SOAN 291 - Special Topics in Anthropology
Planned Offering: Offered when interest is expressed and departmental resources permit.
A discussion of a series of topics of anthropological concern. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.
Spring 2015 topics:
SOAN 291-01: Special Topics in Anthropology: Cults (4). In this course, we explore the phenomenon of cults (also known as new religious movements, NRMs). We look at the development of cults, how they operate, and the experiences of those who participate in them. Topics to discuss include: brainwashing, gender, violence, sexuality, child rearing, and the possibility of objectivity on the part of the researcher. We analyze a variety of case studies, but, most importantly, we structure the term around a visit from Marsha Goluboff Low, who will talk about the eighteen years she spent as an Ananda Marga yogic nun. In preparation, we read her autobiography, Orange Robe. (SS4) Goluboff. Spring 2015
SOAN 291-02: Special Topics in Anthropology: Chanting Down Babylon: Rastafari, Reggae, and Structural Inequality (4). This course examines the way people negotiate and giving meaning to experiences of social, racial, and economic inequality, by exploring Rastafarianism, Reggae, and Dancehall subcultures in Jamaica. We investigate the social and economic context that gave rise to Rastafarianism and its central tenets, while also examining the shifting political context through which Rastafarianism, Reggae, and Dancehall continue to find meaning and powerful critical commentary. Throughout this course, we analyze the lyrics of reggae and dancehall music that give insight into the worldview of Rastafarians and the structural inequalities of Jamaican society. Includes discussions on the global impact of Rastafarianism and reggae and its resonance to the experiences of people world-wide. Jenkins. Spring 2015
Winter 2015 topics:
SOAN 291-01: Topics in Anthropology: Campus Sex in the Digital Age (3). This class explores how the cell phone has impacted hooking up and dating on campus, with particular attention to Washington and Lee University as a case study. We discuss the development of campus sexual culture in America and the influence of digital technology on student sociality. Students use open source digital research tools to analyze data (interviews, focus groups, and statistics) collected about dating and hookup behavior at our college. As a digital humanities project, students work in groups to post their analyses on the class WordPress site. Goluboff.
SOAN 291-02: Topics in Anthropology: Contemporary Forms of Slavery (3). This course introduces students to how anthropologists have studied ‘contemporary forms of slavery’, a term representing many forms of inequality, including child labor, debt bondage, and religious practices, among others. The course investigates the language of slavery and what ideas we have about the practice in historical and contemporary forms, while also examining the historical development of using the term to describe these varying forms of inequality. Throughout the course, we examine the complexity involved in applying universalistic ideas of human rights, and the social, political, and economic dimensions of inequality. Jenkins.
SOAN 291-03: Topics in Anthropology: Consumer Cultures (3). “It is extraordinary to discover that no one knows why people want goods,” or so observed a famous pair of authors – one an anthropologist, the other an economist – in 1979. What, since then, have anthropology and interrelated disciplines learned about consumer desire? This course considers human interaction with the material world in a variety of cultures, periods, and scales. From socio-cultural and political perspectives, what do consumers hope to accomplish by buying, patronizing, or using products like Barbies, bottled water, craft beer, tattoos and piercings, football games, farm houses, history museums, cemeteries, or asylums? How does consumerism facilitate claims to social connection, personal identity, and meaning? And how do potentially constructive roles of buying “stuff” relate to debt, hoarding, and environmental overexploitation? Bell.
SOAN 291-04: Topics in Anthropology: Anthropology of International Development (3). This course introduces students to theories, practices, and experiences of economic and social development initiatives that seek to address economic growth, poverty, and inequality. We begin with an overview of the key theoretical and policy frameworks that have informed development initiatives in the post-colonial context. We then examine particular themes in various cultural contexts, specifically discussing gender and households, the informal economy, the experience of poverty and suffering, and the role of governmental and non-governmental organizations. We also examine anthropology’s critical engagement with policies of economic development and the role of anthropologists in the planning and execution of development projects. Jenkins.
Fall 2014 topic:
SOAN 291: Economic Anthropology (3). This course presents a cross-cultural survey of economic practices throughout time and around the world. Using classic and contemporary anthropological studies, we seek to understand how people have organized production, exchange, and consumption, and how these processes articulate with community dynamics such as religious beliefs, ethical codes, social networks, and gender roles. With case studies ranging from prehistoric foragers to contemporary cell phone users, we investigate culturally diverse and socially embedded understandings of commodities, gifts, property, success, and wealth. Bell.
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