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Bard College Catalogue 2020-21
Yuka Suzuki (director, fall) and Laura Kunreuther (director, spring), Michèle D. Dominy, Jeffrey Jurgens, Naoka Kumada, Gregory Duff Morton, John Ryle, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins
Emeritus: Mario J. A. Bick, Diana De G Brown
Archaeologist in Residence: Christopher R. Lindner
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, South Asia, the Middle East, and the 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. 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 the Anthropology Program 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); a required seminar on contemporary cultural theory; an additional 300-level course; and the Senior Project.
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 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
- “Event, Narrative, File: Ethnography of a Nonprofit Mental Health Clinic for Children”
- “Fashioning Seoul: Everyday Practices of Dress in the Korean Wave”
- Sustainable Paths,” an ethnography of an ecovillage in the Midwestern United States”
- “Ward Manor: Care for the Elderly and Digital Memory”
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 purpose 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.
Cultural Politics of Empire: From the Raj to Humanitarian Aid
No other colony was more prized or the object of more fantasy than India, the “Jewel in the Crown.” While the course focuses on British rule in India, it frames the discussion within broader perspectives of colonialism and empire, including Edward Said’s analysis of Orientalism, critical responses to it, and the ideology of liberalism that underwrote the colonial project. Also examined are new forms of rule that followed in the postcolonial period, namely the rise of development and humanitarian aid.
Ancient Peoples on the Bard Lands: Archaeological Methods
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS
At the Forest site, along an old carriage path behind the Admission building, chipped stone objects afford the most conspicuous evidence of activity 5,000 years ago. The focus of the course, however, is on the distribution of fragmentary ceramic vessels and whether they were made from clay found beneath a nearby waterfall. Students learn basic excavation techniques and gain experience with cartographic analysis and microscopy.
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS, HISTORICAL STUDIES
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Excavation centers on a social and religious site 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.
The Modern Dinosaur
Since their ascendancy in global popular culture, dinosaurs have come to constitute a category of charismatic animals unmatched by contemporary living species. This course explores the dinosaur as object of scientific inquiry and as popular culture icon, with a focus on competitive exploration for fossils at the turn of the 20th century, rivalries between paleontologists, the rise of dinosaur philanthropy in natural history museums, and how new discoveries provoked parallel shifts in meaning and representation.
Asia in the Anthropocene
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES, EUS, STS
The Anthropocene identifies a new geological epoch, a period in which human activities are scaled up to become the dominant force in shaping the global environment. The course looks at how this framework reorients our basic assumptions about nature and the physical world, and considers case studies from Asia—a region assumed to hold much of the world’s environmental future in its hands. Specific topics: green building in South Korea, urban agriculture in Japan, giant panda conservation in China, and wind farms in the Philippines.
The Rift: Anthropology, History, Politics, and the Natural World in Eastern Africa
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, EUS, HUMAN RIGHTS
Africa’s Great Rift Valley is the heart of a region of spectacular ecological diversity and a wide range of human cultures and modes of existence, from pastoral nomadism to urban life. The eastern branch of the Rift Valley was the site of the emergence of the human species. Today the lands that border the Rift exemplify the divisions and difficulties that confront Africa as a whole. This course examines the ways of being that endure, as well as versions of modernity emerging from war and demographic transformation.
This course examines modern cities and everyday urban life, particularly in cities that are spatially and socially divided. The class investigates how cultural differences and political economic inequalities are reflected in geographic boundaries and other aspects of the built environment as well as how state agencies, real estate developers, activists, and residents make and remake city spaces in ways that create, reinforce, and challenge existing forms of difference and inequality. Case studies include Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, and Johannesburg.
State Phobia: Theories and Ethnographies of Statehood Today
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS, MES
How does the state as a modern political form shape culture, and vice versa? Why do groups (e.g., queer, indigenous) seek recognition from the state while simultaneously mocking or being suspicious of it? The course explores how scholars define the modern state and critique its effects on contemporary societies and culture. Students then read various ethnographies, investigating the unlikely relationships between corruption, borders, railroads, time, insanity, sexuality, and science, on the one hand, and the effects of statehood and state-making, on the other.
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS, STS
Conservation anthropology focuses on the cultural, politico-economic, and legal aspects of human transformation of the natural world and its biological resources and organisms. By drawing on environmental anthropology, cultural ecology, and multispecies ethnography, it examines the interplay of nature and culture and investigates global threats to sustainability and biodiversity. The class considers case studies that analyze the complex movement of flora, fauna, fungi, and microbes, as well as present practices for habitat preservation and ecological restoration.
A Lexicon of Migration
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
DESIGNATED: MIGRATION INITIATIVE COURSE
Migration is one of the most important and contested features of today’s interconnected world. It has transformed most, if not all, contemporary nation-states into pluralist, postmigrant, and/or super diverse polities. And it affects everyone, regardless of migratory status. This course examines the history of migration from local, national, and global perspectives, with an emphasis on the uneven economic and geopolitical developments that have produced specific forms of mobility into and through the United States.
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.
By considering economic questions across the full sweep of human experience, economic anthropology provides fresh insight into basic concepts. This course considers exchange theory, money and markets, the debate between the substantivists and formalists, analysis of inequality in production, and the new “generating capitalisms” approach, as well as anarchists, South Pacific canoe trading, British shoppers, and the anxieties of entrepreneurialism. As it makes the familiar seem strange, the class opens up new possibilities for understanding the circulations that we set into motion every day.
Crime in Latin America: An Ethnographic Approach
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS, LAIS
From San Salvador to Rio de Janeiro, a number of Latin American cities now proclaim themselves to be “the most violent city in the world.” This course considers the recent wave of violence perpetrated by non-, para-, and state actors through an ethnographic perspective, and places these ethnographies into conversation with social scientific approaches to crime, violence, and human rights. Readings examine crime in post–civil war San Salvador, the mirroring of criminal and state enterprises in Brazil, and surveillance technologies in Mexico City, among other issues.
Problems in Human Rights
Anthropology 233 / Human Rights 233
See Human Rights 233 for a course description.
Language, Culture, Discourse
Language is one of the fundamental ways of understanding the world in culturally specific ways, and helps to create social identities like gender, race, ethnicity, class, and nationality. The course begins with the assumption that language and culture are inseparable, and introduces students to theoretical and ethnographic approaches that demonstrate this connection in different ways. Topics include how authority is established through specific forms of speech and the relationship between language and social hierarchies.
Anthropology of Death: A Four-Field Approach
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS
An exploration of the diverse ways humans experience death, how the (social and biological) fact of death organizes societies, and how dead persons continue to affect the living. By looking at the ritualization, medicalization, and politicization of death, the class seeks to complicate popular ideas of death as a universal experience. As students explore these anthropological approaches to mourning and burial, they deepen their understanding of ethnographic, archaeological, and physical anthropological methods and theories.
Confronting the Crisis: Refugees and Populism in Europe
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS
Since 2015, more than two million people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries have traveled to Europe, seeking refuge. This course examines the varied ways their presence has come to be viewed as a “crisis.” Topics include the surveillance, security, and bureaucratic management employed by members of the European Union to prevent and regulate refugees’ entry; techniques with which state agencies have sought to both govern and care for refugees; and populist rhetoric that has targeted them as threats to national and European integrity.
Myth, Ritual, and Symbol
CROSS-LISTED: RELIGION, SOCIOLOGY
How are systems of thought, symbolic forms, and ritual practice formulated and expressed across time and space? This course examines various theoretical approaches used by anthropology and comparative sociology in analyzing symbolic representations, actions, and systems. The primary focus is on non-Western conceptual systems and religions, and includes “primitive rationality,” the interpretation of myth, and the analysis of ritual and religious practice, including witchcraft, spirit possession, and prophetic and revitalization movements.
Action Research: Social Service, Community Organizing, and Anthropology
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
Action research aims to produce locally based knowledge with practical and immediate importance to someone: for example, to a nonprofit, mayor, business, or union. This course combines classroom readings with weekly work in community organization. In class, students read from traditions that grapple with problems at the intersection of social science and social change, including texts by Vico, Marx, Scheper-Hughes, Hale, Perry, and Speed, and consider influences from constructivism, pragmatism, collaborative anthropology, and militant anthropology.
Social Class: Global Politics, Global History
This course aims to reveal anthropology’s roots, as a field, in the general project to account for modern inequalities in wealth. Is there such a thing as social class? If so, what makes it different from caste, estate, gender, and race? How do people come to accept classed inequality, and under what conditions do they rise against it? The class seeks answers by using anthropological tools, including archaeology, ethnography, and linguistic analysis. Readings range from Marxists on African lineage systems to Labov on speech in New York department stores.
Global Culture Brokers
Culture brokers are crucial, yet often overlooked, actors who enable the making of international information, news, and knowledge. In contexts of war or conflict, culture brokers become agents whose local knowledge enables them to save lives while also putting their own life at risk. Focusing on the labor of such culture brokers—tour guides, international journalist’s “fixers,” interpreters, translators, photojournalists’ image brokers, anthropologists’ informants—forces us to ask questions about the constitutive role they play in general understandings and knowledge about “the global world.”
Travel, Tourism, and Anthropology
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES
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.
The Animal in Anthropology
DESIGNATED: THINKING ANIMALS INITIATIVE
From Lewis Henry Morgan’s portrait of the American beaver to E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s account of the cattle beloved in Nuer society, animals have figured prominently in anthropological writings since the discipline’s inception. This course traces anthropology’s engagement with animals over the past century, focusing on their role as repositories of totemic power, markers of purity and pollution, and mirrors of social identity; practices such as whaling, hunting, and captive animal display; and the entanglements between human and nonhuman beings.
The Stranger in Latin America
What happens to classic accounts of Latin America if we read them by tracking the figure of the stranger? This course aims to provide an alternative view of two tropes that have structured much recent scholarship about Latin America: the encounter and the other. Students assess the stranger at the moment of conquest and as a problem in newly colonized societies, strangers as rulers, otherworldly strangers, strangers and enslavement, strangers in the city, migratory strangers, violence and the stranger, and the welcome given to strangers.
Anthropology of the Institution: Making Change through Social Service and Community Organizing
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Can a small group of people change the society in which they live? The course uses the tools of anthropology to consider organizations that wrestle with the human condition—nursing homes, crisis hotlines, labor unions, and migrant coalitions—and asks what can be learned by considering these groups as institutions. Students commit to a semester-long internship with a group that carries out community organizing or social service. Readings from Weber, Durkheim, Tocqueville, Gandhi, Hamer, Goffman, and Foucault, as well as contemporary ethnographies of institutions.
Ethnographies of Economic Growth: Anthropology and the Problem of Progress
When we say that some nations are richer than others, what does that mean? Is there such a thing as progress? What does GDP really measure? Growth is a master concept stretching across the social sciences, and this course explores the concept through ethnographies of mining projects in Indonesia, anti-growth politics in France, the GDP of ancient Rome, and British merchant-ambassadors to China. Students also engage with broader policy frameworks, ecological approaches, feminist critiques, the happiness paradox, de-growth, and the struggle to reform GDP.
Anthropology of Violence and Suffering
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, GIS
The course looks at 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.
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.
Youth and Youth Politics
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, MES
Since the 18th century, childhood and youth have often been understood as times of happiness, innocence, and closeness to nature distinct from adulthood. Yet many young people live in conditions of violence, toil, and poverty. How did ideas about a separate and happy childhood become so prevalent, and how do they compare with young people’s actual experiences? This course examines young people in a variety of historical and geographic contexts. Students also conduct fieldwork on some aspect of youth cultural production on or near the Bard campus.
Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East
CROSS-LISTED: GSS, HUMAN RIGHTS, MES
The course investigates how gender and sexuality are experienced in the Middle East, and how these categories/experiences relate to authoritarianism and capitalism, and to materialities like infrastructures and war. Readings from anthropologists, queer theorists, and historians help students understand what dynamics of space, queerness, gender performance, revolution, garments, bodies, and the law can tell us about colonial, anticolonial, and postcolonial life in Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, and Iraq.
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 a history of violence that far surpassed normative applications of colonialism. In the wake of such 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 postapartheid 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.
The Edge of Anthropology:
How Ethnographic Writing Responds to Its Subject
Although “ethnography” and “fieldwork” are terms that have become widely used in other disciplines, anthropologists are still at the cutting edge of research-based factual writing, usually about small-scale societies, both those on the periphery of the world system and those at the heart of it. The course examines a range of genres and techniques used to convey the lived experience of other cultures. Texts by Bronislaw Malinowski, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Oscar Lewis, Ruth Landes, Carlos Castaneda, Michael Taussig, Leni Riefenstahl, Katherine Boo, and others.
Ethnic Politics in Southeast Asia
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES
Myanmar consists of an extremely diverse population, with 135 officially recognized ethnic groups, which is why it has been embroiled in the world’s longest running civil war since becoming independent of British rule in 1948. The Rohingya crisis has emerged against this background of postcolonial ethnic conflict, becoming the predominant issue drawing international attention to Myanmar. This course helps students develop the skills and perspective needed for analyzing difficult cases of ethnic conflict as well as cultivating knowledge of Myanmar and other Southeast Asian societies.
Toxicity and Contamination
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, HUMAN RIGHTS, STS
Footage shows mushrooms growing out of school walls after the 2014 discovery of disease-causing organisms in the drinking supply of Flint, Michigan. Photographs of two-headed Iraqi babies circulate with captions about their mothers’ exposure to unidentified toxic chemicals following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Widespread calls to close New York’s Indian Point nuclear facility by 2021 remind us that we live exposed to nuclear leakage, usually without knowing it. This seminar investigates controversies around exposure to toxicity and contamination from Hiroshima to Flint.
The Voice in the Machine
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES, STS
The voice, it is assumed, provides unmediated access to the self and a direct way of making one’s desires and ideas known. But the immediacy of the voice often depends upon technologies that make specific voices audible. Students explore a range of conduits that re-present an original voice through technological (radio, telephone captioning, voice recorders) and human (translators, voice-over artists, spirit possession, stenographers) means.
The Politics of Infrastructure
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, HUMAN RIGHTS, STS
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Infrastructure is said to be invisible until the point at which it breaks down. Drawing on ethnographic and historical readings from disparate geographical locales, the course asks when, and with what consequences, infrastructures become visible or invisible. Organized around different types of infrastructure present in colonial and postcolonial contexts, including roads, water distribution networks, sewage pipelines, telecommunications, nuclear energy stations, and electrification.
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, HUMAN RIGHTS
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
What are the ethical stakes, practical questions, and methodological tools that we use when we practice ethnography? This course is a survey of, and practicum in, ethnographic field methods, including participant observation; interviewing; archival research; and visual, sonic, textual, and spatial analysis. Also addressed: the challenges of doing fieldwork in a variety of contexts; emergent ethnographic forms and methods, such as multi-sited ethnography, critical moral anthropology, and indigenous methodologies and critiques; and the ethical aspects of conducting fieldwork.
Science, Empire, and Ecology
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, STS
This seminar examines indigenous, colonial, and postcolonial ecologies in the Pacific from the 18th to the 21st century as it traces the transformation of projects of empire to contemporary projects of species and biodiversity preservation and restoration. Students examine naval logs, field notes, and correspondence of naturalists Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, and Joseph Hooker; and consider Australia and New Zealand as productive sites for exploring ecological colonization and decolonization, and evolving state strategies for resource management and ecological restoration.
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 include the politics of knowledge, state power, sustainable development, mapping, corporations and conservation, and multilateral environmental governance. Readings drawn primarily 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.
The Interview: Reportage, Human Rights, Literature, Ethnography, Film
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
The interview is central to the practice of a wide range of disciplines and genres, including ethnographic fieldwork, human rights research, investigative journalism, creative nonfiction, and documentary film. Interview-based research forms a basis for the understanding of culture, the construction of complex narratives, and specialist forms such as life histories, testimonies, and confessions. This course combines critical analysis of interview-based writing (and audio and video recording) with the development of technical interviewing skills.
Anthropology of Brazil: Utopia, Not Paradise
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, LAIS
A gigantic economy that leads the globe in citrus, poultry, and passenger jets. A society stricken with one of the world’s worst rates of income inequality. Land half-covered in forest. Home of the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. The source of an epic literature that is hung on strings in markets and sold for pennies. Brazil, as an idea, inspires contradictory visions. This course explores the notion of Brazilian civilization, tracing the travails of emperors, socialists, plunderers, and castaways through anthropological texts, history, poetry, and primary sources.
Culture, Mediation, Media
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES
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 addresses contemporary theories and ethnographies of media and technology through examples such as the use of cellphones 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.