Undergraduate Courses Fall term 2015


                                                                Sociocultural Anthropology
                                                                  Physical Anthropology


Sociocultural Anthropology

Please refer to the online directory of courses for times and classroom locations. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/bulletin/uwb/

Registration Dates for Fall term 2015: 


ANTH V1002x The Interpretation of Culture 3 pts. Sarah Muir. The anthropological approach to the study of culture and human society. Case studies from ethnography are used in exploring the universality of cultural categories (social organization, economy, law, belief system, art, etc.) and the range of variation among human societies. Discussion Sections are required.  These will be announced during the change of program period.

ANTH V2004x Introduction to Social and Cultural Theory 3 pts. John Pemberton.  Introduces students to crucial theories of society, paying particular attention to classic social theory of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Traces a trajectory through writings essential for an understanding of the social: from Saussure, Durkheim, Mauss, Marx, Freud, and Weber, on to the structuralist ethnographic elaboration of Claude Levi-Strauss, the historiographic reflections on modernity of Michel Foucault, and contemporary modes of socio-cultural analysis. Explored are questions of signification at the heart of anthropological inquiry, and to the historical contexts informing these questions. 

ANTH V2008x Film and Culture 3 pts. Margaret McLagan. The class explores the intersection of aesthetics and ethnography in contemporary nonfiction filmmaking. Course readings address the blurring of boundaries between filmic genres and the multiplicity of relationships they establish between the "pro-filmic" and the filmic; the ethics as well as the epistemology of visual and auditory representations and the relationships that are put into play between films' subjects, their makers, and their audiences in a variety of cultural contexts; the social life of images; and the relationship between anthropological knowledge and various documentary modalities.  Enrollment limit is 75.

ANTH V2015x Chinese Society and Culture 3 pts. Myron Cohen. Social organization and social change in China from late imperial times to the present. Major topics include family, kinship, community, stratification, and the relationships between the state and local society.

ANTH V3040x Anthropological Theory 4 pts.  Sarah Muir. Kinship and locality in the structuring of society. Monographs dealing with both literate and nonliterate societies will be discussed in the context of anthropological fieldwork methods.  Open to majors; all others with instructor's permission. Prerequisites: an introductory course in anthropology.  Institutions of social life. 

ANTH V3047x Language, Performance, Power 3 pts.  Stephen Scott.  In the Western imagination, language is often understood as a vehicle for conveying already formed thoughts from one head, or mind, to another. 'Real' actions arc often contrasted to 'mere' words: as every child learns, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." And yet, a moment$ reflection reveals a wide-range of linguistic phenomena in which saying is tantamount do doing. From making promises to signing contracts, from avowing love to exchanging vows, from telling truths to telling lies, and yes, from hurtful words to hate speech -language i s much more than a means of representation, but a key mode of acting in and upon the world. Drawing on readings from anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and critical theory, this class takes up the power of words, paying special attention to the relationship between language as 'performance' (the performance of language in various implicit and explicit speech gmres) and the 'performativity' of language (language as a means of performing various speech acts). Through a range of case-studies, moreover, we will likewise pay close attention to the social and cultural organization of performance and performativiry, situating speech acts and speech genres in the very sociocultural worlds they help shape. Topics include: the development of the concept of performativiry, or speech act theory, in the philosophy of language; its uptake and key critiques in poststructuralism and anthropology; the role of performativiry in performance, ritual, magic, and expressive culture more generally; and the relationship between performance, performativiry and power in everyday and institutional life.  Enrollment limit is 30.

ANTH V3711x States of Confinement  4 pts.  Brian Goldstone.  Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest among scholars from across the humanities and humanistic social sciences in the forms, precipitants, and effects of mass incarceration (and ‘the penal state’ more generally), especially in the contemporary United States.  This course seeks both to engage this growing literature and, at the same time, to broaden its historical, cultural, conceptual, and phenomenological scope through an examination of confinement as it has been conceived of – and imposed – across a wide range of societal and geographical contexts: prisons, internment camps, asylums, slave plantations, native reservations, religious monasteries, and more.  What are the links between the regulation of movement and various political, legal, and economic regimes?  Between punishment-by-imprisonment and particular forms of sovereign power – in imperial, post-colonial, and settler-colonial societies alike?  Why, and in what ways, have certain populations been targeted for confinement in specific times and places?  How might we understand the interplay between the partitioning of human bodies in enclosed spaces, on the one hand, and practices of social control, exclusion, and stratification on the other?  Drawing on ethnographic accounts, historical case studies, and influential theoretical texts (Durkheim, Bentham, Elias, Fanon, Goffman, Foucault, Agamben), this course ultimately asks how a cross-cultural, historical approach to confinement might allow us to shed light on, and so provincialize, what sociologist Loïc Wacquant has called the hyperincarceration of whole segments of the American populace today.   Enrollment limit is 20.

ANTH V3086x  Science and Society  in the Middle East  4 pts. Gokce Gunel.  In this seminar, we will draw from works in anthropology, history and literature to frame the Middle East as a space of  theoretical and empirical innovations in science, technology and the environment.  While most anthropological scholarship on the Middle East examines gender, politics and religion, there is a growing body of literature that analyzes transformations  in science, technology and the environment. This literature attends to questions on water scarcity, energy production, and animals on the one hand, and reproductive technologies, organ transplants, and genetic testing on the other. In this way, recent work in medical anthropology, environmental anthropology and science and technology studies attends to previously marginalized debates and discourses on the region. Enrollment limit is 15.

ANTH V3807x  The  Next City: Speculation, Technology, Nostalgia  4 pts.  Gokce Gunel.  This course explores the various ways in which cities are planned, represented and navigated, and interrogates collectively imagined forms of social life and order as they are reflected in urban design. By pairing fiction, film and documentaries with readings from anthropology, sociology, history and literary criticim, we will discuss the role of planning, speculation, technology and nostalgia in defining and conceptualizing the city. Enrollment limit is 15. 

ANTH V3826x Brain Science: A Social History 4 pts. Karen Seeley.  In light of the current ascendance of neuroscience, including new federally funded initiatives to map the human brain, this course explores the social history of brain science from the mid-19th century to the present. This period saw the invention of an array of cerebral technologies designed to explain the brain's operations, measure its capacities, manipulate its contents, calm its agitations, and better its performance. In this course, we will examine the historical and political contexts in which such technologies, including psychoanalysis, psychosurgery, brainwashing, and psychopharmaceuticals, were created. At the same time, we will consider the medical doctors, psychologists, and military personnel who endorsed and deployed them to achieve various social, political, and therapeutic ends. Through readings of period scientific texts, contemporary scientific research, personal memoirs, and novels, we will analyze the connections between emergent cerebral technologies and dominant philosophies of consciousness, notions of mind and soul, and theories of intelligence. In addition, we will look at the construction of the neurological patient through the lenses of culture, race, and gender. Finally, we will consider recent cerebral technologies that produce mages of the brain. Throughout the course, we investigate persisting and urgent interests in knowing the mind, enhancing mental functioning, and managing problem brains.  Enrollment limited to 20. Corequisites: Open to Juniors and Seniors only.

ANTH V3831x Cultures and Ecomomies: Explorations in Economic Anthropology 4 pts.  Stephen Scott.  This class explores the intersection of economy, culture, and society from a comparative, anthropological perspective. What have anthropologists learned about the different economic systems of the societies they study? How do economic practices and processes interact with the broader sociocultural worlds in which they are pursued and elaborated? What kind of concepts and methods do anthropologists draw on in their ethnographic (and archeological) researches into the diversity of human economic life? By reading classic and contemporary works in the field of economic anthropology, this class introduce students to longstanding discussions and debates about: economic rationality as a social form; the application of economic principles and methods to non-marketized societies; the nature of exchange and value; the sociocultural dimensions of monetarization and marketization; the role of gender and class in economic production; and the paradoxes of private property in everyday lives. Anthropology and economics have maintained a long and productive, if often combative, relationship with one another, and one of the aims of the course is to explore that relationship from a number of critical perspectives. Enrollment limited to 20 and priority given to Seniors and Juniors.  

ANTH V3861x Anthropology of the Anthropocene 4 pts. Paige West. This course focuses on the political ecology of the Anthropocene. As multiple publics become increasingly aware of the extensive and accelerated rate of current global environmental change, and the presence of anthropogenesis in ever expanding circumstances, we need to critically analyze the categories of thought and action being developed in order to carefully approach this change. Our concern is thus not so much the Anthropocene as an immutable fact, inevitable event, or definitive period of time (significant though these are), but rather for the political, social, and intellectual consequences of this important idea. Thus we seek to understand the creativity of "The Anthropocene" as a political, rhetorical, and social category. We also aim to examine the networks of capital and power that have given rise to the current state of planetary change, the strategies for ameliorating those changes, and how these are simultaneously implicated in the rhetorical creation of "The Anthropocene".  Enrollment limited to 20. Priority given to majors in Anthropology.

ANTH V3921x Anticolonialism 4 pts.  David Scott. Through a careful exploration of the argument and style of five vivid anticolonial texts, Mahatma Gandhi's Hind Swaraj, C.L.R. James' The Black Jacobins, Aimé Césaire's Discourse on Colonialism, Albert Memmi's Colonizer and Colonized, and Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, this course aims to inquire into the construction of the image of colonialism and its projected aftermaths established in anti-colonial discourse. Enrollment limited to 20.

ANTH V3952x Taboo and Transgression 4 pts. Michael Taussig.  The transgression of taboos is the basis of crime, sex, and religion in any society. As "the labor of the negative", transgression is also a critical element in thought itself. Working through anthropology of sacrifice and obscenity, as well as relevant work by Bataille, Foucault, and Freud, this course aims at understanding why taboos exist and why they must be broken. Enrollment is limited to 33. 

ANTH V3933x Arabia Imagined 4 pts. Brinkley. Messick.  This course explores Arabia as a global phenomenon. It is organized around primary texts read in English translation. The site of the revelation of the Quran and the location of the sacred precincts of Islam, Arabia is the destination of pilgrimage and the direction of prayer for Muslims worldwide. It also is the locus of cultural expression ranging from the literature of the 1001 Nights to the broadcasts of Al Jazeera. We begin with themes of contemporary youth culture and political movements associated with the Arab Spring. Seminar paper. 

ANTH V3939x The Anime Effect: Media and Technoculture in Japan 4 pts. Marilyn Ivy. Culture, technology, and media in contemporary Japan. Theoretical and ethnographic engagements with forms of mass mediation, including anime, manga, video, and cell-phone novels. Considers larger global economic and political contexts, including post-Fukushima transformations. Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.

ANTH V3989x Introduction to Urban Anthropology 4 pts. Steven Gregory. This seminar is an introduction to the theory and methods that have been developed by anthropologists to study contemporary cities and urban cultures. Although anthropology has historically focused on the study of non-Western and largely rural societies, since the 1960s, anthropologists have increasingly directed attention to cities and urban cultures. During the course of the semester, we will examine such topics as: the politics of urban planning, development and land use; race, class, gender and urban inequality; urban migration and transnational communities; the symbolic economies of urban space; and street life. Readings will include the works of Jane Jacobs, Sharon Zukin, and Henri Lefebvre.  Enrollment is limited to 18. 

ANTH V3999x and y The Senior Thesis Seminar in Anthropology. 4 pts.Fall 2015; 4 pts. Spring 2016.  Catherine Fennell.  This course is open to CC and GS majors in Anthropology only. Students must have declared a major in Anthropology prior to registration.  Students must have a 3.6 GPA in the major and a preliminary project concept in order to be considered. Additionally, students must have instructor's permission to enroll. Interested students must communicate/ meet with Professor Fennell in the spring of 2015 about the possibility of taking the course during the fall/ spring of 2015 - 2016. Additionally, expect to discuss with her at the end of the fall term whether your project has progressed far enough to be completed in the spring term. If it has not, you will exit the seminar after one semester, with a grade based on the work completed during the fall term.  This two-term course is a combination of a seminar and a workshop. It will prepare you to conduct, write and present original thesis research, or a comparable senior capstone project. It has three goals. First, the course introduces students to a variety of approaches used to produce anthropological knowledge and make anthropological work. Second, this seminar asks you to think critically about the approaches you employ when you conduct your research or make your work. Toward that end, you will read texts with an eye to the ethics, constraints, and potentials of knowledge production/ making work as an anthropologist. Third, this course will give you practice in the seminar and workshop format -- what you should think of as the collegial exchange and refinement of ideas. During the first term, students will complete and workshop several short exercises that culminate in the term project, a fully developed, 17-20 page proposal. This proposal will serve as a guide as you complete your thesis/ project during the spring. The grade for the first term will be based on work from the first term. The second term of the course will be devoted to writing and workshopping your ongoing theses/ projects. The course will culminate in a symposium in the late spring, 2016, in which we will showcase and discuss each other’s work. The grade for the second term will be based primarily on the completed thesis/ capstone project.  Enrollment is capped at 15.



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ANTH V1007x The Origins of Human Society 3 pts. Severin Fowles.  An archaeological perspective on the evolution of human social life from the first bipedal step of our ape ancestors to the establishment of large sedentary villages. While traversing six million years and six continents, our explorations will lead us to consider such major issues as the development of human sexuality, the origin of language, the birth of "art" and religion, the domestication of plants and animals, and the foundations of social inequality. Designed for anyone who happens to be human. Discussion Sections are required.  These will be announced during the change of program period. Laboratory fee is $25.00.   

ANTH V3007x Holy Lands, Unholy Histories: Archaeology before the bible 3 pts. Brian Boyd. This course provides a critical overview of prehistoric archaeology in the Near East (or the Levant - the geographical area from Lebanon in the north to the Sinai in the south, and from the middle Euphrates in Syria to southern Jordan). It has been designed to appeal to anthropologists, historians, and students interested in the Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies. The course is divided into two parts. First, a social and political history of prehistoric and "biblical" archaeology, emphasizing how the nature of current theoretical and practical knowledge has been shaped and defined by previous research traditions and, second, how the current political situation in the region impinges upon archaeological practice. Themes include: the dominance of "biblical archaeology" and the implications for Palestinian archaeology, Islamic archaeology, the impact of European contact from the Crusades onwards, and the development of prehistoric archaeology.

ANTH W3823x Archaeology Engaged:  The Past in the Public Eye 3pts.  Terence D’Altroy. This course provides a panoramic, but intensive, inquiry into the ways that archaeology and its methods for understanding the world have been marshaled for debate in issues of public interest. It is designed to examine claims to knowledge of the past through the lenses of alternative epistemologies and a series of case-based problems that range from the academic to the political, legal, cultural, romantic, and fraudulent.  Enrollment limit is 15. Enrollment Priorities:  Seniors and Juniors in ARCH or ANTH.

ANHS W4001x  The Ancient Empires 3 pts. Terence D'Altroy.  This course provides a comparative study of five of the world’s most prominent ancient empires: Assyria, Egypt, Rome, the Aztecs, and the Inkas.  The developmental histories of those polities, and their essential sociopolitical, economic, and ideological features, are examined in light of theories of the nature of early empires and methods of studying them.

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Biological/Physical Anthropology

COURSE CANCELLED ANTH V3970x Biological Basis of Human Variation 4 pts. Ralph Holloway. Biological evidence for the modern human diversity at the molecular, phenotypical, and behavioral levels, as distributed geographically. Prerequisites: ANEB V1010 and permission of the instructor.  Enrollment limited to 15 students and instructor's permission required.  

COURSE CANCELLED ANTH G4147x (Section 001) Human Skeletal Biology I 3 pts.  Ralph Holloway. Recommended for archaeology and physical anthropology students, pre-meds, and biology majors interested in the human skeletal system. Intensive study of human skeletal materials using anatomical and anthropological landmarks to assess sex, age, and ethnicity of bones. Other primate skeletal materials and fossil casts used for comparative study. Enrollment limited to 15 students. Instructor's permission required.

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Undergraduate Research Courses

ANTH W3997x Supervised Individual Research Course In Anthropology 2-6 pts. Prerequisite: the written permission of the staff member under whose supervision the research will be conducted.