Bard College Catalogue 2016-17
Laura Kunreuther (director), Mario J. A. Bick, Diana De G. Brown, Michèle D. Dominy, Christopher R. Lindner, Jonah Rubin, John Ryle, Maria Sonevytsky, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Yuka Suzuki
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. Area strengths include sub-Saharan 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. 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. For courses cross-listed in anthropology, and primarily listed in another program, a maximum of one course may count toward Moderation requirements. 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, including the methodology course on “doing ethnography” or archaeological methods (if doing a Senior Project in archaeology); two 300-level courses; and 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.
All moderated anthropology students submit a proposal for the Senior Project at the end of their junior year. A Senior Project may be ethnographic (based on fieldwork), historical (using archival or secondary sources), comparative/theoretical (exploring a theory or phenomenon across two or more contexts), or they can be archaeological (involving excavations). Students intending to pursue postgraduate study or ethnographic research in a non-English speaking area are encouraged to study a foreign language to at least the 200 level.
Recent Senior Projects in Anthropology
- “Denouncing the Narco State: Corruption, Violence, and Outrage in Coamiles, Mexico”
- “Gated Communities in Gurgaon: Caste and Class on the Urban Frontier”
- “The Gym, the Garage, and the Country Villa: Narratives of Space, Identity, and Retreat at Bard College”
- “Public Health and Its Discontents: The Schismogenesis of Childhood Vaccination in Boston, Massachusetts”
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, growth of the media, and 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.
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
cross-listed: gis, gss, human rights
Anthropology is the study of “culture,” and this course traces the history of the culture concept from the 19th century to the present, exploring anthropological approaches to “primitive” societies, group and personal symbols, and systems of exchange. Also considered: anthropology’s self-reflexive turn in the 1980s, when the discipline’s authority to represent other societies was questioned; anthropologists’ engagement in activism; and the field’s more recent fascination with the nonhuman (animals, technology, the built environment, nature.
Introduction to Ethnomusicology
Anthropology 185 / Music 185
See Music 185 for a full course description.
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.
The Anthropology of Race, Scientific Racism, and other Biological Reductionisms
cross-listed: africana studies, human rights
The relationship of human biology to behavior and the nature of cultures couched in terms of putative biological differences between human groups has characterized scientific discourse since the late 18th century. This course examines scientific racism, sexism, criminology, and other biological phobias, reductionisms, and rationalizations. It does so by studying the contexts, achievements, and failures of normal science (especially physical anthropology, human biology, and genetics) in regard to the significance of real and assumed variations among individuals and among human populations.
American Anthropology, 1850–1970
cross-listed: american studies
Before World War II, American anthropology had three central concerns: the description and understanding of Native American peoples based on 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 after World War II.
Field Methods in Archaeology: Ancient Peoples on Bard Lands
cross-listed: american studies, eus
Students in the course continue excavation of the 6,000-year-old Forest site, which was discovered in 2012 and has several hearth areas that may contain the oldest pottery in the Northeast. Knowledge of this key millennium in the region is sparse. Students concentrate initially on the location of an activity area for the manufacture and use of stone tools, whose utilization can be identified in the lab by replicative experimentation and microscopic analysis of wear patterns. The focus then turns to the hearth area.
Historical Archaeology: Colonists Near Bard
cross-listed: american studies, eus
Excavation centers on a social and religious site in the former agricultural village of Queensbury, nine miles north of Bard. This settlement began in 1710 as the first substantial German-speaking community in the New World. Recent evidence indicates that Native Americans visited the site before 1750, and that African Americans lived at the site by the early 1800s, if not a century earlier. Students read case studies in addition to working at the site.
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.
Bardaeology: The Campus as Material Culture
A scientific approach to artifacts as “things” encompasses their physical conditions, contextual juxtapositions, and circumstantial “entanglements.” Students read current theories of materiality and agency as they consider the life histories of items contained in campus deposits and their relation to social activity at the College. Laboratory analysis, stratigraphic evaluation, and exhibit design focus on archaeological sites at Bard (e.g., a garbage dump from early students at St. Stephen’s College and buried debris at the Blithewood Avenue house of founder John Bard’s landscaper.
Doing Ethnography: Waste
cross-listed: eus, sts
Taking waste as an ethnographic starting point, this course provides an overview of the qualitative methods and ethical ramifications of anthropological research. In doing so, it examines the history of particular methods, with a view to their role in the constitution of the discipline of anthropology. It also considers the process of “translating” the experience of fieldwork into text. Among the methods discussed are participant observation, interviews, archival research, visual and textual analysis, the collection of oral histories, and fieldwork in its online manifestation.
Ecologies of the Modern State
cross-listed: eus, gis, political studies
What is a state? How are states built? Where is the state? This course addresses these questions, beginning with foundational theories of the state (Marx, Weber, Arendt, Althusser, Foucault, Bourdieu), and draws on ethnographic case studies to investigate the unlikely relationships between phenomena such as corruption, borders, railroads, the standardization of time, nuclear power, bureaucracies, forest fires, and science, on the one hand, and the effects of statehood and state making in the modern world, on the other.
Ethnography in Image, Sound, and Text
Anthropology 224 / Film 224
See Film 224 for a full course description.
Culture and Globalization in Japan
cross-listed: asian studies
Through its mercurial transformations, from postwar devastation to rapid economic recovery and affluence, Japan has come to be seen as one of the most important non-Western countries of the 20th century. In recent years, however, specters of economic recession, disenchanted youth, an aging population, and nuclear disaster have produced new conditions of precarity. This course provides an introduction to the changing social, economic, and political formations in Japan from an anthropological perspective.
The Anthropology of Palestine
cross-listed: eus, gis, human rights, mes
Palestine is often addressed in the mainstream media through the frameworks of religious and land conflict, extremism, and terrorism. But Palestine is much more diverse in terms of what it can tell us about the human condition. This course provides students with a better grasp of the place, its people, and its problems, and poses questions such as: What is resistance? What are the politics of martyrdom? Can architecture wield power? Is there a Palestinian state? What—and where—is Israeli sovereignty?
Music, Sexuality, and Gender
cross-listed: gss, music
This course asks how music informs and reflects cultural constructions of femininity and masculinity. Taking wide-ranging examples that include opera, popular music, and folk and indigenous musics, the class investigates how modern gendered subjectivities are negotiated through musical practices such as composition, performance, and consumption. Readings include musicological, anthropological, feminist, Marxist, and queer theory approaches.
Foundational Texts in Anthropology
cross-listed: africana studies, lais
The course engages seminal texts that have shaped the discipline’s ideas and methods from the late 19th century to the present. Central to this history is the recording and interpretation of cultural similarities and differences. Among the authors studied are Edward Tylor, James Frazer, Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, and Marshall Sahlins. No prerequisite is required, but a previous course in anthropology is recommended.
African Diaspora Religions
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 of the Body
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.
Travel, Tourism, and Anthropology
The course considers how travel writing (postcards, letters, journals, guidebooks, ethnography) reflects, as well as shapes, the experience of travel; how personal, group, and national identities have been constructed through the practice of travel; and how “home” is configured in relation to foreign places in these texts. Topics also include travel as a rite of passage, the impact of the traveler on the communities visited, and writings from exile or diaspora communities.
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.
cross-listed: africana studies, human rights
The history of anthropology is punctuated with arguments over the interpretation of data, the ethics of research, theories of social behavior, and the nature of the discipline itself. This course examines controversies that bring distinctive features of anthropological practice into critical focus, such as representations of the Nuba people of Sudan, the involvement of anthropologists in military campaigns and espionage, Derek Freeman’s critique of Margaret Mead, and the work of Carlos Castaneda, among others.
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.
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.
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.
In the Garden of Empire: Nature and Power in the Modern Middle East
cross-listed: eus, gis, mes, sts
“Culture” has long been a key explanatory framework for scholars studying the modern Middle East. This course brings “nature” out of culture’s shadows and examines how ideas about nature and the natural have shaped social, scientific, and historical scholarship on, and political and cultural formations within, the region. The class investigates the relationship between nature and power in contexts of empire, decolonization, and postcoloniality, and considers topics such as kinship, nationalism, violence, technology, war, race, gender, sexuality, environmentalism, fossil fuels, and genetics.
Most American students are made aware of the histories and contemporary foci of anthropology in the United States as well as in Britain, France, and, to some degree, Germany. This course introduces a variety of national traditions in anthropology that developed in the rest of the world, including Japan, China, India, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Iberia, Africa, and Latin America. Current practices are also examined. Limited to Upper College students.
Political Ritual in the Modern World
Anthropology 3103 / History 3103
See History 3103 for a full course description.
The Politics of Infrastructure
cross-listed: eus, sts
Infrastructure is said to be invisible until the point at which it breaks down. The course draws on ethnographic and historical readings from disparate geographical locales and is organized around different types of infrastructure present in modern, colonial, and postcolonial contexts: roads, water distribution networks, landfills, sewage pipelines, electricity, telecommunications, nuclear energy stations, and mass media. Students explore how infrastructures become central to popular claims to rights, and how they shape relationships between the body and the public (the “body politic”).
Toxic Modernities: Anthropology in and of the Nuclear Age
What is nuclear fear and who has it? How has the nuclear age changed perceptions of the underground? What is the relationship between nuclear testing and climate change? How have nuclear disasters changed the meanings of biological risk, biosecurity, and governmental uncertainty? This seminar, an anthropological investigation of nuclear proliferation and its discontents, addresses these and other questions through ethnographic, historical, and literary texts.
Cultural Technologies of Memory
cross-listed: historical studies, human rights
This course is organized around several practices and technologies that produce collective and personal memory. The focus in each section is on how the particular medium of remembering—historical writing, oral narrative, ritual, myth, monument, museum, photograph, radio—shapes the content of what is remembered. The class also explores a distinction commonly made between “memory” and “history,” asking on what basis the distinction is made and how it relates to our ideas about places and people.
Language, Migration, and Globalization
How does language shape global phenomena like transnationalism and diasporic populations? How are mobility and migration negotiated through everyday social interaction and language use? This course uses linguistic anthropological approaches to explore the ideologies inherent in everyday speech; how language use is linked to social identities like class, race, and gender, and to social personae like “the migrant” or “the refugee”; and the political culture of languages in and across nation-states, attending to their uses and values in global flows of information, goods, and people.
Local Realities and Global Ideologies in the Sudans
cross-listed: africana studies, gis, human rights, mes
This course examines indigenous societies in the lands comprising Sudan and South Sudan and their relation to world history. Political organization prior to conquest ranged from acephalous societies in south Sudan to sultanates in the center and west and, in the 1890s, the Mahdist theocratic revolutionary state. A legacy of this history is a great diversity of cultures, languages, and modes of life. Case studies include the Darfur campaign, the recent independence of South Sudan, and female genital cutting.
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. Questions addressed 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.
Seminar on Social Performance
Anthropology 339 / Sociology 339
See Sociology 339 for a full course description.
Surveillance: From the Human to the Digital
cross-listed: experimental humanities, human rights
What does it mean to say we live in a culture of surveillance? How do surveillance practices secure or undermine state sovereignty and citizen solidarity in a digital age? This course looks at a variety of surveillance techniques—ranging from low-tech forms of social surveillance to state and corporate surveillance in visual, audio, and digital forms—as well as surveillance practices in different parts of the globe and from both sides of the “digital divide.”
Political Ecology Contemporary Cultural Theory
cross-listed: africana studies, eus, gis, human rights, sociology, 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.
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.