Anthropology Department

Chair: Anne Pike-Tay; Professors: Colleen Ballerino Cohen, Judith L. Goldsteinab, Martha Kaplana, Anne Pike-Tay; Faculty Phased Retirement: Lucy Lewis Johnson; Associate Professors: Tom Porcello, David Tavárez; Assistant Professor: Candice M Lowe Swift; Visiting Assistant Professor: Saúl Mercado; Post Doctoral Fellow: Sara Lynae Gonzalez.

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 Anthropology 140, 201, 301, and two additional 300-level Anthropology seminars. It is required that students take Anthropology 201 by the end of their junior year and highly recommended that they take it in their sophomore year. Anthropology 140 is a prerequisite or co-requisite for Anthropology 201. Students are required to take courses in at least three of the four fields of anthropology—archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistics. Students are also required to achieve familiarity with the peoples and cultures of at least two areas of the world. This requirement can be met by taking any two courses in the range from Anthropology 235-244. 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. 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 fieldwork course, to engage in field research during the summer, and/or to undertake independent fieldwork under a study away program.

Anthropological Research Experience: The department also offers students the opportunity for independent fieldwork/research projects through several of its courses and in conjunction with on-going faculty research projects. Opportunities for laboratory research, which is also critical to anthropological inquiry, are available in our archaeology, biological anthropology, sound analysis, and digital video editing labs.

Advisers: The department.

I. Introductory

100a. Archaeology (1)

Archaeologists study the material evidence of past human cultures. 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. The department.

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 and nature of human cognition, sexuality, and population variation. Ms. Pike-Tay.

140a and 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. Lowe, Mr. Mercado.

150a and b. Linguistics and 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, syntax, and semantics of natural human languages. Additional topics include: the acquisition of linguistic and communicative competence; the relationship between human language and other animal communication systems; and cultural and social dimensions of language variation (including the study of regional and social dialects, code switching and mixing, speaking styles, registers, and idiolects). The course is intended both as the College's general introduction to formal linguistics and as a foundation for more advanced courses in related areas. Mr. Tavárez, Mr. Mercado.

II. Intermediate

201b. Anthropological Theory (1)

In this course we explore the history of intellectual innovations that make anthropology distinctive among the social sciences. We seek to achieve an analytic perspective on the history of the discipline and also to consider the social and political contexts, and consequences, of anthropology's theory. While the course is historical and chronological in organization, we read major theoretical and ethnographic works that form the background to debates and issues in contemporary anthropology. Ms. Kaplan.

Prerequisite or co-requisite: Anthropology 140.

212b. World Musics (1)

(Same as Music 212) Ms. Chacko.

Prerequisite: Music 136, or by permission of instructor.

231. 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.

Prerequisite: prior coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

232b. 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.

Topic for 2010/11b: The Anthropology of Death. Skeletal remains of past populations have been a focus of interest for biological anthropologists, archaeologists, and medical practitioners since the nineteenth century. This course introduces students to (1) biomedical archaeology: the study of health and disease, and the demographic, genetic, and environmental [natural, cultural and social] factors that affect a population's risk for specific diseases; (2) forensic anthropology: the study of identifying the dead and the cause of death; (3) paleopathology: the study of injury and disease in ancient skeletons; and (4) cross-cultural attitudes toward death, including such things as issues of grave goods and monuments, and controversies that arise between bio-anthropologists, archaeologists and communities when the spiritual value of ancestral bones is pitted against their scientific value. Ms. Pike-Tay.

Two 75-minute periods.

Prerequisites: Anthropology 120; 100 or permission of instructor.

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.

Prerequisites: Prior coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

240a or b. Cultural Localities (1)

Detailed study of the cultures of people living in a particular area of the world, including their politics, economy, worldview, religion, expressive practices, and historical transformations. Included is a critical assessment of different approaches to the study of culture. Areas covered vary from year to year and may include Europe, Africa, North America, and India.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

Topic for 2010/11a: Mesoamerican Worlds. (Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 240) An intensive survey of the culture, history, and politics of several neighboring indigenous societies that have deep historical and social ties to territory now located in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. This course explores the emergence of powerful Mesoamerican states with a cosmology tied to warfare and human sacrifice, the reconfiguration of these societies under the twin burdens of Christianity and colonial rule, and the strategies that some of these communities adopted in order to preserve local notions of identity, and to cope with or resist incorporation into nation-states. The course also introduces students to a selection of historical and religious texts produced by indigenous authors. After a consideration of socio-religious hierarchies, and writing and calendrical systems in Precolumbian Mesoamerica, the course focuses on adaptations resulting from interaction with an evolving colonial order. The course also investigates the relations between native communities and the Mexican and Guatemalan states, and examines the representation of indigenous identities, the rapport among environmental policies, globalization, and local agricultural practices, and indigenous autonomy in the wake of the EZLN rebellion. Students proficient in Spanish are encouraged to use original sources for course projects. Mr. Tavarez.

Topic for 2010/11b: Anthropology of the Indian Ocean. (Same as Africana Studies 240) This course is centered on the multiple polities and peoples of the Indian Ocean. Using historical works, ethnographies, and film, we explore the complex trade networks and historical processes that have shaped the region and focus on its emergence as a sphere of intense cross-cultural interaction. The second half of the course utilizes ethnography and theory to critically examine the ways in which "Africa" and "the Orient", as representations and as zones of contact, participated in the construction of European cultures and economies. Although the course concentrates on islands and on southeast and northern Africa, coastal areas of the northeast Indian Ocean are considered as well. Topics include: labor, trade and race relations; conceptualizations of time, space and culture as they intersect with the expansion and development of "Europe"; religion and subaltern feminisms; globalization and creolization. Ms. Lowe.

241a. The Caribbean (1)

An overview of the cultures of the Caribbean, tracing the impact of slavery and colonialism on contemporary experiences and expressions of Caribbean identity. Using ethnographies, historical accounts, literature, music, and film, the course explores the multiple meanings of ‘Caribbean,' as described in historical travel accounts and contemporary tourist brochures, as experienced in daily social, political, and economic life, and as expressed through cultural events such as calypso contests and Festival, and cultural-political movements such as Rastafarianism. Although the course deals primarily with the English-speaking Caribbean, it also includes materials on the French and Spanish speaking Caribbean and on diasporic Caribbean communities in the U.S. and U.K. Ms. Cohen.

Prerequisite: Previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

245a. The Ethnographer's Craft (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 245) This course introduces students to the methods employed in constructing and analyzing ethnographic materials through readings, classroom lectures, and discussions with regular field exercises. Students gain experience in participant-observation, fieldnote-taking, interviewing, survey sampling, symbolic analysis, the use of archival documents, and the use of contemporary media. Attention is also given to current concerns with interpretation and modes of representation. Throughout the semester, students practice skills they learn in the course as they design, carry out, and write up original ethnographic projects. Ms. Lowe Seift.

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

(Same as Sociology 247a) Ms. Moon.

250a or b. Language, Culture, and Society (1)

This course draws on a wide range of theoretical perspectives in exploring a particular problem, emphasizing the contribution of linguistics and linguistic anthropology to issues that bear on research in a number of disciplines. At issue in each selected course topic are the complex ways in which cultures, societies, and individuals are interrelated in the act of using language within and across particular speech communities.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: Anthropology 150 or permission of instructor.

Topic for 2010/11a: Ideology, Power, and Language. What is the relationship between communicative practices, ideology, and power? Our first task is to excavate and articulate key theories of ideology and power from the history of western thought. Secondly, we investigate the matrix between power and language as an entry into language ideology, a prevalent theoretical paradigm in the linguistic anthropology of recent decades. Mr. Mercado.

Topic for 2010/11b: Semiotics and Mediation. This course draws from a broad range of literature from social sciences and the humanities in order to examine the semiotic fundamentals of human language. Special emphasis is placed on issues surrounding language politics, discourse analysis, and semiotics. Students spend a significant portion of the semester developing a semester long independent research projects that explore the mediation of language in contemporary multi-media contexts. Mr. Mercado.

255b. Language and Gender (1)

How do gender identities influence language use, language and power, and ideas about language? This course presents a systematic survey of anthropological and linguistic approaches to this set of questions. The course is organized as a cross-cultural survey of several approaches—from ground-breaking feminist linguistic anthropology to contemporary debates on gender as performance, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual/transgender identities, and gender, class and hegemony—that investigate the multiple rapports among gender identities, socialization, language use in private and public spheres, social norms, and gendered forms of authority. Students have an opportunity to learn about linguistic anthropology methods and design a research project. Mr. Tavárez.

259. Soundscapes: Anthropology of Music (1)

(Same as Music 259) This course investigates a series of questions about the relationship between music and the individuals and societies that perform and listen to it. In other words, music is examined and appreciated as a form of human expression existing within and across specific cultural contexts. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the social life of music, addressing historical themes and debates within multiple academic fields via readings, recordings, and films. Mr. Rios.

Prerequisites: prior coursework in Anthropology or Music, or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2011-12.

260a. Current Themes in Anthropological Theory and Method (1)

The focus is upon particular cultural sub-systems and their study in cross-cultural perspective. The sub-system 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 the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

Topic for 2010/11a: Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Food. Considering the wide array of nutritional possibilities, why do people select certain food sources and reject others? Why is there an abundance of food in some societies and a dearth in others? Food is embedded in symbolic, political and economic systems; it is an index of our histories, geographies, belief systems, social statuses, as well as our national culture and global positioning. In this course, we explore the cultural and political economy of food. We examine its production, transformation within and across nation-states, and consumption. We cover such topics as food taboos, the relationship between food and economies, "fast" and "slow" food movements, and the importance of food in the construction of gender, national and religious distinction. In addition to class meetings, weekly field trips are required. Ms. Lowe.

262. 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, and the U.S. Ms. Kaplan.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

263b. Anthropology Goes to the Movies: Film, Video, and Ethnography (1)

(Same as Media Studies 263) 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: previous coursework in Anthropology or Film or Media Studies or by permission of instructor.

Two 75-minute class periods, plus 3-hour preview lab.

264. Anthropology of Art (1)

The Anthropology of Art explores the practices of producing and interpreting art. The course moves from classic analyses of the form and function of art in the work of Franz Boas, through ethnoaesthetics, to the developing world market in the art objects traditionally studied by anthropologists. Among the topics explored in the course are connoisseurship and taste, authenticity, "primitive art," and the ethnographic museum. Ms. Goldstein.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

266. Indigenous and Oppositional Media (1)

(Same as Media Studies 266) As audiovisual and digital media technologies proliferate and become more accessible globally, they become important tools for indigenous peoples and activist groups in struggles for recognition and self-determination, for articulating community concerns and for furthering social and political transformations. This course explores the media practices of indigenous peoples and activist groups, and through this exploration achieves a more nuanced and intricate understanding of the relation of the local to the global. In addition to looking at the films, videos, radio and television productions, and Internet interventions of indigenous media makers and activists around the world, the course looks at oppositional practices employed in the consumption and distribution of media. Course readings are augmented by weekly screenings and demonstrations of media studied, and students explore key theoretical concepts through their own interventions, making use of audiovisual and digital technologies. Ms. Cohen.

285a. Paleoanthropology of East Asia and Australia (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 285a) Using the theories and methods of biological and medical anthropology this course reviews the major themes of research in the paleoanthropology and prehistory of East Asia and Australia. It outlines colonization of these geographic regions by human ancestors and early modern humans. It presents evidence for highly complex hunter-gatherer social systems across East Asia and Australia, followed by the expansion of economies based on domesticated plants and animals. Perspectives on human health and disease are emphasized throughout the course. Ms. Pike-Tay.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1.5)

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

297b. 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.

301b. 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. Kaplan.

305a. Topics in Advanced Biological 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.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: Anthropology 232 or by permission of the instructor.

Topic for 2010/11a: Debates in Human Evolution. This course provides in-depth survey of over one hundred years of debate surrounding the designation and nature of human ancestors; the Australopithecines, Homo erectus, Archaic Homo sapiens including the Neandertals, and the earliest anatomically modern humans. Current debates draw upon genetic as well as fossil evidence. Ms. Pike-Tay.

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

The theoretical underpinnings of anthropological archaeology and the use of theory in studying particular bodies of data. The focus ranges from examination of published data covering topics such as architecture and society, the origin of complex society, the relationship between technology and ecology to 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 2010/11b: Technology, Ecology and Society. (Same as Science, Technology and Society 331 and Environmental Studies 331) Examines the interactions between human beings and their environment as mediated by technology focusing on the period from the earliest evidence of toolmaking approximately up to the Industrial Revolution. Student research projects often bring the course up to the present. Includes experimentation with ancient technologies and field trips to local markets and craft workshops. Ms. Johnson.

351a. or b. Language and Expressive Culture (1)

This seminar provides the advanced student with an intensive investigation of theoretical and practical problems in specific areas of research that relate language and linguistics to expressive activity. Although emphasizing linguistic modes of analysis and argumentation, the course is situated at the intersection of important intellectual crosscurrents in the arts, humanities, and social sciences that focus on how culture is produced and projected through not only verbal, but also musical, material, kinaesthetic, and dramatic arts. Each topic culminates in independent research projects.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in linguistics or by permission of instructor.

Topic for 2010/11a: Advanced Seminar in Plurilingualism. (Same as Latin American & Latino American Studies 351) In this course students intensively examine contact linguistics, code-switching, and the ethnography of multilingualism. Several languages are examined with an emphasis on Spanish-English contact in the US. Students learn how to analyze plurilingual contexts through their own ethnographic participant-observation. Topics include (but are not limited to): youth language, code-switching, sociolinguistic methods, the English Only debate, US dialects, Spanglish, and language policy and politics. Mr. Mercado.

Topic for 2010/11b: Indigenous Literatures of the Americas. (Same as Latin American & Latino American Studies 351) This course considers a selection of creation narratives, historical accounts, poems, and other genres produced by indigenous authors from Pre-Columbian times to the present, using historical, linguistic and ethnographic approaches. We examine the use of non-alphabetic and alphabetic writing systems, study poetic and rhetorical devices, and examine indigenous historical consciousness and sociopolitical and gender dynamics through the vantage point of these works. Other topics include language revitalization, translation issues, and the rapport between linguistic structure and literary form. The languages and specific works to be examined will be selected in consultation with course participants; they may include English translations of works in Nahuatl, Yucatec and Quich?? Maya, Quechua, Inuit, and/or other American indigenous languages. Mr. Tavarez.

360b. Problems in Cultural Analysis (1)

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

May be repeated for credit if topic has changed.

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

Topic for 2010/11 b: Global Diasporas. (Same as International Studies 360) This course highlights aspects of globalization that put waves of people, ideas and money on the move, paying specific attention to diaspora and migration. Theories of globalization, diaspora, and transnationalism provide students with frameworks for analyzing what happens when people move across state boundaries, and for considering the "push and pull" factors influencing movements from the South to North, and from East to West and vice versa. The use of ethnography, film, and the novel help students better understand how such flows are experienced locally, how connections across space and time are sustained, and how "culture" is continually (re)made in and through movement and as a consequence of contact rather than isolation. The question that animates and organizes our inquiries is: How do global flows of human interaction challenge or complicate our understandings of such constructs as "culture", "race" and "nation-state?" Ms. Lowe.

361. 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.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

363. Nations, Globalization, and Post-Coloniality (1)

(Same as International Studies 363) How do conditions of globalization and dilemmas of post-coloniality challenge the nation-state? Do they also reinforce and reinvent it? This course engages three related topics and literatures; recent anthropology of the nation-state; the anthropology of colonial and post-colonial societies; and the anthropology of global institutions and global flows. Ms. Kaplan.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

364a. Tourism (1)

Recreational travel to distant places to experience other cultures is becoming big business as tourism achieves the status of one of the leading growth industries worldwide. This course explores this trend, emphasizing the history of tourism, the role played by and the impact of tourism in the process of development, the relationship between tourism and constructions of national and cultural identities and negotiations for power, and the concept "tourist" as it applies to the experience of recreational travelers and ethnographic study and representation alike. Students use ethnographic case studies, novels, essays, historical travel journals, travel brochures, advertisements, and personal narratives, to prepare in-depth analyses and accounts of tourism. Ms. Cohen.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2009/10.

380a. Sound Seminar (1)

(Same as Media Studies 380a) This seminar is a theoretical and practical examination of the acoustic, perceptual, and cultural dimensions of aural phenomena. Topics covered include: the cultural history of sound; architectural acoustics; ethnographic and documentary sound recording; "soundscape" work that sits at the intersection of environmentalism and art; and field recording techniques. A major goal of the course is to use the readings as a background to the collaborative construction of a Mid-Hudson Sound Map. Students build a Google Map-based interface and repository for recordings (oral histories, ambient sounds, etc.) and make audio field recordings at multiple sites throughout the Poughkeepsie and Mid-Hudson region during the semester. The goal of the map project is to establish the beginnings of an aural exploration of the history, culture, politics, arts, and environment of Vassar's larger environs by creating and providing initial auditory content for a taggable system that will become the basis of an ongoing and expanding documentary sound map project. Mr. Porcello.

Permission of instructor

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