Bard College Catalogue 2013-14
Yuka Suzuki (director), Mario J. A. Bick, Diana De G. Brown, Michèle D. Dominy, Andrew J. Eisenberg, Laura Kunreuther, Christopher R. Lindner, John Ryle, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins
The Anthropology Program encompasses the subfields of sociocultural, linguistic, historical, archaeological, and applied anthropology. It seeks to understand the cultural dynamics in the formation of the nation-state; the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial; and the politics of identity, difference, and inequality in the contemporary world. The core of the program consists of courses that examine everyday experiences in relation to a range of societal issues, such as development and the environment, medicine and health, religion, language, kinship and reproductivity, sports, mass media, visual culture, and aesthetics. Anthropology offers a way to understand patterns and contradictions of cultural meaning within a transnational and transcultural world. Areal strengths include Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, Australasia, the Middle East, and United States.
Anthropology majors can design a course of study in various topical, area, and theoretical orientations. Prior to Moderation, students must complete an introductory course and at least two 200-level courses in anthropology, and a methodology course on “doing ethnography.” All students moderating into anthropology must have a 3.0 or above average in their anthropology courses. In consultation with their Moderation board, students shape their plan of study in the Upper College to include at least four additional courses in anthropology, at least two of which should be 300-level courses, as well as the Senior Project. One of the 300-level courses required is a seminar on contemporary cultural theory that involves each member of the anthropology faculty. The program highly encourages fieldwork as part of the Senior Project. Students intending to pursue postgraduate study or ethnographic research in a non-English speaking area are strongly encouraged to study a foreign language to at least the 200-level.
Recent Senior Projects in Anthropology
- “Articulating the Home: Retreat, Activism, and Intimacy within Contemporary American Homesteading”
- “Assertions of Identity: Tribal Self-Representation at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center”
- “Here Come the Brides: Strategies to Perform Legitimacy in Lesbian Weddings through the Reimagination of Marriage”
- “Tenders at the Margins: An Ethnography of Home Health Care Workers”
Anthropology courses approach seemingly “natural” ideas such as indigeneity, race, gender, sexuality, and class as cultural constructions that change over time. They critically examine, for instance, the international division of labor, the growth of the media, and the global commodification of culture. Many classes apply this anthropological perspective to a variety of sources, ranging from traditional ethnographies to novels, travel literature, music, films, and new forms of electronic media. The program has a film library, which includes ethnographic and experimental films, and some recording equipment for the purposes of student research. The program also administers a student research and travel fund, the Harry Turney–High Fund, to support work on Senior Projects.
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
cross-listed: gis, gss, human rights
This course explores the intellectual angles through which anthropologists have engaged culture as a central and yet often elusive concept in understanding how societies work. The course combines discussions, lectures, and films; topics include the transformative roles of ritual and symbol, witchcraft and sorcery in historical and contemporary contexts, and cultural constructions of gender and sexuality, among others.
Field Methods in Environmental Archaeology: Native Peoples on Bard's Lands
cross-listed: american studies, eus
The course involves five hours of fieldwork per week at the nearby Spicebush prehistoric site. The excavation of this 1,300-year-old campsite uses documentation protocols and careful application of digging techniques by each of the students in their test trenches. In the search for prehistoric activity areas, the class makes maps and cross-sectional drawings for each trench. The course limit is 12 participants, with enrollment by permission of instructor.
Gender and Social Inequalities in Latin America
cross-listed: gis, gss, human rights, lais
Despite recent gains in democratization, contemporary Latin American societies continue to display dramatic inequalities. This course explores inequalities of gender and their interface with hierarchies of social class, ethnicity, and race through the examination of ethnographic texts. It looks at historical sources of these inequalities in colonial structures and their expression in contemporary cultural practices. Students critically evaluate Latin American gender stereotypes and consider how gender is practiced and how gender identities are formed in particular local and global contexts.
Cultural Politics of Empire
cross-listed: asian studies, gis, historical studies, victorian studies
An examination of contemporary theories of colonialism and the cultural categories that emerged and changed through the colonial experience. While the primary focus is on British rule in India, the course frames this case within broader perspectives of colonialism, including Edward Said’s analysis of Orientalism, critical responses to it, and the ideology of liberalism that underwrote the colonial project.
How the Victorians Put the “Others” in Their Place
cross-listed: africana studies, victorian studies
The class examines how the Victorians sought to know the “other” through ethnographic, missionary, government, and travel encounters; the science of race; the objects of archaeology and museum collections; and photography. How the “other” was then related to the Europeans is studied within the framework of evolutionary and diffusionary theories.
American Anthropology 1850–1870
cross-listed: american studies
Up until World War II, American anthropology had three central concerns: the description and understanding of Native American peoples based on participant observation through fieldwork; the defeat of scientific racism; and the placement of the concept of culture at the center of anthropological thought. Students examine these concerns along with the rise of sociological, psychological, and neo-Marxist evolutionist thought in American anthropology in this period.
British Anthropology 1920–1990
cross-listed: africana studies
A distinctly British social anthropology formed in the 20th century, largely shaped by research in Britain’s African colonies. This anthropology contributed to the construction of colonial relations with African peoples, constituted our knowledge of precolonial African cultures, and provided critiques of colonialism. Both the colonial system and the nationalist movements that destroyed that system were influenced by this anthropology. This course examines the central texts of this school, especially as they explore politics from colonial and postcolonial Africa.
Kinship: Identity and Difference
cross-listed: gis, gss
The study of kinship within anthropology has a history as long as the discipline itself. Until recently it served as the primary lens for analyzing social, political, and economic organization in non-Western societies. This course examines the ways in which kinship analyses have contributed to historic and contemporary claims of identity and difference, and reviews the contribution this body of scholarship has made to colonial, anticolonial, and postcolonial constructions of self and other in Western and non-Western societies.
Historical Archaeology: Colonists Near Bard
Field trips on campus and in neighboring towns provide firsthand contact with the diverse groups that left their vestiges here: Native Americans, African Americans, and German and British settlers. The class works with artifacts in the lab and visits excavations after reading background material on their history, culture, and archaeological interpretation. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.
Anthropology of Medicine
cross-listed: gss, human rights, sts
An exploration of medical knowledge and practice in a variety of healing systems, focusing on the human body as the site in which illness is experienced and upon which social meanings and political actions are inscribed. The course examines the way political economic systems, and the inequalities they engender, affect human well-being. Among the topics addressed are biomedical constructs, alternative medical systems, epidemic diseases, cosmetic medical interventions, and new medical technologies.
Archaeological Field SchoolMethods and Ethics in Ethnographic Research
In this summer session, students assist Christopher Lindner, Field School director, in researching the Palatine German settlers of 1710 and their descendants, many of whom still live near Bard. Excavation takes place at the 1743 Parsonage in Germantown, which housed German Reformed ministers, a Dutch American physician, and several generations of an African American family. Students learn basic techniques of excavation and mapping, read and discuss a variety of background materials and historical maps, and analyze artifact finds.
Africa: The Great Rift
cross-listed: africana studies
The Great Rift Valley runs from the Red Sea to Mozambique, dividing the African continent in two. The countries bordering the Rift embody many of the divisions and challenges that confront Africa as a whole. This course offers an introduction to the geography and political history of the Rift countries, using historical and anthropological research, documentary video, and written reportage to examine the diverse ways of being that endure in the region and the varieties of modernity emerging from war and demographic transformation.
Anthropology and History of Brazil and Mexico
Anthropology 222 / History 222
This interdisciplinary course draws from some of the major anthropological and historical writings on Brazil and Mexico from the early 20th century to the present, with particular attention paid to works by Claude Lévi-Strauss on Brazil and Franz Boas on Brazil and Mexico. Topics discussed include the indigenous community, cultural results of slavery and ethnic mixture, the family and the nation, violence and death, and religious ritual and the sacred, such as in the case of Afro-Brazilian Candomblé.
A survey of anthropological and oral history literature on methodology, self-reflexivity, and ethics in the collection of material during ethnographic research. Specific characteristics, possible uses, and ethical ramifications of a range of qualitative methods are studied, including participant observation, unstructured interviews, structured interviews, focus groups, and the collection of oral histories. Discussion is supplemented with practical exercises in designing and applying ethically informed research methods.
Problems in Human RightsLanguage, Culture, Discourse
Anthropology 233 / Human Rights 233
See Human Rights 233 for a full course description.
This course begins with the assumption that language and culture are inseparable, and introduces students to theoretical and ethnographic approaches that demonstrate this in various ways. Topics include how authority is established through specific forms of speech, language ideologies, the performative power of language, and the relationship between language and social hierarchies, among others. The course also examines the way technology and media have been fundamental in shaping how different groups perceive their social worlds.
Economies of Gift and Sacrifice
This course introduces a range of theological, anthropological, sociological, and poststructuralist perspectives on the complex economies in which gift and sacrifice operate. Special attention is given to such corollary concepts as generosity, debt, obligation, reciprocity, and exchange. Students engage with the classical theories of Robertson-Smith, Kropotkin, Durkheim, Mauss, Hubert, Bataille, Lévi-Strauss, Sahlins, and Benveniste, as well as with more contemporary texts.
African Diaspora ReligionsAnthropology and the Politics of the Body
cross-listed: africana studies, lais
The many contemporary religions in Latin America and the Caribbean that draw upon African theology and practice testify to the vitality of the African heritage in the New World. The course examines these religions within their historical context as dimensions of the African diaspora and as they are currently practiced—Candomblé, Umbanda, and Batuque in Brazil; Santeria in Cuba and the Dominican Republic; Maria Lionza in Venezuela; Shango in Trinidad; and Vodoun in Haiti.
Anthropology has long been concerned with bodies, both as sources of symbolic representations of the social world and as vehicles for expressing individual and collective identities. More recent interests center on mind-body relations and embodiment, and on bodies as targets for the production of consumer desires and sites of commodification and political control. This course explores a range of different issues raised by these perspectives, including the gendering of bodies and other culturally constructed markings of social class, race, and age.
South Asia and the Ethnographic Imagination
cross-listed: asian studies
Using classic texts of anthropology, literature, history, and film, this course looks at representations of South Asia made by foreigners and South Asians alike. Students examine how particular metaphors, tropes, and ways of describing South Asia continue to shape our knowledge about the region. Categories such as village, caste, family, religion, and gender are considered within the broader historical contexts of colonialism, nationalism, and South Asia’s postcolonial relation to global development and politics.
Cultural Politics of Religion
What are the boundaries of religion and how have they been shaped? What is the relationship between religion and science and other secular formations of power and knowledge? The course considers these and other issues through concepts and practices that relate religious and nonreligious domains. Specific cases addressed include political action in Islam and evangelical Christianity, religion and secular politics in India, and Tibetan medicine and its incorporation of science.
Travel, Tourism, and Anthropology
cross-listed: asian studies
This course considers travel as a cultural practice and examines the link between travel writing and ethnography. Course work is based on a broad range of sources, including fiction, ethnography, travelogues, letters, and anthropological theories about ethnography and travel writing. Some topics discussed are travel as a rite of passage; how various genres of travel writing both reflect and shape the experience of travel; and how “home” is configured in relation to foreign places in 19th-century travel writing.
Reading Baseball as Metaphor
cross-listed: american studies
Baseball has often been labeled the quintessential American sport. This course explores that claim while examining the history and diffusion of the game, its performance and representation, and its connections to the politics of ethnicity, race, gender, class, region, and place. Cultural constructions are examined and contrasted in U.S., Japanese, and Latin American baseball.
Death and Dying in Anthropological Perspective
Rather than think about death as a universal category or catalogue an endless variety of mortuary rituals, this course examines death through a number of categories with radically different rules, perceptions, and procedures: suicide and sacrifice, good and bad death, the soul and the corpse, immortality, and technological death. Readings are ethnographic and theoretical, forming a concrete inquiry into how different forms of dying are constructed and represented across cultures.
Race and Ethnicity in Brazil
cross-listed: africana studies, gis, human rights, Jewish studies, lais
Brazil, in contrast to the United States, has been portrayed as a “racial democracy.” This course examines the debate over the “problem of race” in its early formulation, as shaped by scientific racism and eugenics, and on through the Brazilian policy of branqueamento (whitening) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the groups discussed are indigenous Brazilians, the Luso-Brazilians, Afro-Brazilians, Japanese Brazilians, Euro-ethnic Brazilians, and Brazilians of Arab and Jewish descent.
Anthropology of Violence and Suffering
cross-listed: africana studies, gis
This course considers how acts of violence challenge and support modern ideas of humanity, raising questions about what it means to be human today. It reviews different forms of violence—e.g., ethnic and communal conflicts, torture, rituals of bodily pain—and examines violence as a means of producing and consolidating social and political power and exerting political control.
Refugees: The Politics of Forced Displacement
cross-listed: human rights
Is mass forced displacement unique to recent world history? What aspects of refugee experience are obscured by an approach that privileges the claims of the nation-state? This course explores these and other questions through an examination of historical, anthropological, and legal scholarship on the nation-state, national identity, human rights, migration, displacement, refugee populations, and refugee subjectivity.
Race and Nature in Africa
cross-listed: africana studies, eus, gis, human rights
Western fantasies have historically represented Africa as the embodiment of a mythical, primordial wilderness. Within this imagery, nature is racialized, and Africans are constructed as existing in a state closer to nature. This course investigates the racialization of nature under imperial regimes, and considers the continuing legacies in postcolonial situations. Texts include ethnographic accounts, historical analyses, and works of fiction based in Africa.
Middle Eastern Diasporas
cross-listed: human rights, Jewish studies, mes
This course examines the past and present experiences of Arabs, Iranians, Turks, and Kurds who reside in Europe and North America, as well as Jews of diverse backgrounds who live in Israel and abroad. It also explores how and why these groups are commonly regarded as “diasporas,” and investigates not only the history of “diaspora” as a concept, but also the contemporary circumstances that have encouraged its recent prominence in public and scholarly discussions.
Ireland and the Anthropological Imagination
cross-listed: gis, ics
Ireland has long captured the anthropological imagination, and the field has provided classic depictions of kinship and community, controversial accounts of rural decline and disorder, and current work on the country’s shifting position in European and world politics. This course includes a range of ethnographic exploration in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It considers the multiple, contested meanings of Irish identity in contexts as varied as the increasingly diverse city of Dublin, Traveller communities, and politically divided Northern Ireland towns.
Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Anthropology
cross-listed: gss, human rights
This course examines the emergence and transformation of gender studies within anthropology since the 1970s. It reviews early texts that challenged anthropologists to recognize women’s lives as valid subjects of study as well as more recent work that explores the division between and interrelation of biological and social factors in determining sex and gender.
Anthropology of Mass Incarceration
cross-listed: human rights, sociology
The United States entered the era of “mass incarceration” during the last quarter of the 20th century, when the total national population grew by 30 percent and the incarcerated population by nearly 700 percent (from 340,000 to 2.3 million). This course explores the onset of mass incarceration holistically, by situating it within a sociohistoric context.
cross-listed: africana studies, gis, human rights
As one of the few regions on the continent charted for permanent European settlement, southern Africa has been marked by histories of violence that far surpassed normative applications of colonialism. In the wake of such intense turmoil, nations struggled to reinvent themselves at the moment of independence, scripting new national mythologies and appeals for unity. This course explores these contests over nationhood in the post-apartheid era, focusing primarily on the experiences of Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Japanimation and Culture in Postwar Japan
cross-listed: asian studies, gis, sts
Japanese animation, also known as anime, is one of the most dynamic forms of cultural production in contemporary Japan. This course traces the history of anime and its relationships to the nation’s social, political, and economic transformations over the past century. It covers the origins of Japanese animation, the different subgenres that began emerging in the 1960s, and the globalization of the genre in recent decades.
Science, Technology, and Culture
cience has become an important stage on which social, moral, ethical, and even existential dilemmas are played out globally. In part, these conflicts have to do with recent scientific and technological ventures that have challenged, even redefined, important categories such as life, death, nature, human, animate, and inanimate. The course uses ethnographies and theoretical readings to examine diverse sites of scientific production and dissemination—from indigenous knowledge to genetic labs—to understand the consequences of these changing perceptions on public life.
Urban Guerrillas: Anthropology of Political Resistance
Urban guerrilla movements, though started in antiquity and practiced as ideology in the 19th century, became emblematic of the political praxis of youth in the 1960s. Topics addressed include youth as a category, the political and cultural movements that made such a conceptualization possible, ideologies that inform such political action, and the development of these ideologies as youth become middle-aged. But the primary focus is on the conceptualization of armed violence as political resistance to the transgressions of the state against its citizens.
Cultural Technologies of Memory
cross-listed: human rights
This course considers several practices and technologies that produce collective and personal memory, and questions the distinction commonly made between “memory” and “history.” Students review techniques and technologies of public memory (e.g., historical writing, oral narrative), and examine how radio and photography are used to produce national and familial representations of the past. The course focuses on how the particular medium of remembering shapes the content of what is remembered, and addresses the link between the production of particular memories and their political uses.
Cultural Politics of Animals
cross-listed: africana studies, eus, human rights
Human ideas about animals have metamorphosed throughout history, giving rise to a wide spectrum of attitudes across cultures. Some of the questions this course raises include how, and by whom, is the line between humans and animals drawn? What are the politics of taxonomy and classification? Do animals exercise agency? Students explore these shifting terrains through the angle of “animal geography,” a new field that focuses on how animals have been socially defined, labeled, and ordered in cultural worldviews.
cross-listed: human rights
Globalization is commonly presented as a phenomenon of the late 20th century, made possible by the spread of capitalism and new forms of telecommunications technology. It is predicated, however, upon a sharp disjuncture between the homogeneity of identity and experience within immobile national pasts and the multiplicity and plasticity of identity and experience enabled by the ease of transnational mobility. This course addresses this dichotomy by examining anthropological scholarship on capitalism, colonialism, nationalism, and diasporas.
Oral Accounts: Theory, Methodology, and Ethics in Fieldwork
Students examine the specific characteristics and possible uses of oral history interviews as a means of conducting fieldwork-based research, and learn to apply research methods developed within these disciplines to individual projects in the social sciences and the humanities.
This seminar examines the evolving relationship between art and secularism, beginning with the emergence of secular discourses regarding art in thinkers like Nietzsche and Weber and continuing to today’s “postsecular” period. Tackling ideas and practices from neuroaesthetics and bioart to cryonics, hypnosis, and technoshamanism, the class explores the way these concepts are changing the secular rules of separation between person and body, object and agency, affect and cognition, matter and the immaterial, this life and an afterlife.
Middle Eastern ModernitiesRevolutions in the Modern Middle East
cross-listed: gis, human rights, mes
What does it mean to be “modern” in the Middle East in the aftermath of colonialism and in the face of continuing Euro-American efforts to reform the region’s social, economic, and political life? Does modernity require the abandonment of tribal affiliations, cousin marriages, and other putatively traditional social forms and practices? Or does it involve more complex, creative negotiations of existing constraints and available resources? This course examines these and other questions through analysis of recent anthropological literature, popular cultural artifacts, and films.
cross-listed: gis, human rights, mes
Theorists of revolution from Karl Marx to Hannah Arendt have argued that revolutions emerge from a collective sense that human existence itself is no longer viable under the existing order. This course explores the conditions under which such a sense has emerged at particular historic moments in the modern Middle East, as well as the historic contexts within which they emerge.
South Asian Modernities
cross-listed: asian studies, gis
Students explore the varied, and often contradictory, forms of social life in the region, with an emphasis on the lived experience of modernity in India and Pakistan. The course is structured around three themes: personhood, community and difference, and transnationalism. Readings include historical, ethnographic, and literary texts.
cross-listed: africana studies, eus, gis, human rights, sts
Political ecology emerged in the early 1990s as a bridge between cultural ecology and political economy. Based on the principle that environmental conditions are the product of political processes, the field integrates the work of anthropologists, geographers, historians, political scientists, and sociologists. Topics explored in this course include the politics of knowledge, state power, sustainable development, mapping, urban ecology, corporations and conservation, and multilateral environmental governance. Readings are primarily drawn from case studies in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Contemporary Cultural Theory
cross-listed: human rights
This introduction to advanced theories of culture in contemporary anthropology is required of all anthropology majors. In contrast to early anthropological focus on seemingly isolated, holistic cultures, more recent studies have turned their attention to conflicts within societies and the intersection of local systems of meaning with global processes of politics, economics, and history. The class is designed around an influential social theorist and the application of his or her theories by anthropologists. Students develop theoretical tools and questions for a Senior Project that makes use of contemporary theories of culture.
Culture, Mediation, Media
cross-listed: asian studies, human right
Just as culture is being reshaped by everyday media practices, media itself has reshaped our idea of culture and humanity. Looking broadly at the concept of “mediation,” this course considers contemporary theories and ethnographies of media and technology. Examples include the use of cell phones to organize political protest, the use of photography to link national with personal identity, and social networking sites that produce new forms of public intimacy, among others.