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Courses Offered 2010-2011

Undergraduate Courses

Anthropology of Tourism (AP/ANTH 3120 6.0)

Disneyland and the Pyramids, Yosemite National Park and the Serengeti, The West Edmonton Mall and the Royal Ontario Museum. Why are such varied places major sites in the western tourist imagination?  What exactly are modern tourists looking for as they travel "into the heart of Africa" or up the Sepik River of New Guinea, and what effect does the presence of these guests have on the host societies? What is the allure of “sun, sex, sea, and sand” and who are the people who consume these sights? How is international tourism changing in the early twenty-first century and what are the implications of these changes for local cultures throughout the world?  These are just some of the questions and issues that this course addresses. The first half of the course considers approaches taken by social scientists to the study of 'The Tourist' in an attempt to understand some of the reasons behind the desire to travel and/or sightsee. In this context we consider the cultural construction of meaning through modern tourist practice - focusing on theories of authenticity and the “tourist gaze,” theories of the ‘postmodern’ tourist that examine commodification and desire as central to late 20c and early 21c tourist practice, and recent approaches to tourism as an embodied experience. The second half of the course shifts to a consideration of the tourist site, looking at what happens when we travel. In this section of the course we explore: 1) approaches to the impact of tourism and commodification on expressive culture in local communities; 2) the issue of tourism and relations of power, the global inequalities that underlie tourism, with a focus on sex tourism in the Dominican Republic; 3) the promise (?)of alternative tourism; and the role of tourism in the construction of politically and economically salient forms of local and national identity. 


Discourses of Colonialism (AP/ANTH 3030 3.0)

Explorer’s accounts of cannibalism – late 19c census records of African villages – early 20c sanitation policies on the island of Fiji – the 1989-90 exhibit Into the Heart of Africa at the Royal Ontario Museum – the contemporary film The Gods Must Be Crazy.  What do all of these things have in common?  They are all discourses of colonialism.  They are all part of a process by which much of the world has been, and still is, imagined and represented as an object of Euro-American expansion and control.  This course examines the role played by these and other practices and events in the formation of those attitudes and stereotypes that shape political and economic domination. We begin this course by exploring the development of an “imperial culture” in European art, literature, and science, focusing on how these cultural forms impelled the expansion of European empire through their representation of non-European peoples as requiring domination.  We then go on to consider the importance of European modernist images of salvation, education, labour, health, and gender in the establishment and maintenance of a colonial order.  In this context we will look at the role of such images in the control and surveillance of “native” and European populations, as well as the question of native agency in colonial society. We end the course with a consideration of postcolonial condition as we consider the emergence of ‘alternative modernities’ in previously colonized areas of the world, nd examine the colonial experience as reflected on by the previously colonized, and consider the continuing role of colonial discourses in Euro-American popular culture.

Graduate Courses

Theory in Anthropology (AP/ANTH 5010 3.0)

This course is the second part of the Anthropology Department's required Master’s course on Anthropological Theory.  The aim of this half of the course is to focus on contemporary trends in anthropological theory, and to blend our consideration of theory with ethnography.  In order to provide some coherence to our discussions, we will be focusing on a number of theoretical, or grounding, concepts that are central to contemporary anthropological thought: Power, Agency, Subject, Globalization, and Violence.  These will not be dealt with as distinct concepts.  Rather you will find that they emerge in varying contexts and with differing significances throughout the course readings.  In order to create some kind of logical flow within the course, we will be taking these concepts up sequentially – as a unifying theme for each of the four sections of the course.  Each of these sections will be concerned with a particular set of ‘grounding concepts’ and, for each section, we will first consider relevant theoretical commentary and critique related to these concepts and then consider a related ethnography. 


Other Courses

Undergraduate Courses

One World, Many Peoples (AP/ANTH 2100 6.0)

The formation and consequences of an increasingly interdependent world amidst widespread diversity of society and culture is the theme of this course. We begin with an historical overview of the creation of this interdependence, looking at European colonial expansion from the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Industrial Revolution. We then go on to examine more closely the processes of 19th and 20th century colonialism that insured the expansion of a capitalist market and that fueled the forces of globalization in our contemporary world. Once we have gained some theoretical and historical insight into the creation of global economic, political, and cultural interdependence, we will focus on contemporary issues raised by the conditions of this interdependency. In this context we will look at development policies and their consequences at the local level, the links between state formation and implications of cultural forms of resistance to internal colonialism, the consequences of globalization for marginalized populations, and the politics of resistance to contemporary global forces.

Re-Conceiving Kinship: Anthropological Perspectives on Relatedness (AP/ANTH 4120 3.0)

Kinship is an aspect of human society that we generally take for granted, as we assume that it is an expression of naturally occurring relationships deriving from the biological facts of reproduction and the social recognition of those facts.  These ideas have shaped the study of kinship in anthropology since its early beginnings, leading many students of anthropology to wonder why they should even bother learning about a subject that is so self-evident.  But is it really?  Is it the case that kinship is nothing more than the social manifestation of naturally occurring relationships?  In the last decade or so anthropologists have begun to rethink our assumptions about the nature of kinship, questioning these very basic assumptions and proposing new ways of studying and thinking about kinship in anthropology.  Drawing on the cultural critique of North American kinship beliefs and influenced by feminist theory, gender studies, and the emergence of new reproductive technologies, contemporary anthropology is asking innovative questions about what kinship means, what it does, and how it effects and shapes our daily lives. This course examines this new direction in kinship studies, asking students to rethink their assumptions about the nature of kinship both in their own society and cross-culturally.  We begin with a critique of the genealogical method so as to establish the cultural foundations of anthropological perspectives on kinship.  We then go on to consider recent debates in kinship theory linked to ethnographic studies that explore the links between ‘relatedness’ and concept of the person, notions about gender, and theories of procreation. 


By the end of this course students should have a clear understanding of the main development in kinship theory in anthropology over the last fifty years.  The main goal of this course is for students to also gain knowledge of the following topics: 1) the cultural construction of kinship in our own and other cultures and the problems of assuming that kinship is 'natural'; 2) how the values and meanings of kinship influend everyday social life in seemingly unrelated areas such as politics and the economy; and 3) the importance of making connections between ethnographic and theoretical work in kinship studies. 

Graduate Courses

Globalization and Cultural Identity (AP/ANTH 5135 3.0)

This course explores globalization and its influence on the construction of cultural identities, addressing the contested term and its impact on nations, institutions, and peoples.  We will be considering how global processes and flows are experienced, negotiated, and resisted, as individuals and groups struggle to make sense of  ‘place’, ‘self’, and ‘community’. The course begins with a brief introduction to some of the central theoretical perspectives that have shaped our understanding of globalization, so as to provide students with a sense of how anthropologists have debated and challenged this concept. The focus of the course then shifts to take up a number of issues that have provided focal points for an anthropological consideration of globalization and cultural identity over the last two decades.  Topics that are considered are: 1) the consequences of transnational movement and media flows for cultural identity; 2) the relationship between globalization and the state, especially with respect to issues of sovereignty and citizenship; 3) how the politics of identity are played out in the context of globalization in terms of indigeneity, ‘millenial capitalism’, and autochthony; and 4) the links between globalization, belonging, and ethnic violence.  We will end the course by considering the recent (re)emergence of interest in cosmopolitanism as a way of re-thinking, or going beyond, our perspectives on globalization. 


York University