and image-acts; aesthetic style and enregisterment; rigid designation and stardom. The larger aims of the course are two-fold: one, to articulate a pragmaticist account of the evenemential semiotics of cinema as institutional and textual form—as broached both through ethnographic and close textual methods of analysis—and in doing reconceptualize certain key film theoretic issues; two, to expand and rethink linguistic anthropology’s semiotic theory and analysis beyond language/through cinema; in short, to think both film studies and linguistic anthropology with and against each other so as to further a semiotics of moving images.

Autumn 2022

ANTH 30000/1 Anthropological Theory Instr.: S. Palmié / S. Shaer
Since its inception as an academically institutionalized discipline, anthropology has always addressed the relation between a self-consciously modernizing "West" and its various and changing "others." Yet it has not always done so with sufficient critical attention to its own concepts and categories - a fact that has led, since at least the 1980s, to considerable debate about the nature of the anthropological enterprise and its epistemological foundations. This course provides a brief critical introduction to the history of anthropological thought over the course of the discipline's "long" twentieth century, from the 1880s to the present. Although it centers on the North American and British traditions, we will review important strains of French and, to a lesser extent, German social theory in chronicling the emergence and transformation of "modern" anthropology as an empirically based, but theoretically informed practice of knowledge production about human sociality and culture.
ANTH 34000/1 Intro To Chicago Anthropology Instr.: S. Dawdy/F. Richard
An introduction to the current faculty of the Department of Anthropology, their intellectual genealogies, and their current work.
ANTH 34101/1 Development of Social Cultural Theory - 1a Instr.: Michael Fisch
Systems 1 is designed to introduce students to the intellectual and historical context of the emergence of anthropology as a professional scholarly discipline. The class asks after the conditions of inquiry - at once conceptual and socio-political - that shaped the discipline in its early formulation, but always with an eye toward our understanding of it today. This will require that we tack back and forth between considering the internal logics of an emergent social theoretical inquiry - what are its views of the world, humanity's relationship to it, and to what extent are we able to grasp and explore it - and the nature of these commitments in light of the rise of industrialized mass societies in 'the West' and, on the other hand, the consolidation of colonialism around the world.
ANTH 34102/1 Development of Social Cultural Theory - 1b Instr.: Michael Fisch
Systems 1 is designed to introduce students to the intellectual and historical context of the emergence of anthropology as a professional scholarly discipline. The class asks after the conditions of inquiry - at once conceptual and socio-political - that shaped the discipline in its early formulation, but always with an eye toward our understanding of it today. This will require that we tack back and forth between considering the internal logics of an emergent social theoretical inquiry - what are its views of the world, humanity's relationship to it, and to what extent are we able to grasp and explore it - and the nature of these commitments in light of the rise of industrialized mass societies in 'the West' and, on the other hand, the consolidation of colonialism around the world.
ANTH 35305/1 Anthropology of Food and Cuisine Instr.: Stephan Palmié
Contemporary human foodways are not only highly differentiated in cultural and social terms, but often have long and complicated histories. Anthropologists have long given attention to food. But, until quite recently, they did so in an unsystematic, haphazard fashion. This course explores several related themes with a view towards both the micro- and macro-politics of food by examining a range of ethnographic and historical case studies and theoretical texts. It takes the format of a seminar augmented by lectures (during the first few weeks), scheduled video screenings, and individual student presentations during the rest of the course.
ANTH 35320/1 Foodcultura and Art in Latin America: An Imaginary Museum as a Multidisciplinary Experience Instr.: Antonio Miralda
This experimental course is based on the model of Sabores y Lenguas, a project realized in eight Latin American metropoles between 1997 and 2007. At the beginning of the course, students will be guided to analyze materials from the vast documentary archive from Sabores y Lenguas (including photography, video, writing, and objects) of locally specific foodways, foodlore, and food-related material culture. They will then transform the materials into conceptual and representational units of an imaginary museum as an interactive space organized around themes and questions that emerge from collective discussion and workshop practice. In a second phase, the course will engage students in concrete ethnographic research to document and develop critical interpretations of the cultures of food in Latin American Chicago: the taxonomies of cuisines, their distribution in urban space, the history and movement of recipes and ingredients, popular celebrations and ritual feasts, food language and music, food-related memories, and the politics of achieving a gustatory good life. In the final phase of the course, students will be asked to design the imaginary museum itself-not just its exhibits or the presentations in its auditorium, but its garden, meeting spaces, dining hall, and more. The goal is to collectively create an open-ended web-based resource that will accommodate further additions and revisions by students and/or community members long after the course has ended.
ANTH 37201/1 Language in Culture I Instr.: Constantine Nakassis
The first quarter of the two-quarter Language in Culture sequence introduces a number of analytic concepts developed out of the study of "language" and its limits. We begin with the study of "interaction order" in its multifunctional complexity, teasing out its constitution through the real-time unfolding of indexical (pragmatic) and reflexive (metapragmatic) signs/functions as coherent "text." We use this attention to the dialectics of indexicality and its various implications to investigate various problematics in the philosophy of language (reference, performativity), linguistics (poetics, grammatical sense, variation, register), and sociocultural anthropology (racialization, relativity, subjectivity/identity, temporality, institutionality).
ANTH 38305/1 Reading Race Instr.: Russell Tuttle
Before and since Anthropology became a discrete scientific field of study, questions about the biological reality, potential utility and misuse of the concept of race in Homo sapiens have been debated. We will read and discuss a sample of writings by 18th, 19th, and 20th century and contemporary authors who attempted to define human races and those who have promoted or debunked the utility of the concept of race with special attention to it role in retarding social progress, and the extermination and exploitation of some populations and individuals.
ANTH 40100/1 The Inka and Aztec States Instr.: Alan Kolata
This course is an intensive examination of the origins, structure, and meaning of two native states of the ancient Americas: the Inca and the Aztec. Lectures and discussions are framed around an examination of theories of state genesis, function, and transformation, with special reference to the economic, institutional, symbolic, and religious bases of indigenous state development. This course is broadly comparative in perspective and considers the structural significance of institutional features that are either common to or unique expressions of these two Native American states. Finally, we consider the causes and consequences of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and the continuing impact of the European colonial order that was imposed on and to which the Native populations adapted with different degrees of success over the course of the 16th century.
ANTH 51721/1 Power in The Streets: The Political Thought of C.L.R. James Instr.: Ryan Jobson
Born in Trinidad in 1901, C.L.R. James was the preeminent radical intellectual of the 20th Century. This course will trace the political thought of C.L.R. James over more than a half-century, from the publication of his short story “La Divina Pastora” in 1927 to the speeches and writing of his final years before his death in 1989. Over his lifetime, James’s political thought developed in accordance with his application of Marxist theory to his engagement with working people in Trinidad, London, Detroit, and elsewhere. In 1982, an octogenarian James paused to reflect on “where [his] Marxism ha[d] arrived at after events in Poland and Ghana.” This course will accordingly survey his writings and speeches in his roles as novelist, sports journalist, historian, editor, organizer, and orator. Through texts such as Minty Alley, The Black Jacobins, A History of Pan-African Revolt, Facing Reality, Party Politics in the West Indies, and Beyond a Boundary, this course will engage the organic conditions of working-class revolt and spontaneous insurgency that surrounded his signature writings.
ANTH 52200/1 Proposal Preparation Instr.: Susan Gal
This is a required course for (primarily third-year) Anthropology graduate students who are preparing field work grant applications and dissertation proposals during the current academic year. The course is taken pass/fail and provides each student the opportunity to present a pre-circulated draft research proposal for discussion and critique. The course focuses on preparation and discussion of students' draft proposals.
ANTH 52421/1 Somatic Material Culture Instr.: Michael Dietler
This seminar explores forms of material culture that go into or onto the human body and practices that treat the body itself as material culture. In other words, it focuses on: (1) what I call "embodied material culture", meaning substances that are made to be ingested into the body (food, alcohol, and drugs) and become part of the person; (2) objects worn on the body (clothing, jewelry, armor, etc.) that constitute what Terry Turner called "the social skin"; and (3) forms of body modification (tattooing, painting, piercing, scarification, plastic surgery, head shaping, foot binding, neck stretching, body building, fasting, prosthetic enhancement, etc.) through which people treat their physical being as a material object for creative expression or augmented utilitarian performance. All of these forms of somatic material culture and their associated practices have a prominent role in the inculcation and expression of identity, although they operate in different ways. The class will examine the comparative history/prehistory and ethnography of these forms of somatic material culture, looking at them through the lens of semiotics, practice theory, phenomenology, consumption, and other approaches as a way of assessing their cultural, social, and economic significance.
ANTH 63701/1 Capitalism And The State Instr.: John Kelly
What can historical ethnography teach us, about the origins of capitalism, sovereignty and corporations, and the past and future of planning? This course will examine transformative events: the advent and the abolition of British empire slavery. Whaling and its consequences. The "7 Years War" in India and America. The Mongol conquests. Also, twentieth century (c20) stock market crashes. The late c20 rise of global cities. China's c21 "Belt and Road Project." Cognizance of global warming. We will use transformative events to track the emergent assemblage of state and capitalist institutions, including money, markets and taxation, banks and stock markets, accounting and budgets. Like Weber, we will seek causal patterns in between determinism and serendipity. Following Veblen, we will focus on corporations and "New Deals."