Anthropology 170b: Chinese Culture, Society, and History
This course examines basic institutions in traditional Chinese society and their modern transformations. It focuses on the issue of how the ancient philosophical roots, revised through the centuries, form part of a cultural repertoire which continues to inform contemporary social experience. The readings are drawn from several disciplines — anthropology, history, literature, sociology, and political science. The course illustrates the necessity of a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of culture and history. Topics covered include Chinese kinship, women and marriage, popular religion and rituals, state culture and political control, rural and urban political economies, peasant rebellion, intellectual soul-searching, socialist revolution and the post-Mao reforms, and China’s new global engagements.
Anthropology 342/542a: Markets and Cultures: Asia Connected through Time and Space
The course focuses on historical and contemporary movements of people, goods, cultural meanings and imaginaries that have connected an “Asian” region. It builds on the scholarship of Jack Goody, Fernand Braudel, K. N. Chaudhuri and Takeshi Hamashita and uses an ocean-based perspective to highlight inter-connected, multi-ethnic commercial nodes. It captures the energies of historical agents of trading empires, religious traditions, colonial encounters, and cultural fusion when trans-regional institutions and local societies intersected. The contemporary global highlights the time-space compression of volatile finance flows that connect East Asia and the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Africa, and examines the cultures of capital and market in the neoliberal and post-socialist worlds.
The course uses interdisciplinary materials to rethink 20th century conceptualizations of Asia that are land-based and state-centered. Trading ports and global finance centers are analyzed as meaningful localities constructed by overlapping hierarchies of economic interests, cultural resource and political maneuver. Using well grounded historical and ethnographic works, the course explores anthropological concerns centering on culture, history, power and place.
Anthropology 362/562: Unity and Diversity in Chinese Culture and History
This seminar explores the processes by which the meaning of being Chinese has been created and transformed through the centuries. It is designed for graduate students who have a research interest in a complex, state agrarian society such as China. The seminar aims to familiarize students with major works in Chinese anthropology and their intellectual connections with studies in general anthropology and history. In the discussions on kinship and marriage, the hierarchy of marketing systems, rituals and popular religion, ethnicity and state-making, the underlying tension of regional cultures and a unifying identity is explored. The decades of socialist transformations and their cultural impact on present day China are also examined.
Anthropology 415/515: Culture, History, Power and Representation
This seminar critically explores how anthropologists use contemporary social theories to formulate the junctures of meaning, interest, and power. It thus aims to integrate symbolic, economic, and political perspectives on culture and social process. If culture refers to the understandings and meanings by which people live, then it constitutes the conventions of social life that are themselves produced in the flux of social life, invented by human activity. Theories of culture must therefore illuminate this problematic of agency and structure. They must show how social action can both reproduce and transform the structures of meaning, the conventions of social life.
Even as such a position becomes orthodox in anthropology, it raises serious questions about the possibilities for ethnographic practice and theoretical analysis. How, for example, are such conventions generated and transformed where there are wide differentials of power and unequal access to resources? What becomes of our notions of humans as active agents of culture when the possibilities for maneuver and the margin of action for many are overwhelmed by the constraints of a few? How do elites — ritual elders, Brahmanic priests, manorial lords, factory-managers — secure compliance to a normative order? How are expressions of submission and resistance woven together in a fabric of cultural understandings? How does a theory of culture enhance our analyses of the reconstitution of political authority from traditional kingship to modern nation-state, the encapsulation of pre-capitalist modes of production, and the attempts to convert “primordial sentiments” to “civic loyalties”? How do transnational fluidities and diasporic connections make instruments of nation-states contingent? These questions are some of the questions we immediately face when probing the intersections of culture, politics and representation, and they are the issues that lie behind this seminar.
Anthropology 414/575: Hubs, Mobilities and World Cities
This seminar examines urban life at different times and places: Pre-modern Islamic world, late imperial China, Europe and America in modern transition, and the contemporary world. Using literary works, historical studies and ethnographies, it hopes to capture the diverse responses and shared ambivalence of those who are drawn into accelerating and compelling processes characterized by connectivity, differentiation and disjuncture.
It scrutinizes analytical tools for the interdisciplinary study of social, cultural change. Topics of special interest are: cities as economic nodes and as cultural arenas, merchants, port cities and colonial states, experiencing capitalism, the languages of class, gender and ethnicity, the myth and rituals of marginality, mass society and metropolitan life, global landscapes of power and citizenship.
Anthropology 502a: Research in Sociocultural Anthropology: Design and Methods
The seminar focuses on designing ethnographic research. It also reflects on the nature of anthropology as a fieldwork-oriented discipline, and addresses concerns on ethnographic authority and local knowledge. Basic issues to explore are: multiple field-sites, power and voice in national and transnational contexts, mass culture and media competition for interpretive authority, ethical dilemmas and practical strategies in a time of transition. The seminar takes students through the process of identifying relevant issues and designing research projects. It familiarizes them with the manifold challenges of a reflexive disciplinary identity and methodology.