Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Fall 2017

This course is an introduction to social and cultural anthropology. Anthropology is the study of human beings in a cultural context. The course exposes students to the intricacies of culture upon which modern developmental practices are overlaid and highlights the interlacing of cultural patterns with the forces of modernity. For instance, how do gift-exchange practices of local communities help us understand the politics of international aid? How do rituals of magic explain the commodity fetishism of capitalism? How do techniques of micro-managing the self in the everyday life help us to rethink the given notion of the modern developmental subject? How meditational technique such as breathing exercise is inextricably linked with the theories of social aspirations? How does tribal social organization overlap with the modern nation? Addressing questions like these would provoke students to critically think of culture as a significant force in the study of social development. Students will be exposed to the theories of culture, reciprocity and gift-exchange, marriages and kinship, organization of political systems, social inequality and hierarchies, rituals and religion, nature and culture. The course will consist of reading, writing, and research. Students will be asked to conduct short ethnographic research in designated communities or groups, in order to gain a grounded perspective, and to learn the anthropological research method of participant observation. The goal of this course is to train students in discovering the cultural patterns, in making unfamiliar familiar, and in understanding lived experiences and vernacular sensibilities of indigenous communities.