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Anthropology

Introduction to Anthropology
Anthropology 100 CP Bonvillain, Boswell
3 credits
This course introduces students to the development of cultural anthropological theory and practice. It considers important anthropological topics such as myth, religion, gift exchange, totem/taboo, and kinship as a way to approach the comparative study of human societies and cultures. Specific topics include rival concepts of culture, critical senses of differences, and ways diversity is represented in distinctive worldviews. The course also samples some current and long-lasting issues in interpretive practices and critical theory. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once a year.
Introduction to Cultural Studies
Anthropology 200 DelPlato
3 credits
Cultural studies analyzes how culture—the domain in which people search for meaning and construct identity—is subject to politicization and commodification. This course introduces students to the history, theories, and methods of cultural studies, exploring fundamental concepts such as culture, power, ideology, and hegemony, and their relationships to the production of culture and identities. Crucial to this project will be a critical analysis of contemporary media. This course covers topics central to understanding our global society, including: The ways fashion and shopping construct identities; the political and cultural dimensions of global consumerism; the museum as a site for the making of elite culture; the functions served by corporate philanthropy; and the social construction of select spaces as cultural arenas. Throughout the course we consider the interplay of notions of race, class, and gender on national identities, and the relationships between popular and “high” culture. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.
Language and Culture
Anthropology 202 CP Bonvillain
3 credits
We will study the interconnections between language and other aspects of culture. These interconnections include the ways that language molds and transmits people’s concepts about the world in which they live and the relations between themselves and others. We will study the connections between concepts of the world (or a culture’s worldview) and the language spoken by examining vocabulary, metaphor, grammatical constructions, and other features of language. No prerequisites.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught F09.
Colonialism and Tribal Peoples
Anthropology 210 CP Bonvillain
3 credits
This course examines the impact of colonialist invasions and conquests as well as neocolonial hegemony on tribal people. Direct and indirect consequences of colonialism will be discussed. Topics include changes in economies, political autonomy and independence, family and social systems, and religious beliefs. Readings will be drawn from studies of tribal societies in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific. Prerequisite: One course in social studies.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught S10.
Anthropology Goes to the Movies
Anthropology 212 CP Bonvillain
3 credits
This course explores the ways that indigenous and non-Western peoples are portrayed in popular commercial film. Through viewing films and texts about visual representation, we will consider questions such as: From whose point of view is the story told? Whose voices dominate the film’s narrative and perspective? Are characters presented as multidimensional or stereotypical? The course will also focus on the ways that social and political issues involving indigenous peoples are presented. We will analyze the differences between films made with indigenous participation (as writers or directors) and those with no significant non-Western influence. Prerequisite: One course in social studies or film.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught S11.
Native American Religions
Anthropology 214 CP Bonvillain
3 credits
This course examines Native American religious beliefs, practices, and philosophies. It begins with discussion of indigenous concepts of the spirit world and its relationship to human life and experience. Succeeding topics include beliefs about personal contact with the spirit realm, rites of passage, Earth and resource renewal, healing, and methods of achieving visionary experience. The causes, contents, and outcomes of Native revitalization movements are also discussed, as are the effects of missionaries on aboriginal belief systems and Native conversions to Christianity. Texts include anthropological, historical, and life-history accounts selected to be representative of Native nations in the Northeast (Iroquois, Montagnais), Great Plains (Hidatsa. Lakota), Southwest (Hopi, Navajo), Great Basin (Comanche), Northwest (Kwakiutl), and Arctic (Inuit). Prerequisite: One course in social studies.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S07.
Native Peoples of North America
Anthropology 215 CP Bonvillain
3 credits
We will study the cultures and histories of Native Americans in North America. We will begin with a brief introduction, describing the environments of North America and the migration patterns of the earliest peoples on the continent. The introduction will also include an overview of patterns of change in the lives of Native Americans after the arrival of Europeans in North America. We will then discuss specific societies chosen to represent different cultural developments. In studying native cultures, we will include attention to economy, social systems, political systems, and religious beliefs and practices. We will discuss traditional lifeways as well as focus on changes in native cultures that have occurred after contact with Europeans. And we will study the current lives of native peoples on reservations and urban communities in the United States and Canada. We will end with a summary of Native American philosophies and religions.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught S10.
Ritual and Belief: The Anthropology of Religions
Anthropology 217 CP Bonvillain
3 credits
This course examines religious beliefs and experiences in “traditional” and complex societies. It stresses the interconnections between religion and other aspects of culture such as family and community life and economic and political systems. Topics include rituals marking individual and family events, attributes and functions of shamanistic and visionary experiences, ritual treatment of illness, and the social and political implications of revitalization movements. Prerequisite: One 100-level course in social studies.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F10.
African Urban Life
Anthropology 222 CP Boswell
3 credits
This course focuses on the vibrant, diverse urban cultures in Africa. Students will address in their exploration of African urban life the socioeconomic forces that have contributed to these cities’ creation and explore urban residents’ needs, desires, and dynamic interaction with these built environments. Colonization, urbanization, and migration will be examined to illustrate how town and country continue to be interlinked for urban Africans and to reveal how colonial and postcolonial state projects were imposed on and resisted by Africans in varied urban environments. We will discuss the means by which men, women, and youth locate their respective places in these urban spaces to examine the gendered, economic, religious, and creative aspects of city life from the perspective that anthropology can bring to this subject. The course will draw upon ethnographic work completed in cities primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nairobi, Lusaka, Cape Town, Accra, Bamako, Abidjan, and Dakar, to name a few. Prerequisites: One course in social studies.
This course is generally offered once every three or four years. Last taught F08.
Life Histories
Anthropology 223 CP Boswell
3 credits
This course examines the life history, a form of ethnographic literature. Life histories straddle autobiography and biography, historiography and memoir, and constitute a chronicle of the storyteller’s life as it is communicated to their audience, the anthropologist. We will examine the processes that lead to these informative, yet intimate, accounts of individual lives and so understand the value life histories have to empower their narrators and to broaden our knowledge of less examined populations, such as women, the sick, or the poor. We will champion life histories in this course, but will consider critiques of this widely popular method nonetheless. Our reflection on these texts will extend to the manner in which life histories exist as a testament to the worthwhile, but complex, friendships that arise during fieldwork between the narrator and the anthropologist. The course looks to life histories with an eye to content as well as construction, and so students will have the opportunity to collect a life history over the course of the semester.
Last taught S10.
Gender in Africa
Anthropology 227 CP Boswell
3 credits
This course examines gender in sub-Saharan Africa in both a colonial and postcolonial context. Inquiries into the subject have made important contributions to our understanding of gender as culturally diverse and dynamic as well as influenced by age, class, race, and nation. African women and their achievements have been frequently ignored in the historical record and in many cases continue be overlooked in comparison with their male counterparts. Under European colonization, men and women’s roles were transformed and oftentimes remade in the patriarchal image of the imperial power. Despite these tumultuous transitions, African women, both then and today, productively meet their social and economic needs and exercise power in their multiple roles as mothers, wives, entrepreneurs, activists, and politicians. We will explore these successes in our studies, yet our exploration of gender in Africa necessitates looking at men’s changing position within African societies as well. As African women provide more consistent care for their families’ daily needs through trade, farming, and domestic service, men find their responsibilities as husbands and fathers transformed and their opportunities limited by forced migration and unemployment. We will thus explore in this course what it means be male and female in historic and contemporary African societies from multiple vantage points.
Last taught S10.
Preternatural Predilections
Anthropology 228/328 Boswell
3/4 credits
According to Evans-Pritchard, the Azande in Africa believed granaries collapsed, crushing their victims, because they were directed to do so by a witch intent on harming the unsuspecting individual seated nearby. Since Evans-Pritchard’s pioneering work in the 1930s, a new generation of scholars have emerged whose passions for the preternatural have led to the exploration of witchcraft, sorcery, possession, divination, rumor, and gossip as a means to explain the inexplicable and restore equilibrium in an uncertain world. This course examines in a cross-cultural perspective how people create meaning, form community, and devise interpretations of their everyday lives via these diverse beliefs and practices. We will examine how witchcraft accusations are linked to ethnic tensions within nation-states and how these indictments are commentary upon indigenous societies’ ambivalence toward modernity. Bewitchment, cannibalism, and zombification index the unequal distribution of resources within families or regions where internal and transnational migration are frequent and elsewhere have become a mode of expression in religious conversion narratives or highlight gender inequities. This course will consider participation in the various cults, such as the bori, and participants’ possession by spirits whose origins reach beyond their homeland and extend centuries back in time. Whether these beliefs and practices manifest in localized settings or envelop entire nations, recourse to the preternatural remains a potent and persistent form of expression and interaction in the contemporary world.
Last taught S11.
City Life
Anthropology 232 CP Boswell
3 credits
This course examines cities and their inhabitants in a cross-cultural perspective as these dynamic environments shape and are shaped by their diverse populations. Students will be introduced to the development of urban studies from its late–19th–century origins in the United States and Europe to the current interdisciplinary focus on the various facets of city life today. We will explore those social, economic, political, and religious forces that have contributed to the creation of varied urban centers that operate as administrative and commercial headquarters, sacred sites, centers for recreation and festival, and global metropolises with influence that extends beyond national borders. Topics that will be discussed include migration and immigration; licit and illicit economic activities; urban violence; the configuration of space with its links to power; expressive culture; and the complex class, ethnic, gender, and racial dimensions found in cities. We address urban life through ethnographic works centered on Ireland, India, Thailand, Bolivia, Brazil, and the United States. Prerequisite: One 100-level social studies course.
This course is generally offered once every two years. Last taught S11.
Subjects and Objects: Engagements with Material Culture
Anthropology 317 Boswell
4 credits
Does a treasured family heirloom hold the same importance in the life of its owner as a newly purchased item of clothing or technology? Do some objects contaminate those with whom they come into contact, while others have medicinal powers or bestow good fortune? In what circumstances are objects and owners’ inseparable? This course examines material culture, or things, from two related perspectives: The object and its owner. As Appadurai observes, “objects have social lives” that are sometimes independent from their owners. Objects such as kula shells are treasured by their temporary owners and desired by others because they have a lengthy and renowned history of circulation between the Pacific’s Trobriand Islands, whereas some Pacific Northwest Indians amass objects only to give them away in a ritualized ceremony—a Potlach—in order to become “big men.” In certain societies the presence of key resources, such as designer clothing or cooking implements, permits their possessors to have social lives that lead to the expansion of social networks and community building or political advancement. In this course, we will examine a range of theories that correspond to these related approaches to material culture. From classic texts on circulation and exchange to theories on materiality, consumption, and object fetishism, our investigation of objects and owners looks at an array of case studies from across the globe to better understand the life of objects and the lives objects engendered in order to illuminate connections between people and possessions. Prerequisite: One 200-level course in social studies or permission of instructor.
Last taught S10.
Anthropology Tutorial

Anthropology 300/400 Bonvillain, Boswell
4 credits
Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their particular interests and programmatic needs. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester.