INTRODUCTION TO ANTHROPOLOGY
This course is a general introduction to the premises, vocabulary, methods, and themes of socio-cultural anthropology. It starts from the simple statement that anthropology strives to make the familiar unknown and the unknown familiar. The course is divided in two parts. The first section is built around a text-book and is structured around some of the traditional fields of anthropological inquiry, such as
“space”, “time”, “language”, “relations”, and “bodies”. Each week we will explore one of them and students will be provided with small ethnographic exercises to conduct outside class which will apply class material to the analysis of concrete life situations around them. The second section, instead, will focus on contemporary texts in anthropology and explore the unique contribution that ethnographic practices are able to provide to the analysis of capitalism, social inequality, social movements, globalization, and development. Each week we will read one text and investigate what an anthropological gaze is and how it can inform our understanding of social, economic, and political worlds around us. On the overall, by the end of this course you will be able to locate and pose anthropological questions and to apply anthropological theories to specific social facts. This is a hands-on class, students are required to conduct a small fieldwork projects (textual, photographic, video-graphic, sonic, etc.) throughout the first part of the semester and as a final project. These mini-ethnographies will be conducted in the proximity of the University or on campus. In these projects students will be required to apply what they have learned from their readings and lectures in concrete empirical exercises supervised by their TA and to be submitted as the final project for the course.
MOBILITY AND MOBILIZATION
(previously taught at Harvard University)
Mobility constitutes and defines the origins, growth, and functioning of modernity. Rivers of ink have been used debating the novelty of these flows and their effects
on our lives, our states, or our wallets. Words such as globalization, trans-nationalism, flows, free markets, networks, if originally developed as analytical tools, are widely present in daily life conversations and news reports. This class proposes to take a slightly different direction. Instead of analyzing the emergence,
growth, and novelty of physical and social mobility in the contemporary world, we will look at mobility as a generative force and focus on the political dimensions of this genesis. When mobility is often presented as the juggernaut of the ever-expanding march of capitalism or modernity, we instead will look at the subversive potential of mobility as offering not only a space for resistance but also tactics and technologies of mobilization.In a world that is daily crisscrossed and preoccupied by flows of people, ideas, and objects, who moves and who does not, how things and people move, and who is charge of this mobility becomes the ultimate frontier of politics. Mobility and immobility, therefore, become not only political categories, but also spaces for political actions. Airports blockades, pirates‟ interruption of oil shipping, farmers stopping highways, illegal immigrants finding ingenious ways across a border that the state closed to them, students marching in the streets, all of these acts of political mobilization engage directly with mobility, challenging its rule, reinventing its paths, or severing them. On the overall, by the end of this course will be able to examine the critical conjuncture between mobility and political mobilization, exploring some of the modalities with which people around the world attempt to resist the flattening force of hi-pressure flows.
KEY ISSUES IN ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORY
The course examines key theoretical concepts and approaches in classic and contemporary anthropology, following two parallel paths: the first follows on the history of the discipline and explores the development of the French, British and American schools of anthropology; while the second, is thematic and examines key themes and debates in anthropology, namely on the unity of mankind, cultural relativism, myth and ritual, structure and function, culture and history, meaning and power. These parallel reflections both start from questioning what anthropology is, and has been, and interrogating its canon and the project of decolonizing anthropology. The course is designed to provide students with knowledge of different traditions in anthropology as well as with a critical perspective on the creative process of theory-building.
ANTHROPOLOGY OF CAPITALISM
Over the course of the last four decades, capitalism has shifted from a system in which anthropological research takes place to an object of anthropological inquiry. This shift demanded a robust rethinking of our method, our focus, and our relation to other social sciences, from economics to sociology, from legal studies to geography. As a result, anthropology of capitalism has emerged as an ever-expanding field, reacting both to internal debates and to economic restructuring and the ever-evolving nature and flows of capital.
This class proposes to follow the evolution of capitalism, from the slave plantations of the Caribbean to the enclosure of commons in Britain, from the industrial development of Fordism to the flexibilization of labour and the financialization of everyday life. Recognizing that these are not discrete and distinctive phases, but rather shifts in relative balances, this class “follows the money” and the locus of dispossession and creation of surplus value.
SPACE, PLACE AND POWER
Space has emerged as a key analytical category in the humanities and social sciences. Increasingly, social scientists are responding to the insistence, particularly by Marxist geographers, that we interrogate the spatialities of social life to reveal how space is produced by and structures relations of power. At the same time, phenomenologically inclined scholars argue that one must also investigate the role of the body and perception in experiencing and creating such spaces. This course proposes a merging of these two traditions and offers a foray into this fruitful engagement between social theory, geography, spatial theory, and anthropology. Through readings of ethnographic and historical monographs, and theoretical essays from the disciplines of geography and anthropology, we will examine the spatial production of nation-states, class, race, and gender and how this process has unfolded in varied political-economic, cultural and historical settings. The course will run as a seminar and therefore will be fully based on discussion in the classroom. It is organized in two sections. In the first we will analyze the main theorists in the anthropology of space both in the political economic and in the phenomenological traditions and explore existing attempts to reconcile these lines of thought. In the second section, we will apply the insights of the previous section in order to explore how spatial analysis may help us in reconceiving major themes of social sciences such as nation-states, class, gender, and race. Each class will revolve around an ethnographic monograph, which everybody is expected to read, and a number of other articles which contextualize it or provide a counter-point to the author’s approach. By the end of the course you will be expected to be fluent in diverse theories of space and be able to discuss and dissect what an attention to space, and the relations of power inscribed in particular places, can contribute to anthropological theory.