Sex, Money, and Power in the Postcolonial World (Freshman Seminar 70S)

With globalization, sex—everywhere—has become more central to who we are as citizens and consumers, how we gain rights and resources, and how we relate to others, as members of a specific race, ethnicity, region, or culture. Worldwide, states invest or disinvest in people according to how they have sex, adopt gender identities, or sustain sexual morality. Terrorist organizations claim to use violence to reestablish bastions of piety and sexual propriety; various populist movements imagine immigrants and refugees to threaten their societies, in part, by failing to uphold the sexual norms of adopting countries; and transnational NGOs and activists seek to rescue and rehabilitate sex workers, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and other people who are vulnerable because of their sexualities. The growing importance of sex to a global consumer culture only heightens the rush to secure societies from the so-called “perversions of globalization.” Tourists now travel for sex to various destinations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean; poor, unemployed men and women sometimes use sex as a means of enrichment and empowerment; and amidst the rise of religious fundamentalisms, commodity ads incite youths to consume sex along other goods to build authentic selves. In this seminar, we ask: Why does sexuality become so central to how we imagine our world and futures? Why is sex so important in defining us, as subjects and populations? And how do older colonial stereotypes of race, ethnicity, and culture shape sexuality politics in the new global order? (Offered in Spring 2018)


Anthropology and Africa (AAAS 105x)

This undergraduate course explores the links between race, empire, and the production of anthropological knowledge about Africa. Africa has occupied a central place in the making of anthropology as a discipline. Ethnographic studies of African contexts generated leading theories of kinship and society, money and economy, ritual and religion, violence, law, and political order. And, while anthropologists have often used their work to critique racism and social injustice, the discipline of anthropology has been, at times, accused of being the “handmaiden of colonialism” – its discourses complicit in the making of dominant ideologies of racial alterity and imperial power. In this course, students revisit moments of intersection between the history of modern Africa and the history of anthropology in order examine the role of knowledge production in the politics of world-making. We interrogate “Africa” as an ideological category, a source of identity and collective consciousness, and a geo-political context of social life. We ask: What is the political potential of various forms of knowledge production? What do ethnographic engagements with African contexts offer by means of understanding the world at large? And what may anthropological thinking offer by way of envisioning better futures in Africa and beyond? (Offered in Fall 2018)


Ethnographic Research Methods (ANTH 1610)

Extensive field research has defined social anthropology since the beginning of the twentieth century. Despite the long-lived centrality of field research to the discipline, anthropologists have continuously reexamined the accuracy, analytical relevance, and ethical implications of their methodological repertoire. The course begins by introducing students to key theoretical questions that anthropologists have raised about the nature of “fieldwork” in the contemporary world. For example: How can ethnographic research capture the dynamics of globalization? Can multi-sited fieldwork denaturalize notions of static “culture” or reveal how the mobility of people and goods produce local social relations? Or, how can we explore the ways in which local, national and global cultural elements shape the lived experiences of our research interlocutors? The course introduces concrete ways of designing research projects, undertaking active participant observation, fieldnote-writing and interviewing, as well as genealogies, time surveys, space analysis, archival research and the collection of artifacts. These methods will also raise a set of ethical questions about the kinds of social rapport that anthropologists and their field informants might cultivate during research. We explore the myriad identities and subjectivities produced through the fieldwork encounter with a particular focus on race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. The last part of the course focuses on how anthropologists transform field data into ethnographic writing. 


Kinship, Citizenship, and Belonging (ANTH 1988)

The domains of family life, kinship, and intimacy represent central sites for the construction and contestation of social and political belonging. This course introduces students to classic and contemporary theories of society, kinship, and citizenship by way of theorizing how economic production, sovereignty, and everyday life emerge through the regulation of relatedness. Anthropologists of the late nineteenth century and of the first half of the twentieth century turned kinship into a key domain for understanding social cohesion and political organization. In the past three decades – following feminist, Marxist, and queer critiques – anthropologists explored how discourses about kinship and the family anchored the ideologies and practices of modernity, colonialism, nationalism, and globalization. In this course, we ask: What can various forms of kinship teach us about the politics of social reproduction and the making of citizenship – its modes of belonging and exclusion – in the contemporary world? Why do national and transnational institutions care about how we related to each other, how we build families, and whether we reproduce? Why do we desire that our intimate lives be recognized by the state and by the agents of the global market? And, can our ways of crafting relatedness in everyday life transform how we come to belong to larger political institutions? (Offered in Fall 2018)


Sexuality and Political Economy (ANTH 2614)

This seminar explores the complex links between sexuality, capitalism, and power. Sexuality has long represented a central domain for the creation and contestation of subjects and sovereignties, labor and capital, relatedness and belonging, desire and development, security and violence. With the publication of Michel Foucault’s "The History of Sexuality" (1976), the role of modern forms of power that work to discipline subjects and regulate populations has become central to how scholars conceptualize sexuality. By comparison, however, the relation between sexuality, the capitalist economy, and the myriad forms of postcolonial sovereignties has only recently become the topic of rigorous analysis. In this seminar, we revisit classic works by Freud, Foucault, Lacan and Fanon as well as texts in feminist, queer and postcolonial theories in order to craft a conceptual vocabulary for understanding emerging configurations of sex and politics in late capitalism. We ask: Under what historical circumstances does sexuality become a marker of inclusion, exclusion or exceptionalism in relation to race, ethnicity, culture, and state politics? What are the relations between commodities, discourses of sexuality, and the erotic practices of concrete historical actors? And what do we learn about globalization when we think of sexuality as a central domain of economic production, social reproduction, and political belonging? (Offered in Spring 2018)