The late twentieth century resurgence of religion in world affairs has been among the most politically charged phenomenon of our time.  From the rise of transnational religious networks, to controversial legal challenges to religious rights, to state-sponsored trials for religious minorities, the issues remain critical and volatile.  In this light, this course explores contemporary issues dealing with the dueling principles of religious freedom set alongside cultural practices and the role of the nation-state in managing, accommodating and disengaging with protections based on religious difference and legal questions. By examining recent and emerging scholarship on religious practices embedded in legal/political/moral controversies, the central goal is to explore the ways that new uses of religion and the law are changing the ways that scholars are engaging these topics.

The course will be taught in seminar format and students will engage with the historical, theoretical and ethnographic literature on this topic. Themes will range from formations of secularism and genealogies of religion, debates over freedom and its fictions, and the social construction of law as it relates to dilemmas over pluralism, evidentiary questions and anthropological interrogations of the role of trials.

As anthropologists continue to grapple with changing notions of “the field” from local to global, this course covers ground breaking, recent and emerging scholarship.  The goal is to explore both pragmatic and theoretical problems of modernity, transnationalism, and diasporas in specific historical and ethnographic contexts.  Drawing on a range of analytic tools about how we might understand the dynamics of transnational formations-- from theories of connections, to scapes to vernacularization, to mappings, to friction--the course will emphasize the interrelations between international and transnational cultural processes and more circumscribed forms of practices.

This course will examine scholarship related to the development of the anthropology of Africa with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of the course is to explore the founding tenets of anthropological inquiry and methods and to ponder how those developments contributed to anthropological understandings of Africa in the scholarly imagination and its relationship to other ways of knowing. By asking why particular questions emerged and how those inquiries were presented, we will explore the social and political contexts in which particular studies emerged and assess the coherence and value of those analyses.  A central goal will be the evaluation of sources and methods of constructing arguments through which students will be encouraged to assess different ideological and/or theoretical approaches used in scholarly writing on Africa.

This course is centered on the work of a few key theorists around which we will explore the relationship between culture and power, freedom, agency and social reproduction.  We will assess the relationships between the individual, society, the state and its fictions, as well as questions having to do with how to understand and theorize social change.  We will begin by exploring the foundations of contemporary anthropology and its relationship to coloniality and postcoloniality and then move to explore the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School as an intervention into Marxist theorizing.  This will be followed by a focus on three of the most influential social theorists of the mid to late 20th century: Antonio Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Agamben, and supplemented with the work of thinkers such as Achille Mbembe, Jean and John Comaroff, Judith Butler, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.  Class discussions will emphasize contemporary debates concerning the relationship between power, cultural politics and processes of naturalization.

Since the beginning of the shaping of anthropology as a discipline, anthropologists have been concerned with questions about the maintenance of order, particularly in stateless societies.  Early anthropologists found that the study of law provided insights into these and larger questions about societal norms and culturally shaped attitudes.  Gradually the sub-field of legal anthropology took shape with these concerns in mind. Today, some have argued that we are living in an age in which the political is increasingly being displaced into the realm of the legal yet ethnographic fieldwork has shown that we have entered a period in which people are increasingly using political strategies to make legal claims. Scholarship on new social formations such as human rights movements, the invention of a notion of civil society, the growth of non-governmental organizations, and the “rule of law” has become all the more important.

New forms of legal language are becoming key resources in daily life; thus understanding the relationships between law and culture as well as law and politics is becoming all the more critical in the contemporary period.  By asking how relationships between legal, cultural and political realms are structured, we will study changing approaches to law in anthropological work.  The course will examine how law provides tools for both social struggle and social control and will explore classical and contemporary texts in legal and political anthropology in order to detail the cultural dimensions of law and law’s changing relationship to discipline.

Sign In


Reset Password

Please enter your username or email address, you will receive a link to create a new password via email.