Undergraduate Course Schedule

Download the 2023-2024 undergraduate course schedule.

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Autumn 2023

ANTH 12800 Formations of Indigeneity Instr.: Teresa Montoya/Matthew Kruer
Whose land are we on? What does it mean to be Indigenous, for generations past and in the twenty-first century? From debates over claims of Indigenous ancestry by political actors to the struggles of sacred lands protection against natural resource extraction, understanding the stakes of these concerns for Indigenous peoples and nations is more relevant than ever. This seminar–part of the sequence for majors in the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity–introduces students to core texts and concepts in the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS). Topics will include sovereignty and governance, settler colonialism, citizenship and nationhood, blood quantum and racialization, diasporas and urban indigeneity, and relationships to land and environment. Course activities may include engagement with Indigenous films, dialogues with visiting Indigenous scholars, and field trips to Chicago-area cultural institutions.
ANTH 20003 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 its role in retarding social progress, and the extermination and exploitation of some populations and individuals.
ANTH 20007 People’s Garbage: Intro to Archaeology & Histories of Waste Instr.: Alice Yao
This course introduces students to the myriad ways in which archaeologists use material culture to understand social worlds both in the distant past and lived present. Through active course attendance, field trips, and lab exercises, students will gain a solid grounding in archaeological methods and theory and learn how archaeologists come to know or make claims about social lives. In particular we will draw on a range of world case studies to address how people's garbage permits us to study important social, economic, and political questions. How, for instance, does the size of a corn cob or the biography of a kettle narrate a "farm to table" story which also brings a history of consumer culture into view. We will inquire equally after "why the past matters" and "whose past is it anyway." In the process students will also examine archaeology's relationships with allied disciplines and fields.
ANTH 21424 Reading and Writing Ethnographically Instr.: Kamala Russell
Ethnographic renderings of spaces, surroundings, place, setting, and location have clearly always functioned as more than narrative set dressing. Critical perspectives on ethnographic research and writing have pointed out the authorization, exotification, and material conditions of mobility that undergird the 'where' in 'being there'. However, contemporary anthropologists are writing space and place in ways that push ethnographic methods and writing past prior problematics and paradigms of comparison, localization, and totalizing description. How does space become an ethnographic doorway into questions of history, power, infrastructure, and affect?   In this course, we will work through a series of contemporary ethnographies (and some ethnography adjacent works) that employ space and place in creative ways. In class, we will help each other read sideways through texts that center on themes of infrastructure, revolution, love, capital, movement, and apartheid governance among others in order to see how ethnographic writing and research can push conceptual and political arguments about space and place. We will also help each other develop as ethnographic writers, and students (particularly thesis-writers) will have the option of producing ethnography for some course assignments.
ANTH 22830 Indigenous Media and the Politics of Representation Instr.: Teresa Montoya
This undergraduate seminar explores popular representations of Indigenous nations and issues across various modes of media such as film, photography, digital platforms, and museum installations. With a particular focus on media forms produced by Indigenous artists, filmmakers, and curators we will analyze these narratives through frameworks of self-determination, resistance, visual sovereignty, and relational futures. Throughout the course, we will consider Indigenous media production(s) in relation to the broader social, historical, and cultural contexts in which they circulate in North America and beyond. The material covered in this course will acquaint students with an introduction to the contemporary debates surrounding Indigenous media and representation as they intersect with the larger fields of visual anthropology and Indigenous Studies.
ANTH 23312/33312 Dataset Instr.: Alice Yao
This course presents the basic statistical methodology used in many fields of application.  It emphasizes statistical concepts and computational methods standard to the social sciences.  However, the fragmentary nature of data excavated from archaeological contexts and biological anthropology also means that the quantification of ancient human activities presents different problems that require a critical understanding of conventional methods.  This course will be useful to students who seek to gain an understanding of the use of statistics as well as the development of research design in archaeology and bioarchaeology.
ANTH 24001 Colonizations 1 Instr.: Stephan Palmie
This quarter examines the making of the Atlantic world in the aftermath of European colonial expansion. Focusing on the Caribbean, North and South America, and western Africa, we cover the dynamics of invasion, representation of otherness, enslavement, colonial economies and societies, as well as resistance and revolution.
ANTH 25305 Anthropology of Food and Cuisine Instr.: Stephan Palmie
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 29920 B.A. Honors Seminar Preparation Instr.: Susan Gal
This workshop is for fourth-year Anthropology majors writing a BA thesis.

 Spring 2023

ANTH 10100 Introduction to Anthropology Instr.: Yukun Zeng
Classically defined as the ‘science of humankind’ or the ‘study of human diversity’, anthropology examines how people organize themselves into groups and relate to the environment through their cultural beliefs and practices.    Students will be introduced to the types of arguments, questions, and problems that have driven anthropological thinking, and to the discipline’s unique focus on intensive fieldwork methodologies that span ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, and even biology. We will examine how anthropologists have historically studied topics like belief, kinship, ritual, politics, exchange, and material culture in the non-western world in order to unsettle western norms and assumptions. And we will explore how post-colonial critiques and indigenous perspectives have redefined the discipline in the twenty-first century.    Students will learn how anthropologists are today contributing to solving complex global problems, from climate change to economic inequality, racism, violence, immigration, health disparities, political technologies, and the effects of social media. This course serves as a sampler for those curious about the field and it fulfills a basic requirement for those pursing the Anthropology major or minor. Offered at least once yearly by rotating faculty who will provide their unique take on the discipline.
ANTH 20900 Caste and Class Instr.: Eleonore Rimbault
This course analyzes social differentiation and structural inequity through a comparative lens. We will analyze two categories by which groups of people come to be differentiated and categorized, and with which people experience and think about social life: class and caste.    While class and caste are often imagined as features of radically different societies – “Global North” nation-states with long-established capitalist markets; colonial and postcolonial South Asia – this course will draw these examples close to each other, seek specificities and similarities that can illuminate the constants in dynamics shaped by social inequality, and foreground the many contexts in which the forms of inequity operating through these two categories intersect. We will look at the ways in which societies in Europe, South Asia, and elsewhere, break into groups along lines differentiated and actualized by these categories. We will also take up instances of communities and individuals mobilizing hierarchical differentiation, both strategically and less consciously, to make moral, ethical, and political claims, assert their distinct positions, and build sociopolitical causes.    These case studies will give us an opportunity to survey social scientific explanations accounting for inequality in European and Indian societies, and the respective emphasis placed on class and caste – among several other factors (race, ethnicity, kinship, gender and others) – in making these situations intelligible.
ANTH 21306 Explorations in Oral Narrative Instr.: James Fernandez
A study of storytelling in non-literate and folk societies, antecedent to the complexities of modern narrativity, itself anchored in and energized by literacy.    The main objects of our study will be the vast body of folktales and collateral folklore collected by anthropologists and folklorists in traditional societies. Despite the impact of literacy on modern minds this course argues for the persistence of ancient themes, plots, characters and motifs.. A further argument is made for the foundational role of storytelling in the creation of culture and construction of society …an argument, in short, that humans are, by nature, story-telling creatures whose sapience lies primarily in the capacity to create, be entertained by, and even live by, fictions. The central place of storytelling is shown in the humanistic and social sciences: anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, politics, psychoanalysis.    Student story-telling and even performance, of brief stories is encouraged and reflected upon in light of the main arguments of the course.
ANTH 21428 Apes & Human Evolution  Instr.: Russell Tuttle
This course is a critical examination of the ways in which data on the behavior, morphology, and genetics of apes have been used to elucidate human evolution. We emphasize bipedalism, hunting, meat eating, tool behavior, food sharing, cognitive ability, language, self-awareness, and sociability. Visits to local zoos and museums, film screenings, and demonstrations with casts of fossils and skeletons required.
ANTH 22755 The Idea of Africa Instr.: Natacha Nsabimana & Adom Getachew
The Idea of Africa, a new interdisciplinary course, offers undergraduates students an opportunity to engage critically with key philosophical and political debates about contemporary Africa on the continent and globally.    The course takes its title from V.Y. Mudimbe’s 1994 book which builds on his earlier work The Invention of Africa. It asks three questions: (1) How and to what purposes has Africa been conceived as metaphor and concept. (2) How might we locate Africa as a geographic site and conceptual space to think through contemporary debates about citizenship, migration and new structures of political economy? (3) What futures and modes of futurity are articulated from the space and metaphor of Africa?   This lecture course co-thought in an interdisciplinary mode will include public guest lectures, field trips, and engagement with visual arts, and film related to the themes of the course. The course will be divided into the following four sections: 1) Inventing Africa; 2) Political Trajectories; 3) Afro-Mobilities; 4) Afro-Futures.
ANTH 22826 The Anthropology of Commodities and Consumption Instr.: Hanna Pickwell
What is a commodity, and what does it mean to consume one? In this discussion-based, reading- and writing-intensive seminar, we will explore “consumption” and the “commodity” as objects of anthropological analysis. Drawing from a range of global ethnographic examples, as well as from popular culture, literature, and other academic fields, we will think critically about everyday practices that are so often taken for granted.    We will investigate the complex relationships that people make with everyday things and the roles they play in social life; how commodities can produce and reproduce social relationships and materialize claims about identity or status; fashion and its relationships to capitalism, gender, and appropriation; political and ecological aspects of consumption; and more. In doing so, we will attend to and practice some key approaches to doing anthropology, including ethnographic interviewing, observing, media ethnography, writing field notes, and turning them into a text.    Students will write three short papers, describing the “biography” of an object, analyzing consumption in a popular culture “text,” and writing up original ethnographic data. The final project, developed through these exercises, instructor feedback, and peer workshops, will be a creative analysis of a contemporary consumption phenomenon of students’ choice.
ANTH 23412 Indigeneity, Religion, and Environment Instr.: Mareike Winchell
Around the world, appeals to Indigeneity have accompanied contentious struggles over land, territory, and resources. While Indigenous claims have historically been dismissed by scholars as strategic, performative responses to shifting legal conditions, this course asks how religious orientations to land and place shape, and unsettle, liberal claims to rights and resources.    By way of close readings of contemporary ethnographic texts, with a special focus on the Andean region of South America, we shall track embodied entanglements and affective attachments to places and resources, from land to silver, water to oil. We will then ask how such relations and public circulations advance or interrupt familiar paradigms of secular environment, non-Western “religion,” and culture at large. If land is approached as a living being to be cared for and nurtured through daily practices of offering, sacrifice, and ritual supplication, what becomes of such practices in conditions of widespread ecological degradation, mineral extraction, and land dispossession? How are notions of living matter, earth spirits, or the agency of nature appropriated within or reconfigured by (settler) political movements that rearticulate Indigenous ontologies and animate materialities as a basis for broader calls for Earth Rights?    Combining weekly seminar-style discussions, reading responses, and a final paper, the aim is to work collaboratively to track the generative ways that religiosity and environment recombine to forge a new terrain of politics.
ANTH 23803 Magical Politics Instr.: William Mazzarella
Following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016, witches all over North America collaborated on spells to resist him and his politics by ‘binding’ his administration. Alt-right activists had already for some time been engaged in ‘meme magic’ against Trump’s liberal critics. How can we begin to understand these magical interventions in present-day politics? Rather than presuming that ‘magical politics’ is a fringe or crackpot phenomenon, this class draws on activist, esoteric, and academic materials to suggest that our thinking about everyday life and ordinary politics can be fundamentally enlivened and enhanced by taking ‘magic’ seriously.

Winter 2023

ANTH 21353 Anthropology of Revolutions Instr.: Abhishek Bhattachryya
The rise of political Islam in the Middle East as a revolutionary force has provoked concern among commentators fearing that without separation between “church and state,” the region is doomed to religious conflict. But what’s Islamic about political Islam, or religious about religious conflict? What does it mean to frame secularism as a solution to this “problem”? How do Orientalist narratives complicate our understanding of political movements?   In this class, we deploy anthropological methods to interrogate how religion and secularism are defined by exploring Islam as a lived religion and political practice in the contemporary Middle East. Reading ethnographic texts from Iran, Lebanon, and Egypt, we explore how political activists have framed challenges and their responses. Are “political Islam” and “secularism” useful analytics for examining Middle Eastern revolutions and uprisings? What makes a government “secular”? And what roles have Western powers played in shaping contemporary conflicts and how they are framed?   Course discussion is driven by both texts and popular films. Drawing on an interdisciplinary body of works from anthropology, history, and sociology, in addition to primary sources, we ask what answers ethnographic methods can provide. We critically engage with films from the region as well as popular Western media representations and news articles.
ANTH 21420 Ethnographic Methods Instr.: Kathryn Takabvirwa
This course introduces students to the theory and practice of ethnographic methods. In the class, we will consider the ways ethnography works as both a mode of inquiry and a form of knowledge production. We will examine the kinds of questions anthropologists ask, as well as the relationship between research questions, methodological approaches, data analysis, and knowledge. We will examine the ways scholars marshal evidence to address their questions, and practically, how they arrive at that evidence. We will study different components of ethnographic fieldwork, such as participant observation, interviewing, photography, object analysis, archival work, digital methods, and qualitative surveys. In so doing, we will engage with the complexities surrounding ethnographic research, including how one negotiates access during fieldwork, the racialized and gendered subjectivities that inhere in fieldwork, the ethics of knowledge production, and the politics of representation. The class entails both critical engagement with scholarship, and practical exercises. The goal is to give students practical, theoretically grounded insights into fieldwork in order to help them understand how to develop and carry out a research project.
ANTH 23825 Social Theory of the City Study Abroad Instr.: Alan Kolata
This seminar explores various historical, sociological and anthropological theories of cities. The course analyzes major theoretical frameworks concerned with urban forms, institutions and experience as well as particular instances of city development from pre-modern to contemporary periods. The seminar will consist of initial orienting lectures, discussion of selected texts concerned with social theories of the city, and presentation of research projects by class participants.
ANTH 26910 Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology Instr.: Constantine Nakassis
"It's not what you say. It's how you say it." An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology.   More than the content, the information, the semantic meanings of speech—all those aspects that tend to be the official function of language in our (and not just our) society—how does how we communicate, in all its subtle complexity, say something about us as persons? How do we “do things with words”: signal identities (of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, religion, subculture), form social relations (of solidarity and community, of social hierarchy and invidious distinction, etc.), enact power and create social difference, indeed, shape thought and social reality itself? And how do how human societies do this vary across time and space, across cultures and contexts? And how can we productively study them? In this introduction to the field of linguistic anthropology, we explore how anthropological approaches to communication can elucidate these questions to these longstanding but pressing questions of human meaningfulness in cultural and political context.
ANTH 28400 Bioarchaeology and The Human Skeleton Instr.: Maria Nene Lozada
This course is intended to provide students in archaeology with a thorough understanding of bioanthropological and osteological methods used in the interpretation of prehistoric societies by introducing bioanthropological methods and theory. In particular, lab instruction stresses hands-on experience in analyzing the human skeleton, whereas seminar classes integrate bioanthropological theory and application to specific cases throughout the world. Lab and seminar-format class meet weekly.
ANTH 29910 Bachelor’s Essay Seminar Instr.: Alice Yeh
This seminar is designed to prepare fourth-year Anthropology majors to write a compelling BA thesis. To that end, the course is structured as a writing workshop that addresses three key issues: First, we will focus on formulating a viable research question that can be interrogated in a 40-50 page paper; second, we will examine core anthropological research methods, paying particular attention to the relationship between questions and evidence; finally, we will consider the writing process (including aspects such as planning, outlining, and drafting) and modes of argumentation. Along the way, participants will work toward producing a 20-page first draft.

Autumn 2022

ANTH 10100/1 Introduction to Anthropology Instr.: Alice Yeh
This course is an introduction to key themes, methods, and debates in anthropology (with a sociocultural emphasis). The anthropological approach, understood as the ethnographic study of human societies, has informed some of the most creative social scientific efforts to understand humanity in its full complexity. What are the implications of identifying human “universals” – for example, an underlying human nature shared by all members of the species – when making sense of cultural difference? Why do ideologies of human nature matter? What about “race”? What are the politics of “culture”? How do language and culture inform one another? What are the foundations of social organization? This course will orient students to the general history of ethnographic social science and prepare them for other anthropology courses at the collegiate level.
ANTH 20003/1 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 20100/1 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 21107/1 Anthropological Theory Instr.: Stephan Palmié
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 21201/1 Chicago Blues Instr.: Michael Dietler
This course is an anthropological and historical exploration of one of the most original and influential American musical genres in its social and cultural context. We examine transformations in the cultural meaning of the blues and its place within broader American cultural currents, the social and economic situation of blues musicians, and the political economy of blues within the wider music industry.
ANTH 22741/1 The Forever War: Theory, Method, Murder Instr.: Darryl Li
For the past two decades, the United States has led an effort to reorganize the planet along the lines of a "war on terrorism." This course takes stock of this campaign and dwells in its wake. In one sense, this course is a history of the present, surveying metastasizing forms including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, proxy wars in Africa and Asia, extraterritorial forms of captivity (of which Guantánamo is only the most prominent), and regimes of surveillance and policing both inside the United States and abroad. In another sense, the course is a theoretical engagement with the forever war, organized around a series of unfinished conversations on key themes such as sovereignty, race, gender, religion, capitalism, and empire. Attention will also be paid to how the discipline of anthropology has (or has not) grappled with the forever war in debates over research ethics, methodologies, and the neoliberalization of the university.
ANTH 23807/1 Body Burdens and Environmental Exposures Instr.: Teresa Montoya
Toxicity is a pervasive and often elusive presence in our lives today. In this seminar class, we begin to address this condition by asking: what exactly is toxic? Who bears the burden of this classification? And, how then, are these understandings of toxicity defined and deployed in broader historical, political, and scientific contexts? From these preliminary questions, we explore the pathways through which toxic exposure, contamination, and fallout accumulates in disproportionate and uneven ways, especially for minoritized populations and upon Indigenous territories. Drawing upon a variety of social science literature and community-based research we trace these challenges through overlapping structures of race, class, gender, citizenship, and coloniality. This transnational and interdisciplinary orientation will acquaint students with case studies of exposure across different scales and geographies, from Chernobyl to Chicago. Through mixed approaches of ethnography and media curation, students will also have the opportunity to research and document their own cases studies of body burdens and environmental exposure.
ANTH 25305/1 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 25320/1 Foodcultura And Art in Latino America: Creating 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 26701/1 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."
ANTH 27430/1 Linguistic Politics: Language Revitalization Instr.: Susan Gal
Linguists and the general public have long been alarmed about the number of languages that disappear from use, and so are no longer spoken in the world. Their speakers shift to other languages. As part of the response, social groups have been mobilizing for many decades to prevent such lapses/losses and shifts in use and to document, revitalize, archive and mobilize the resources of communication. This course takes up the processes by which shift happens, asking what "language" is in these transformations; what and how linguistic forms, cultural values, and social institutions are involved and what social activism can or cannot accomplish in the "saving" of languages.