Anthropology

Professors: Colleen B. Cohen, Judith L. Goldstein (Chair)b, Lucy Lewis Johnson;Associate Professor: Martha KaplanaAssistant Professor: Anne Pike-Tay;Visiting Assistant Professor: Barbara Bianco. 
a
Absent on leave, first semester. bAbsent on leave, second semester.

The field of anthropology seeks to promote a holistic understanding of social life by offering complex accounts of human histories, societies and cultures. Anthropologists undertake ethnographic, archival, and archaeological research on the varied aspects of individual and collective experience in all time periods and parts of the world. The Department of Anthropology offers a wide range of options for majors and for nonmajors in recognition of the broad interdisciplinary nature of the field. Nonmajors from all classes may choose courses at any level with permission of the instructor and without introductory anthropology as a prerequisite.

Requirements for Concentration: 12 units including 201 and 301. Students are required to take courses in at least three of the four fields of anthropology; those being archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistics. The remaining courses are to be chosen from among the departmental offerings in consultation with the adviser in order to give the student both a strong focus within anthropology and an overall understanding of the field. Students are required to achieve familiarity with the peoples and cultures of at least two areas of the world. Of the 12 required units, three must be taken at the 300-level. With the consent of the adviser, students may petition the department to take up to 2 of the 12 required units in courses outside the department which are related to their focus. Once a course plan has been devised, it must be approved by the department faculty.

NRO: One introductory course taken NRO may count towards the major if a letter grade is received. If a student receives a PA for an introductory course taken under the NRO option, that student must complete 13 courses for an anthropology major. No other required courses for the major may be taken NRO.

Requirements for a Correlate Sequence: 6 units to include 1 unit at the 100-level and 2 units at the 300-level. Courses should be chosen in consultation with an anthropology department adviser in order to a) complement the student's major and b) form a coherent focus within anthropology. Possible concentrations include cultural studies, field work, evolution, archaeology, language. One introductory course taken NRO may count towards the correlate sequence if a letter grade is received. If a student receives a PA for an introductory course taken under the NRO option, that student must complete seven courses for an anthropology correlate sequence. No other required courses for the correlate sequence may be taken NRO.

Recommendations: The field experience is essential to the discipline of anthropology. Therefore, majors are urged to take at least one field work course or engage in field work during the summer.

Advisers: The department.

Vassar Program in Anthropological Experience

The department offers students the opportunity for fieldwork/research projects abroad in conjunction with established programs and in consultation with members of the department.


I. Introductory

100a. Archaeology (1)

In this course students learn how archaeologists dig up physical remains, tools, and houses and use these data to reconstruct and understand past cultures. The methods and theory behind archaeological recovery, problem solving, and interpretation are learned through the use of selected site reports, articles from all over the world, and hands on experimentation. Ms. Johnson.

120b. Human Origins (1)

This course introduces current and historical debates in the study of human evolution. Primate studies, genetics, the fossil record and paleoecology are drawn upon to address such issues as the origins of nature of human cognition, sexuality, and population variation. Ms. Pike-Tay.

140a or b. Cultural Anthropology (1)

An introduction to central concepts, methods, and findings in cultural anthropology, including culture, cultural difference, the interpretation of culture, and participant-observation. The course uses cross-cultural comparison to question scholarly and commonsense understandings of human nature. Topics may include sexuality, kinship, political and economic systems, myth, ritual and cosmology, and culturally varied ways of constructing race, gender, and ethnicity. Students undertake small research projects and explore different styles of ethnographic writing. Ms. Cohen.

150a or b. Linguistic Anthropology (1)

This course provides the student with a practical introduction to structuralist methods of linguistic analysis. There is a focus on both theoretical discussions about, and practical exercises in, the phonology, morphology, and syntax of natural human languages. In general, the course explores the way in which languages provide a shared means for representing the surrounding world. The different ways languages do this are explored in theory and practice. The course is intended both as a general introduction to linguistics and as a foundation for more advanced courses in related areas. The department.


II. Intermediate

201a. History of Anthropological Theory (1)

The aim of this course is to provide a broad overview of anthropological theory from its origins in the Enlightenment to the present day, and to explore the ways in which theory is integrally related to method, data and modes of ethnographic representation. Ms. Bianco.

212. World Musics (1)

(Same as Music 212)

231a. Topics in Archaeology (1)

An examination of topics of interest in current archaeological analysis. We examine the anthropological reasons for such analyses, how analysis proceeds, what has been discovered to date through such analyses, and what the future of the topic seems to be. Possible topics include tools and human behavior, lithic technology, the archaeology of death, prehistoric settlement systems, origins of material culture.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00a: The Archaeology of Death. Skeletal remains of past populations have been a focus of interest for physical anthropologists and medical practitioners since the nineteenth century. It was soon realized that the recovery of skeletal remains and the evaluation of their context required the skills and training of archaeologists. This course introduces students to (1) these archaeological recovery processes; (2) biomedical anthropology, the study of the biology of health and disease and the examination of genetic, and environmental [natural, cultural and social] factors that affect risk for specific diseases; (3) forensic anthropology, the study of identifying the dead and the cause of death; (4) paleopathology, the study of injury and disease in past human populations; (5) cross cultural attitudes toward death; and finally, (6) controversies between archaeologists and communities that arise when the spiritual value of ancestral bones is pitted against their scientific value. Ms. Pike-Tay.

[232a. Topics in Biological Anthropology] (1)

This course covers topics within the broad field of biological (or physical) anthropology ranging from evolutionary theory to the human fossil record to the identification of human skeletal remains from crime scenes and accidents. Bioanthropology conceptualizes cultural behavior as an integral part of our behavior as a species. Topics covered in this course may include human evolution, primate behavior, population genetics, human demography and variation, or forensic anthropology.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Not offered in 1999/00.

[235b. Area Studies in Prehistory] (1)

This course is a detailed, intensive investigation of archaeological remains from a particular geographic region of the world. The area investigated varies from year to year and includes such areas as Eurasia, North America, and the native civilizations of Central and South America.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Not offered in 1999/00.

240a or b. Area Studies in Ethnography (1)

The detailed, intensive study of societies within a particular geographic region of the world. The regions covered vary from year to year, and include such areas as Europe, Africa, the American Southwest, Central America, and Oceania.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00a: The Ethnography of North America. The study of "American Indians" shaped and defined the field of anthropology in America. This course focuses on the history of both Native Americans and their students over the last five centuries. The course begins with an overview of Native American cultures and then turns to an examination of trends in American anthropology as reflected in ethnographic studies of Native American peoples. Ms. Johnson.

Topics for 1999/00b: Ethnography of Africa. This course examines subSaharan Africa through an ethnographic lens. It is organized around case studies and films dealing with concepts of place and identity; history and memory; and expressive culture. Questions are raised about the ways in which African women and men have imagined and "invented" themselves, their neighborhoods, and their nations. Questions are also raised about the methods and theories that have informed ethnographic research on Africa, along with the kinds of narratives ethnographers produce. Ms. Bianco.

Ethnography of the Pacific. An introduction to the cultures and histories of peoples of the Pacific, and to important anthropological issues that have resulted from research in the Pacific. Using historical and ethnographic documents and films, the course explores the variety of Pacific societies, from the chiefly kingdoms of Polynesia to the egalitarian societies of Papua New Guinea with some attention as well to Asian labordiaspora communities in Hawaii and Fiji. The course analyzes the European cultural fascination with the "exotic" Pacific as well as Pacific islanders' own visions and versions of their history and goals in the encounter with European colonialism and Christianity, and in the postcolonial present. Ms. Kaplan.

242b. High Latitude Anthropology (1)

The High Latitudes presented humanity with an unusual challenges when they were settled in the late Pleistocene. Characterized by extreme cold, a dearth of plants and rich fauna on the land and in the seas, they called forth biological and cultural adaptations from their human inhabitants. This course concentrates on peoples of the far north, with comparative materials from the far south, looking at the myriad adjustments in technology, material culture, social structure, and ideology necessary to compete with this extreme environment. Ms. Johnson.

[245a. The Ethnographer's Craft] (1)

This course introduces students to the methods employed in constructing and analyzing ethnographic materials by combining readings, classroom lectures, and discussions with regular field exercises. Students will gain experience in participant-observation, fieldnote-taking, interviewing, survey sampling, domain analysis, symbolic analysis, quantitative analysis, the use of archival documents and contemporary media in ethnographic work, and how to formulate field problems. Attention is also be paid to current concerns with interpretation and modes of representation. Required for students intending to enroll in Anthropology 345. Ms. Cohen.

Not offered in 1999/00.

247a. Modern Social Theory: Marx, Durkheim, and Weber (1)

(Same as Sociology 247a)

250b. Topics in Language and Culture (1)

This course draws on a wide range of theoretical perspectives in exploring a particular problem, emphasizing the contribution of linguistics to issues that bear on research in a number of disciplines. The department.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00b: Discourses of Law and Power. The ways in which we understand "the Law" are powerfully influenced by the multiple discourses that surround its practice: live coverage (i.e. Court TV); television, internet, and journalistic news reporting; "law-fotainment" (i.e. People's Court, Judge Judy); docudrama; and fictitious portrayal in movies, novels, and television series. This course examines these multiple discourses of and about judiciary bodies, and studies how specialized vocabularies, rules that regulate the authority to speak o(to argue, to testify), and the formalized roles of participants (as judge, advocate, witness, expert, litigant, audience, reporter) combine to infuse the law with power, and render it a crucial means of maintaining (or challenging) the sociopolitical status quo. The course uses an anthropological and linguistic framework to examine three topic areas -- an anthropological studies of non-Western and Western courts; an examination of landmark legal proceedings in U.S. history and the mass-media and journalistic discourses that helped frame their public significance (cases include the Clarence Thomas hearings and President Clinton's impeachment); and legal discourse in American popular culture as portrayed in film, television, and the recent explosion in popularity of the "legal thriller."

253a. Language and Society (1)

This course surveys the analytical methods and substantive findings of research which explores the relations between language, society and the individual. At issue are the complex ways in which society and the individual are interrelated in the act of using language in particular speech communities. Topics explored, for example, include standard and nonstandard registers, code switching, and "biased" language. More generally, the course explores the origins and uses of socio-linguistic

practices and beliefs as they relate to both the politics of a society and the related political nature of social interactions in that society. Critical consideration is furthered by careful attention to cross-cultural variation and to the ways in which the uses of language are ideologically reinforced by different social institutions (such as the mass media). Such cross-cultural comparisons attempt to interpret materials taken from contemporary America. The Department.

Prerequisite: Anthropology 150 or by permission of instructor.

[255. Language and Gender] (1)

This course focuses on language as a cultural means of communication. Gender is approached both as a grammatical category and as a social category of person linked to different kinds of language use. The course explores the way in which language use and ideologies about language use both inform and are informed by gender. The investigation of language and gender and of gender-related social movements are explored from a cross-cultural perspective. The department.

Not offered in 1999/00.

270b. Current Themes in Anthropological Theory and Method (1)

The focus is upon particular cultural subsystems and their study in cross-cultural perspective. The subsystem selected varies from year to year. Examples include: kinship systems, political organizations, religious beliefs and practices, verbal and nonverbal communication.

May be repeated for credit if topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00b: Anthropology Goes to the Movies: Film Video & Ethnography.This course examines how film and video are used in ethnography as tools for study and as means of ethnographic documentary and representation. Topics covered include history and theory of visual anthropology, issues of representation and audience, indigenous film, and contemporary ethnographic approaches to popular media. Ms. Cohen.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus 3-hour preview laboratory.

[272b. Anthropological Approaches to Myth, Ritual and Symbol] (1)

What is the place of myth, ritual, and symbol in human social life? Do symbols reflect reality, or create it? This course considers answers to these questions in social theory (Marx, Freud, and Durkheim) and in major anthropological approaches (functionalism, structuralism, and symbolic anthropology). It then reviews current debates in interpretive anthropology about order and change, power and resistance, and the role of ritual in the making of history. Ethnographic studies include Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, sixteenth-century Italy, the Seneca Indians, and the U.S. Ms. Kaplan.

Not offered in 1999/00.

274a. Anthropology of Art (l)

This course develops a cultural framework for the investigation of artistic expression by drawing upon anthropological approaches, semiotics and aesthetics to examine art and culture. Topics such as the origins of art and symbolic expression in human prehistory; Western representations of nonWestern art; connoisseurship; the market economy, and the categories of "fine art," "tourist art," and "graffiti art" are addressed. Ms. Pike-Tay.

286a. Plants in a Human Environment: The Paleoethnobotany of Eastern North America (1)

(Same as American Culture 286, Biology 286, and ESDP 286) This course focuses on Eastern North America, an area of complex and varied human/plant relationships in which exciting research is currently underway, particularly on the processes of domestication. Students are introduced to the biochemical, botanical, archaeological and ethnohistorical methods used in studying past relationships between people and plants. Through learning the principles and processes of ethnobotany as applied to Eastern North America, the students will be able to generalize to other areas and times. Ms. Johnson, Mr. Schlessman.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus 3-hour laboratory.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group field projects or internships. May be elected during the college year or during the summer. Open to all students. The department.

297a or b. Reading Course in Archaeological Field Methods (1/2)

Ms. Johnson.

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group project of reading or research. May be elected during the college year or during the summer. The department.


III. Advanced

300a or b. Senior Thesis (1)

The department.

301a. Senior Seminar (1)

A close examination of current theory in anthropology, oriented around a topic of general interest, such as history and anthropology, the writing of ethnography, or the theory of practice. Students write a substantial paper applying one or more of the theories discussed in class. Readings change from year to year. Ms. Goldstein.

305a or b. Topics in Advanced Physical Anthropology (1)

An examination of such topics as primate structure and behavior, the Plio-Pleistocene hominids, the final evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens, forensic anthropology, and human biological diversity.

Prerequisite: Anthropology 232 or by permission of instructor.

May be repeated for credit if topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00a: Primate Studies. The major part of this course provides an in-depth review of the evolutionary history, zoogeography, comparative anatomy, biomolecular relatedness, behavioral ecology, and social organization of nonhuman primates. Secondarily, it considers why, for more than a century, monkeys and apes have been given special status as mirrors of humanity's pre-rational and precultural origins. The history of primate studies is considered in light of the competing objectives of disciplines ranging from Psychology to Sociology to Cultural Anthropology to Paleoanthropology. Ms. Pike-Tay.

Topic for 1999/00b: The PlioPleistocene Hominids. At some point during the Pliocene Epoch, the hominoids split into branches which became today's humans, chimpanzees and gorillas. We begin by examining the early hominoids and the paleoecological and behavioral factors which influenced this evolutionary event and then move to examining the subsequent evolutionary path of the hominids. Major focus is on the australopithecines and early hominines, the theoretical and political bases and ramifications of various taxonomic schemes and the technicalities of hominid phylogeny. Ms. Johnson.

[310a. Consumer Culture] (1)

An examination of classic and recent work on the culture of consumption. Among the topics we study are gender and consumption, the creation of value, commodity fetishism, the history of the department store, and the effect of Western goods on non-Western societies. Ms. Goldstein.

Not offered in 1999/00.

331b. Seminar in Archaeological Method and Theory (1)

(Same as Science, Technology and Society 331) The theoretical underpinnings of anthropological archaeology and the use of theory in studying particular bodies of data. The focus ranges from examination of published datacovering topics such as architecture and society, the origin of complex society, the relationship between technology and ecologyto more laboratory-oriented examination of such topics as archaeometry, archaeozoology, or lithic technology.

Prerequisites: 200-level work in archaeology or by permission of instructor.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00b: Architecture and the Built Environment. Exploration of the major theoretical approaches to the study of architecture, settlement patterns, and other features of the built environment. Examples range from how animals other than humans structure their environments, the spaces for living and dying built by human ancestors, prehistoric and medieval monumental buildings, contemporary cities, and "gendered" office designs. Cultural materialism and cultural ecology in which technology, ecology, demography and economics are viewed as key variables affecting human behavior; semiotics in which the built environment is viewed as a system of meaningful signs, similar to and different from other forms of human symbolic communication; as well as aspects of geographical theory are among the perspectives applied to understanding the built environment. Ms. Pike-Tay.

[345a or b. Anthropological Experience] (21/2)

Ethnographic work in selected areas of the world under approved supervision. The student spends six months under an approved field supervisor in a location selected in conjunction with his/her supervisor and with the approval of the department. The student learns how to record and order data, interview informants, reformulate field problems, devise suitable methodologies, write field reports and field summaries. Field work may be undertaken either from June to January or from January to June, the option chosen depends on the area of the world to which the student is going, the field plans of the supervisor, and the course plan of the student. The department.

Permission of the department.

Not offered in 1999/00.

346a or b-347a or b. Field Reports (1/2)

Upon return to campus from the Anthropological Experience (345a or b), a brief Preliminary Report (346a or b) must be submitted one week after commencement of classes. The Final Report (347a or b) will consist of a detailed ethnographic description and analysis of the field data. The department.

Prerequisite: Anthropology 345a or b.

Permission of the department.

351b. Linguistic Seminar (1)

This course provides the advanced student with an intensive review of theoretical issues and practical problems in specific areas of linguistic research. Emphasizing linguistic modes of analysis and argumentation, each topic culminates in independent research projects. The department.

Prerequisites: Previous coursework in linguistics or by permission of instructor.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00: Verbal Art and Ways of Speaking. This course explores the contributions of linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, communications, and folkloristics to the examination of how, when, and why one "Does things with words" in both marked performance contexts and everyday interactions. The course begins by reviewing the theoretical and methodological issues raised in the 1960s and 70s when the ethnography of speaking/communication emerged as a prolific interdisciplinary research field to address a broad range of language practices across world cultures in the work of Gumprez, Hymes, Scherzer and Bauman. We then examine how forms of verbal arts express, enact, and produce cultural meanings. Attention is given to the poetics and aesthetics, as well as compositional techniques, of performance and conversation. Additionally, verbal artistry is examined within its multiple social and historical contexts, ranging from its immediate social situations of enactment to international political-economic contexts. Special topics to be considered include: theories of multiple narrative versions; the construction of place; chronotopy; the role of verbal art in language acquisition and socialization; gendered performances; and multicultural communicative encounters.

362a. Male and Female in Anthropological Perspective (1)

The course begins with an overview of the position of men and women according to recent anthropological theory, and in so doing examines how including women affects mainstream anthropological theory. The course compares the classification of sex differences and images of men and women with their social roles. Representations of women in popular culture are studied. Ms. Bianco.

Topic for 1999/00a: Women in Medicine. This course examines the gendered dimensions of medicine, with particular emphasis on women. It uses ethnographies and historical studies to explore "women's" health issues and the changing roles of women within the field of medicine and its allied occupations. Questions will be raised about the cultural construction and experience of illness, treatment, and medical knowledge. Ms. Bianco.

366a or b. Problems in Cultural Analysis (1)

Covers a variety of issues current in modern anthropology in terms of ongoing discussion among scholars of diverse opinions rather than a rigid body of fact and theory.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 1999/00a: Tourism. Recreational travel to distant places as a means of experiencing another culture is becoming big business as tourism achieves the status of one of the leading growth industries worldwide. This course explores this trend with particular emphasis on the history of tourism, the role played by tourism in the process of development, the relationship between tourism and constructions of natural and cultural identities and negotiations for power, as well as the concept of the "tourist" as it applies to the experience of recreational travellers and ethnographic study. Making use of ethnographies, novels, essays, historical travel journals, advertisements and travel brochures, and local accounts, students prepare indepth analyses of an aspect of tourism. Ms. Cohen.

Topic for 1999/00b: Asian Diasporas. (Same as Asian Studies 382 below)

382b. Asian Diasporas (1)

(Same as Geography, Asian Studies 382) Focusing on Asian diasporas, this course engages the current surge of interest in diaspora studies from both anthropological and geographical perspectives. Attention is given to issues of colonial and post-colonial struggles, formation and transformation of ethnic identities, roles of middlemen minorities, and nationalism and transnationalism of Asian diasporas. The principal cases are drawn from East Asian and South Asian communities in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the U.S. Students write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choice. Ms. Kaplan, Ms. Zhou.

384a. The Museum, The Archive, and The Ruin: Conserving the Past in Modern Europe (1)

(Same as Art 384) Ranging from the archive to the monument, from the genre painting to the newspaper illustration, and from the private museum to the universal exposition, this course examines how the historical past is reconstructed, represented and given visual and literary form as an object of knowledge in modern Europe. With a focus on the metropolitan cultures of Paris, Rome, and London in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the course is concerned with different formations of museological and commemorative space (poetic antiquarian, natural historical, national collective). Ms. Goldstein, Mr. Lukacher.

By special permission.

385b. Semiotic Technologies from Sanskrit to Windows (1)

Against premises that technology concerns the world of things and that "natural language" exists in a domain apart , this course reconsiders signs, intrinsically, as made and managed artifacts. This course draws from readings ranging from an ancient grammarian concerned with cultivated (i.e. Sanskrit) language (Patanjali) to a contemporary political-economist concerned with global information networks (Castells) in order to better define the questions for an anthropology or information. We review important approaches to orality, literacy, and video media (Levi-Strauss, Goody, Derrida: Benjamin, Appadurai) and to print capitalism, language and nationalism (Anderson, Eugen Weber, Darnton). The course challenges the premise that semiotic technologies begin with the things produced by inscription, recording, and/or mechanical reproduction of signs. Emphasis is placed on the very different formalizations of language in ancient China and ancient India, and on the rise to dominance in each of status-groups of intellectuals (Confucians, Brahmins, many heterodoxies) enabled by their attainments in the management of signs. The course finishes with a case study of Linux versus Microsoft and copyright versus "copyleft" in open source programming controversies at present.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Individual or group project of reading or research. May be elected during the college year or during the summer. The department.