Undergraduate Course Schedule

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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.