The Anthropology of Utopia

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Reading and Composition in Anthropology
Course Number: 
002 LEC
Kroeber 115
David Thompson
M, W, F 1:00pm - 2:00pm
The Anthropology of Utopia
This reading and composition course examines utopian projects of transforming social order from an anthropological perspective. Since the colonization of the Americas, images of an idealised society located elsewhere have informed revolutionary movements, colonial violence, strategies of resistance, and global conflicts. We will consider how dreams of a perfect society change over time and place, how they clash with one another, and how they work to transform the present.

Through an engagement with different utopian hopes and projects, this course asks: What is a utopia? What is the relationship between these distant worlds and the here and now? What kinds of architectures, geographies, and social relationships are built around these utopias? Why have utopian hopes proven crucial to so many political struggles, both for and against existing structures of domination?

This course provides an analysis of these cases through different examples across (and beyond) the globe, with particular emphasis on the Americas. As we follow these questions through the course materials, we will develop and hone our skills in reading and composition, including identifying arguments, forming analytical connections within and between texts, and using texts as evidence in constructing our own arguments. The overall aim of the course is to reflect on our reading and writing practices, and to develop a conscious process of planning, carrying out and reflecting upon our own compositions in different forms.