Special Topics: Contemporary Theories in Anthropology and Their History

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Contemporary Theories in Anthropology and Their History
Course Number: 
189- 114
Peter Skafish
T-Th 5-6:30

Contemporary Theories in Anthropology and Their History

This course will examine how anthropologists have recently engaged in "the decolonization of thought"-- a way of locating and de-universalizing modern thought through comparing it with the approaches to thinking of other collectives--and how this project was both blocked and enabled by certain kinds of classical anthropological theory.

We will examine how this "decolonial" project has been undertaken in different ways in the anthropologies of (1) indigenous collectives in the Amazon, (2) Islam and secularism, and (3) modern science, and how these anthropologies build on theories like Claude Lévi-Strauss's structuralism and E.E. Evans-Pritchard work on rationality. We will also look at the following issues: how colonialism and the early modern encounter of Europe with the Americas were conditions of the anthropological project; the efforts to define and do "symmetrical anthropology"; the relation between anthropological and decolonial theory; the implications of current anthropology for a critique of racism; comparison as a unique way of knowing, and its revival in the so-called "ontological turn"; and, importantly, responses from anthropologists to global warming and our current need to ecology and the planetary status of human existence.
The course is designed to teach you to assess anthropological theory, and to understand its relation to empirical research.
Authors include Talal Asad, Pierre Clastres, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Frantz Fanon, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Saba Mahmood, Bruno Latour, Ferdinand de Saussure, Isabelle Stengers, Marilyn Strathern, and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. 
Please note: This course has been scheduled to meet in the late afternoon in order to accommodate anthropology majors who would like or need to take it. 

​            This course will satisfy the Anthropology 114