ANTHRCUL298: Transborder Trade: Anthropological Perspectives

Course description: How do systems of production and consumption connect us to the rest of the world? How do they disconnect us? In this introductory level class in socio-cultural anthropology, we will begin with the presumption that terms like “trade,” “supply chains,” “commodities,” and “logistics” are not purely technical or bureaucratic. Instead, we will explore how anthropological methods—especially immersive fieldwork and ethnographic writing—reveal the social lives and human/nonhuman labors that animate these categories and imbricate them in global divisions of labor. Classic works on sugar, coffee, cotton, and bananas will serve as our foundational texts. To challenge our understanding of what makes something “tradable” in the first place, however, we will also turn to more unusual items that pass through our shores: human organs trafficked from Brazil, exotic pets shipped from Guatemala, secondhand clothing donated to Zambia, and many more. Importantly, we will consider the very idea of the “border” itself, and investigate the purposes these serve in our globalized world. Our goal in the class is two-fold: to use anthropological perspectives to understand the everyday workings of global inequality, and to propose more meaningful ways to use transnational relationships to effect social change across geographic difference.

ANTHRCUL357: Animality and the Human Question

Course Description: What does it mean to be a human person? What does it mean to be an animal? What happens when those two categories are not as distinct as we might initially think? In this class, we will use the conceptual tools of anthropology—literally, the study of the human being (anthropos)—to understand how “humanhood” and “personhood” have not been self-evident, but rather are statuses fought for and vigilantly defended—by some, more so than others. Around the world, people’s shifting relationships with non-human animals have shaped structures of power and the rhetoric of activism, from Black civil rights to disability liberation. We will learn about how animal breeding practices link with the rise of fascism, how cow protection informs Hindu nationalism, and how metaphors of “pests,” “vermin,” and “swarms” shape the material experiences of belonging and Otherness in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. We will challenge our ideas about individuality, scientific classification and experimentation, and labor rights, among others. We will do so by turning to ethnographic cases where the lines between human and animal life are never straightforward, including factory farming, meat consumption, wildlife conservation, and mass extinction. Overall, this class’ goal is to develop robust conceptual tools for analyzing one of the most pressing political questions of our age: our relationship to other species and, by connection, to each other.

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