William Kenneth Little
Department of
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Courses Taught

Thursday 8:30 - 11:30



Think about world's fairs, raves, shopping malls, national dance companies, museums, national parks, the circus, mass advertising, wrestling matches, ritual performances, situationalist happenings, art galleries, tourist adventures and all other means of mass cultural performances.
These are forms of cultural representation that enact the modern world as exhibition and spectacle. They are also forms of expressive culture that share a logic, the structure, power, and effects of which we will examine in this course.
We begin the course by investigating what it means to talk about cultural performance in the age of spectacle consumption, and then take up a series of historical and contemporary examples of popular culture, artistic expression, and entertainment in order to develop a clear understanding of the role of performance and spectacle in the making of contemporary social and cultural worlds.
Throughout the course, we will be building on theoretical arguments in poststructuralist anthropology related to the process of cultural production, affect, and materialist semiotics.

The expected learning outcomes of this course are as follows:

1) to provide students with an overall introduction and understanding of the structure, context, and power of cultural performances as everyday activities or as framed public spectacles;

2) to provide students with the tools to recognize the effects and affective forces of spectacle consumption in the contemporary world anywhere they find them; to ensure the students become familiar with, and have the ability to utilize, the ideas developed in this course in their everyday lives.


Tuesday 8:30-11:30




Stuart Hall once said that the trick of social and cultural analysis is not to fixate on “theory” but to enjoy theorizing. I take him to mean that theorizing is a social and political practice and something anthropologists do all the time.
The course focuses on two broad processes of theorizing: as the cultural production of ideas and as critical anthropological practice. In the fall term we examine how modern anthropologies of the twentieth century were created, and out of what historical, social, political and cultural conditions, tensions, and ambiguities they were fashioned. The winter term deals with contemporary theoretical productions and the kinds of anthropologies it may be possible to imagine, that can deal with the global conditions for public life in the world today. How can thinking anthropologically reconnect social and cultural theory with acts of change? How is this possible today within the contexts of globalization, new forms of public culture and new ways of conceptualizing life itself?

The expected learning outcomes of this course are three-fold:

1) to provide students with an introduction to the different foundations of twentieth century social and cultural theory;

2) to introduce students to how theory is informed by the social and cultural worlds in which they live; and

3) to consider the politics and poetics of theory production as discursive and materialist practices.



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