Fall 2020 Undergraduate Course List

August 05, 2020





ANTH UN1002x The Interpretation of Culture. 3 points. Paige West.   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. MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH UN2004x Introduction to Social and Cultural Theory. 3 points.  John Pemberton.  This course presents students with crucial theories of society, paying particular attention at the outset to classic social theory of the early 20th century. It traces a trajectory of writings essential for an understanding of the social: from Saussure, Durkheim, Mauss, Weber, and Marx, on to the structuralist ethnographic elaboration of Claude Levi-Strauss and the historiographic reflections on modernity of Michel Foucault. We revisit periodically, writings from Franz Boas, founder of anthropology in the United States (and of Anthropology at Columbia), for a sense of origins, an early anthropological critique of racism and cultural chauvinism, and a prescient denunciation of fascism.  We turn as well, also with ever-renewed interest in these times, to the expansive critical thought of W. E. B. Du Bois.  We conclude with Kathleen Stewart’s A Space on the Side of the Road--an ethnography of late-twentieth-century Appalachia and the haunted remains of coal-mining country--with its depictions of an uncanny otherness within dominant American narratives.   Enrollment limit is 60. MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH UN2017x Mafias and Other Dangerous Affiliations. 3 points. Naor Ben-Yehoyada.  Regimes of various shapes and sizes tend to criminalize associations, organizations, and social relations that these ruling powers see as anathema to the social order on which their power depends: witches, officers of toppled political orders, alleged conspirators (rebels, traitors, terrorists, and dissidents), gangsters and mafiosi, or corrupt officers and magnates. Our main goal will be to understand how and under what conditions do those with the power to do so define, investigate, criminalize and prosecute those kinds of social relations that are cast as enemies of public order. We will also pay close attention to questions of knowledge – legal, investigative, political, journalistic, and public – how doubt, certainty, suspicion and surprise shape the struggle over the relationship between the state and society.  Enrollment limit is 120. MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY


The main part of the course is organized around six criminal investigations on mafia-related affairs that took place from the 1950s to the present (two are undergoing appeal these days) in western Sicily. After the introductory section, we will spend two weeks (four meetings) on every one of these cases. We will follow attempts to understand the Mafia and similarly criminalized organizations, and procure evidence about it. We will then expand our inquiry from Sicily to cases from all over the world, to examine questions about social relations, law, the uses of culture, and political imagination.

*Although this is a social anthropology course, no previous knowledge of anthropology is required or presumed. Classroom lectures will provide necessary disciplinary background.

ANTH UN3040x Anthropological Theory I. 4 points.  Brian Larkin.  Institutions of social life. 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. Required of all Anthropology majors (and tracks) within the Barnard Department. As of fall, 2018, UN 3040 replaces the two-semester sequence of 3040/4041 Anthropological Theory I/II). Intended only for Barnard majors and minors.  Open to majors; all others with instructor's permission. Prerequisites: an introductory course in anthropology.  Instructor’s permission is required.  Enrollment limit is 30. MEETING LOCATION:  TBA

ANTH UN3160x Body and Society. 4 points. Gina Jae. As an introduction to the field of medical anthropology, this seminar addresses themes of health, affliction, and healing across sociocultural domains.  Concerns include critiques of biomedical, epidemiological and other models of disease and suffering; the entwinement of religion and healing; technocratic interventions in healthcare; and the sociomoral underpinnings of human life, death, and survival.  A 1000 level course in Anthropology is recommended as a prerequisite, although not required. Prerequisites: A 1000 level course in anthropology is strongly recommended but not required as a prerequisite.  Enrollment limit is 20.  Instructor’s permission is required.  Open to ANTHRO Majors: NON-ANTH Majors Need Permission. MEETING LOCATION:  TBA

ANTH UN3664x Fieldwork at Edge of Video Frame.  4 points.  Naeem Mohaiemen.  Today, we have entered a dramatically transformed world where unexpected pivot events, globalized supply chain economics, and unraveling social formations are moving people and community into a fully online world. The field of Anthropology now faces the idea of “fieldwork” that is not located in a geographic space. Anthropologists have started conducting ethnography of online spaces such as digital gaming and hacker communities. This course examines moving image as a space where fieldwork can be done, by working with materials stored online, in archives, and shared on physical media. The practitioners in this field are outside the academy–filmmakers, installation artists, performers, online vloggers, social media influencers–who work with archives created by others.   We will examine evolving forms of visual culture, in museums, streaming media, mobile devices, zoomcasting, etc., and practitioners who rework found footage to build new meanings. Anthropology has a tradition of parsing moving image, especially because pioneering ethnographic films cannot be screened today without contextualization. We will consider the concept of “edge of frame,” whereby materials captured by a journalist decades ago are chosen for new meanings by an artist in a radically different context. We will trace a history of human tendency toward media remix, in the context of rapid technology changes, new historical conjunctures, changing conceptions of social forms, and new forms of public gathering, as mediated by anthropology. We will read accounts from film studies, anthropology, and history, interspersed with viewing films, browsing documentations of art installations, and zoom sessions with practicing filmmakers and artists.  Instructor’s approval is required.  Enrollment limit is 20.  MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH UN3862 Together or Not? Collective Life and its Discontents. 4 points.  Katharina Blank.  This interdisciplinary course examines fault lines of contemporary collective life from a theoretical and ethnographic perspective. We will explore theoretical approaches to ‘the social’ and how different theorists envision it to come into being. Drawing from political anthropology, urban studies, sociology and cultural studies, we will interrogate what is at stake when terms like the collective, community and solidarity are invoked and trace changes over time and across geographical places and political formations. As a microcosm of society, cities are a crucial site of analysis in this course. We will be attuned to the way social difference structures visions of collective life and ideas of who can and who cannot belong. The course emphasizes the political relevance of emotions: emotions both reflect and transform social relations. This appears particularly important as we are observing a shift from liberal democracy towards more authoritarian forms of government in many places of the world. Public spheres saturated with intense emotional states figure prominently in this context. We will examine a range of feelings (including hate, anger, contempt, and fear) and ask how they (re)structure the relation between the individual and the collective and of collective life more broadly. Which modes of social interaction do they give rise to and which do they foreclose?   Instructor’s approval is required.  Enrollment limit is 15.   MEETING LOCATION:  IN-PERSON

ANTH BC3726x Gender, Sexuality & Kinship: Difference.  4 points.  Gretchen Pfeil.  This seminar addresses the anthropological study of gender, sexuality, and kinship. These three topics are classic themes in anthropology, and also sites of some of the most important radical interventions in social sciences in the 20th century, as occasions on which to (re)think fundamental models of difference, identity, and relatedness, and to consider how these concepts articulate with each other. In this course, we consider gender, sex, and kinship/relatedness as simultaneously extremely personal and irreducibly social aspects of human life. Classic and new readings in cultural, linguistic, feminist, and medical anthropology present and model analysis of ethnographic data from groups of people living in the urban US, Japan, Papua New Guinea, the Sahara, and elsewhere. In short collaborative weekly ethnographic exercises, we apply some of the methods of anthropological inquiry to our experience of everyday life and publicly available media. Drawing on these exercises, the readings, and the modes of analysis developed in seminar, each student produces a short work of new media for a popular audience, contributing an original intervention about the specificity of the (themselves diverse, and perhaps conflicting) current models of genders and sexualities at play in our everyday lives.  Instructor’s approval is required Enrollment limit is 20.    MEETING LOCATION:  TBA

ANTH BC3871x Senior Thesis Seminar: Problems in Anthropological Research. 4 points.  Instructors:  J.C. Salyer and Gina A Jae and Camilla Sturm and Gretchen Pfeil.  Offered every fall. Discussion of research methods and planning and writing of a Senior Essay in Anthropology will accompany research on problems of interest to students, culminating in the writing of individual Senior Essays. The advisory system requires periodic consultation and discussion between the student and her adviser as well as the meeting of specific deadlines set by the department each semester.  Limited to Barnard Senior Anthropology Majors. Prerequisites: Limited to Barnard Anthropology Seniors. Instructor’s approval is required.  MEETING LOCATION:  TBA

ANTH UN3888x Ecocriticism for the End Times. 4 points.  Marilyn Ivy. This seminar aims to show what an anthropologically informed, ecocritical cultural studies can offer in this moment of intensifying ecological calamity.  The course will not only engage significant works in anthropology, ecocriticism, philosophy, literature, politics, and aesthetics to think about the environment, it will also bring these works into engaged reflection on "living in the end times" (borrowing cultural critic Slavoj Zizek's phrase).  The seminar will thus locate critical perspectives on the environment within the contemporary worldwide ecological crisis, emphasizing the ethnographic realities of global warming, debates on nuclear power and energy, and the place of nature.  Drawing on the professor's long experience in Japan and current research on the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, the seminar will also take care to unpack the notion of "end times," with its apocalyptic implications, through close considerations of works that take on the question of ecocatastrophe in our times.  North American and European perspectives, as well as international ones (particularly ones drawn from East Asia), will give the course a global reach.  Prerequisites: the instructor's permission.  Enrollment limit is 15. MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY


ANTH UN3999x Senior Thesis Seminar in Anthropology.  4 points.  Audra Simpson.  Prerequisites: The instructor’s permission. 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. Interested students must communicate/meet with thesis instructor in the previous spring about the possibility of taking the course during the upcoming academic year. Additionally, expect to discuss with the instructor 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 that will help you conduct research, write, and present an original senior thesis in anthropology. Students who write theses are eligible to be considered for departmental honors. The first term of this course introduces a variety of approaches used to produce anthropological knowledge and writing; encourages students to think critically about the approaches they take to researching and writing by studying model texts with an eye to the ethics, constraints, and potentials of anthropological research and writing; and gives students practice in the seminar and workshop formats that are key to collegial exchange and refinement of ideas. During the first term, students complete a few short exercises that will culminate in a substantial draft of one discrete section of their senior project (18-20 pages) plus a detailed outline of the expected work that remains to be done (5 pages). The spring sequence of the anthropology thesis seminar is a writing intensive continuation of the fall semester, in which students will have designed the research questions, prepared a full thesis proposal that will serve as a guide for the completion of the thesis and written a draft of one chapter. Only those students who expect to have completed the fall semester portion of the course are allowed to register for the spring; final enrollment is contingent upon successful completion of first semester requirements. In spring semester, weekly meetings will be devoted to the collaborative refinement of drafts, as well as working through issues of writing (evidence, voice, authority etc.). All enrolled students are required to present their project at a symposium in the late spring, and the final grade is based primarily on successful completion of the thesis/ capstone project.   MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH UN3997x Supervised Individual Research.  2-6 Points. Prerequisite: the written permission of the staff member under whose supervision the research will be conducted. MEETING LOCATION:  ONLINE ONLY



ANTH UN1007x The Origins of Human Society. 3 points. 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.  Mandatory recitation sections will be announced first week of classes.  Meeting Location:  TBA

ANTH UN3151x Living with Animals: Anthropological Perspective. 4 points.  Hannah Chazin.  This course examines how humans and animals shape each other’s lives. We will explore the astounding diversity of human-animal relationships in time and space, tracing the ways animals have made their impact on human societies (and vice-versa). Using contemporary ethnographic, historical, and archaeological examples from a variety of geographical regions and chronological periods, this class will consider how humans and animals live and make things, and the ways in which humans have found animals “good to think with”.  In this course, we will also discuss how knowledge about human-animal relationships in the past might change contemporary and future approaches to living with animals. Instructor’s permission is required.  Enrollment limit is 18.  Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH UN3663x The Ancient Table: Archaeology of Cooking and Cuisine. 4 points.  Camilla sturm.  Humans don’t just eat to live. The ways we prepare, eat, and share our food is a complex reflection of our histories, environments, and ideologies. Whether we prefer coffee or tea, cornbread or challah, chicken breast or chicken feet, our tastes are expressive of social ties and social boundaries, and are linked to ideas of family and of foreignness. How did eating become such a profoundly cultural experience? This seminar takes an archaeological approach to two broad issues central to eating: First, what drives human food choices both today and in the past? Second, how have social forces shaped practices of food acquisition, preparation, and consumption (and how, in turn, has food shaped society)? We will explore these questions from various evolutionary, physiological, and cultural viewpoints, highlighted by information from the best archaeological and historic case studies. Topics that will be covered include the nature of the first cooking, beer-brewing and feasting, writing of the early recipes, gender roles and ‘domestic’ life, and how a national cuisine takes shape. Through the course of the semester we will explore food practices from Pleistocene Spain to historic Monticello, with particular emphasis on the earliest cuisines of China, Mesoamerica, and the Mediterranean. Prerequisites: None.  Enrollment limit is 20.  Instructor’s approval is required.   Meeting Location:  TBA                  

ANTH UN3823x Archaeology Engaged: The Past in the Public Eye. Terence D’Altroy.  4 points.  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 limited to 15. Enrollment Priorities: Seniors and Juniors in ARCH or ANTH. Enrollment limit is 15.  Instructor’s approval is required.   Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

ANHS GU4001x The Ancient Empires.  3 points.  Terence D’Altroy.  The principal goal of this course is to examine the nature and histories of a range of early empires in a comparative context. In the process, we will examine influential theories that have been proposed to account for the emergence and trajectories of those empires. Among the theories are the core-periphery, world-systems, territorial-hegemonic, tributary-capitalist, network, and IEMP approaches. Five regions of the world have been chosen, from the many that could provide candidates: Rome (the classic empire), New Kingdom Egypt, Qin China, Aztec Mesoamerica, and Inka South America. These empires have been chosen because they represent a cross-section of polities ranging from relatively simple and early expansionist societies to the grand empires of the Classical World, and the most powerful states of the indigenous Americas. There are no prerequisites for this course, although students who have no background in Anthropology, Archaeology, History, or Classics may find the course material somewhat more challenging than students with some knowledge of the study of early societies. There will be two lectures per week, given by the professor.  Enrollment limit is 100.          Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH GU4175x Writing Archaeology.  3 points.  Zoe Crossland.  Like fiction archaeology allows us to visit other worlds and to come back home again. In this class we'll explore different genres of archaeological texts. How do writers contribute to the development of narratives about the past, what are the narrative tricks used by archaeologists, novelists and poets to evoke other worlds and to draw in the reader? What is lost in the translationfrom the earth to text, and what is gained? There is an intimacy to archaeological excavation, an intimacy that is rarely captured in archaeological narratives. What enlivening techniques might we learn from fictional accounts, and where might we find narrative space to include emotion and affect, as well as the texture and grain of encounters with the traces of the past? How does archaeological evidence evoke a particular response, and how do novels and poems work to do the same thing? What is the role of the reader in bringing a text to life? Enrollment limit is 15. Priority: Anthropology graduate students, archaeology senior thesis students. For students actively engaged in writing projects.   Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

ANTH GU4345x Neanderthal Alterities.  3 points.  Brian Boyd. Using The Neanderthals partly as a metaphorical device, this course considers the anthropological, philosophical and ethical implications of sharing the world with another human species. Beginning from a solid grounding in the archaeological, biological and genetic evidence, we will reflect critically on why Neanderthals are rarely afforded the same reflexive capacities, qualities and attributes - agency- as anatomically modern humans, and why they are often regarded as lesser or nonhuman animals despite clear evidence for both sophisticated material and social engagement with the world and its resources. Readings/materials are drawn from anthropology, philosophy, ethics, gender studies, race and genetics studies, literature and film. Instructor’s approval is required Enrollment limit is 20.   Meeting Location:  IN-PERSON


CSER UN3303x WHITENESS, SENTIMENT AND POLITICAL BELONGING. 4 points.  Catherine Fennell.  Scholars of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and race have long been preoccupied with the terms, categories, and processes through which the United States has excluded or qualified the citizenship of particular groups, including women, immigrants, indigenous nations, and descendants of enslaved Africans. Yet it has spent less time interrogating the unqualified content of Americanness, and the work that the imagination of a "default" American identity does in contemporary political life. This seminar introduces students to this problem through an unspoken racial dimension of American political belonging -- the presumed whiteness of ideal American citizens. Readings drawn from several disciplinary traditions, including anthropology, linguistics, sociology, history, and journalism, will ground students in the course's key concepts, including racial markedness, the history of racialization, and public sentiment. Students will mobilize these tools to analyze several cases that rendered white sentiment explicit in politically efficacious ways, including the "panic" incited by the destabilization of race-based residential segregation, the "paranoia" of conspiracy theorists, the "sympathy" associated with natural disasters, and the "resentment" or "rage" associated with the loss of racial privileges.  Enrollment limit is 18. Instructor’s approval is required.   Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

WMST3521x Senior Seminar I.  4 points.  Vanessa Agard-Jones.  The Senior Seminar in Women's Studies offers you the opportunity to develop a capstone research paper by the end of the first semester of your senior year. Senior seminar essays take the form of a 25-page paper based on original research and characterized by an interdisciplinary approach to the study of women, sexuality, and/or gender. You must work with an individual advisor who has expertise in the area of your thesis and who can advise you on the specifics of method and content. Your grade for the semester will be determined by the instructor and the advisor. Students receiving a grade of "B+" or higher in Senior Seminar I will be invited to register for Senior Seminar II by the Instructor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  Senior Seminar II students will complete a senior thesis of 40-60 pages. Please note, the seminar is restricted to Columbia College and GS senior majors.  ` Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

EAAS GU4017x Ethnography and Representation in Tibet.  4 points.  Eveline Washul.  This course introduces contemporary Tibetan society through the lens of anthropology and how various representations have produced different understandings of Tibet within China and beyond.  Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY

AFAS GU4080x TOPICS IN THE BLACK EXPERIENCE RACE AND THE UNMAKING OF AMERICA.  Steven Gregory.  Please refer to the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department https://afamstudies.columbia.edu/courses for section-by-section course descriptions.   Meeting Location:  ONLINE ONLY