course is a general introduction to anthropological theory that is grounded in
a four-field approach to the discipline.
The goal is to ground reflection on culture (both knowledge and
experience) in an understanding of the history of anthropology thought and the
way in which theory intersects with life experience in a broad array of
contexts. Anthropological theory has
passed through a range of approaches and critiques, and the approach in the
course is one that requires a broad exposure to the discipline from as it took
shape in the latter half of the nineteenth century to the present. Our approach will be critical of the past,
but such criticism is grounded in the acknowledgement of the discipline’s
ongoing efforts to understand “what humans are up to when they’re being human”
in time and through space. This requires
not only historical understanding but also a comparative perspective that has
been a hallmark of anthropological inquiry.
Such inquiry also has a transdisciplinary quality that is not always
appreciated. Theory is a tool to facilitate reflection on experience (ours and
others) as well as facilitate the application of knowledge to social problems
at different scales of analysis. With
that in mind, the course also engages anthropology’s four-field approach to
making sense of the human condition.
- Teacher: Matt Samson