2019-2020 University Catalog 
    Jan 22, 2020  
2019-2020 University Catalog archived

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SOAN 291 - Special Topics in Anthropology

Credits: 3-4

A discussion of a series of topics of anthropological concern. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2020, SOAN 291A-01: American Indian Ethnohistory (3). No prerequisites. One of the major goals of modern ethnohistory is to use historical and anthropological methods to uncover the understandings that non-western peoples have of their own histories. This seminar introduces students to the theoretical and methodological principles of ethnohistorical research and their application to North American Indian peoples. Participants first study American Indian conceptions of time and their relationship to the criteria by which tribal communities selected and comprehended the events comprising their histories. Students then examine how Indian tribes from different parts of North America, including the Southwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Plains interpreted, evaluated, and responded to their encounters with colonial and the United States governments. Markowitz.

Winter 2020, SOAN 291B-01: Archaeology of Inequality (3). Archaeological evidence indicates that Homo sapiens lived more than 100,000 years in relatively egalitarian bands. Signs of routinized inequality--structured, often hereditary differences in access to resources--appear in several parts of the globe beginning some 10,000 years ago. How did egalitarian people devise and accept or negotiate inequity? How are inequality and struggles against it visible archaeologically in prehistoric and historic eras? We consider these issues on global, national, and local scales. Students read case studies from sites around the world and work with artifacts from the W&L "back campus." The Liberty Hall Academy tract was an academic landscape for a short time (c. 1780s-1803) and a plantation for generations (c. 1804-1860s). Artifacts excavated on the premises provide students opportunity to explore inter-related dynamics of racial, gender, and socio-economic hierarchies. A. Bell

Spring 2020, SOAN 291-01: Domains of The Dead: Anthropologies of Cemeteries (4). This course teaches students how to think anthropologically about cemeteries, querying them in theory-grounded, systematic, testable ways for information about past and current people's social relations, cultural dispositions, values, beliefs, and aspirations. Assigned readings expose students to key theoretical texts from the anthropology of death and mourning as well as to historical surveys of cemeteries as they vary throughout the United States. Of special interest in the course is the recently documented proliferation of idiosyncratic forms of commemoration diverging considerably from previous centuries of more somber practice. Examples of this florescence and of its more restrained predecessors abound in the Valley of Virginia, and students investigate first-hand a range of cemeteries in Rockbridge, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties. Students record decorative motifs and epitaphs on gravestones as well as objects left on gravesites and work to read them as evidence of cultural expression and change. (SS4) A. Bell.

Spring 2020, SOAN 291-02: Artifacts, Maps, & Archives: An Ethno-Historic Approach to W&L's Past (3).  Applying interdisciplinary methods to study four centuries of W&L material culture and historic records. We use these items to uncover additional stories about W&L founders, its evolving curriculum, and buildings. We visit multiple collections of art, ceramics, artifacts, and documents on campus, and walk several miles across on- and off-campus historic landscapes, including local graveyards. Students synthesize this material and produce several deliverables: (1) additional historic layers to the online campus map (campusmap.wlu.edu); (2) a poster for the term-ending Spring Festival; and (3) biographical sketches of under-studied members of the W&L community. Rainville.

Fall 2019, SOAN 291A-01: Topic in Anthropology: Consumer Cultures (3). No prerequisites. Appropriate for all class years. "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, French fries, blue jeans, tattoos, and piercings? How does consumerism facilitate claims to social connection, personal identity, and meaning? How do potentially constructive roles of buying "stuff" relate to debt, environmental over-exploitation, hoarding, and the Marie Kondo phenomenon? Bell.

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