Brief description:

On the contribution of anthropology to the study of major challenges to everyday life in human history and the production of responses to these challenges. The ongoing challenges of the past two years will be used as a starting point to think through similar and perennial challenges in education, health, technology, etc.

Longer description and general considerations

The class is a general introduction to anthropological approaches to the study of the political and professional concerns that are always challenging human life. The class focuses on various theoretical approaches to the identification of constraints (social structure, systems) and opportunities (culture, agency, play, imagination) in the ongoing production of human responses across all distinctions of identity and contexts.

For example, the apparition and continuing spread of a virus like COVID-19 is but the latest challenge facing all people, in government, institutions like schools and colleges, in churches and families. The virus, and what other people do with it, are major challenges to usual modes of operation, with no clear pathways to follow in order to alleviate the dangers. The situation requires ongoing educative acts of analysis, deliberation, imagination that are always performed with others who both expand and limit what one might do. In brief: Viruses do not name themselves, nor do they tell people what to do about them.

Note that this class meets with the course required of first year doctoral students in anthropology (ITSF 5610). It shares the same readings as listed in the syllabus. Requirements for students registered for ITSF 4011 are similar but separate from those of the students registered for ITSF 5610.