AP/ANTH 4110 6.00
DEVELOPMENT OF THEORY IN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY
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 purpose of this course is to explore a range of theoretical developments in socio-cultural anthropological as they have developed over the years. As a discipline focused on society and culture, anthropology aims to make sense of wide ranging social processes and practices to evaluate shifting relations between individuals and society. Anthropological theories aim to interpret social action and explain social transformations.
In this course, we examine how different schools of thought in anthropology, at different historical and political junctures, have forwarded different theories of social and cultural life. The course focuses on two broad processes of theorizing: as the cultural production of ideas and as critical anthropological practice. Our aim is to examine the contributions of these theorists and the ensuing debates.
This course is organized such that by the end of the year you will understand the 'high points' of different theoretical schools and see how theory in anthropology is produced and circulated. In addition to this, we will also examine the current debates that have critically informed questions of ethnographic methods, writing, and representation.
In the fall semester we examine historically significant texts that have contributed to the foundation of anthropological theory: 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. In the winter semester we examine a range of concepts central to contemporary anthropology, such as 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.
Format: Three seminar hours.