Past courses taught at Yale

All syllabi are subject to change

ANTH 276/SAST 219          South Asian Social Worlds 

This course introduces students to the cultural, social, political and religious lives of people in and from the region known as “South Asia”. Students will also learn about key debates in the anthropological study of the region, from classical concerns about caste and kinship to contemporary discussions of urbanization, development, health, and violence. Throughout the course, we focus on the production of different kinds of “South Asian” identities, including regional, national, ethnic, linguistic, gendered and political forms of self-definition in both South Asian and diasporic locations. Lectures and readings cover a broad range of material from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Students will have several opportunities to focus in-depth on their own regional and thematic interests by following specific issues and places in the media; choosing from a range of readings that provide multiple geographical and analytical lens on each theme; and developing their own research topic throughout the semester which culminates in a final paper. Click here to download the syllabus.

ANTH 463/663 – SAST 419/619 – ER&M 366               Ethnicity, Indigeneity, Mobility

This seminar brings together classical social theory on ethnicity with more recent literature on indigeneity to explore the concepts of “the group” and “the community” as they are experienced, represented and analyzed in scholarly, political and popular discourse and practice. We discuss the historical and contemporary trajectories of terms like “ethnicity”, “indigeneity”, “identity” and “belonging” as categories for understanding social difference and making claims based upon it. We focus in particular on the relationships between discourses of homogeneity and fixity that underlie many claims to categorical difference, and the practices of geographical and social mobility that characterize the lives of many who place themselves in such categories. We examine the overlapping ideological, pragmatic and affective dimensions of such membership. Our discussions are situated within broader debates over the relationships between states, societies, and individuals, which we explore through the themes of agency, citizenship, multi-culturalism and the nation-state. We also consider the role of ethnography in shaping such debates, and discuss the methodological implications for students wishing to explore these issues further.

ANTH 313/SAST 313          Cultural Aspects of International Development

What is development? How does it intersect with cultural lifeworlds and everyday experience around the world? How can the micro and macro aspects of engineering “progress” be balanced to yield the best possible results? This weekly seminar covers materials written primarily by anthropologists and development practitioners to address these questions of development theory and practice. It will offer both an overview of the rise of development thought and programs in the twentieth century and evaluations of the outcomes of development for societies, communities, and different social groups in countries across the global south under different regimes, from authoritarian states to plural democracies in political transitions and into and out of communism and socialism. It will cover topics like rural development and land reform, gender, globalization, urban renewal and expansion, environment, governance, and humanitarian action. The course will enable participants to develop a broad understanding of development ideas and processes, while acquiring the critical skills to understand the cultural politics of development in localized contexts. This is an advanced seminar which requires significant reading, writing, and class participation. It will be limited to 20 students, with priority given to Anthropology and South Asian Studies majors, and thereafter students who have taken previous classes in those fields.

ANTH 506b          Insurgency, the State and Political Consciousness (graduate seminar)

This graduate-only seminar investigates “state-society” relations from a range of scholarly perspectives. We consider the diverse processes through which political consciousness may be produced, both in relation to the state and in opposition to it. We approach this question from a range of analytical perspectives, including classical sociological approaches to state formation, recent ethnographic work that seeks to understand the micro-politics of mobilization, and journalistic writing that addresses specific contemporary insurgencies. Over the course of the term, each class member develops his or her own theoretical position in conversation with the group, and applies this systematically to an ethnographic case in a final project. The seminar focuses on exploring anthropological approaches to insurgency, the state, and the production of political consciousness, but graduate students from related fields who wish to engage with these questions are also welcome.

ANTH 216             Anthropology of Religion and Ritual

What is religion? How does it create meaning through symbol, myth and ritual? Why is it an important force in human society? This course considers these questions through a survey of the anthropological literature on religion and ritual. We explore classical theoretical approaches to religion focusing on structure and symbol; contemporary approaches to religious experience and subjectivity; debates over magic, witchcraft, shamanism and modernity; the dynamics of ritual as a social process; and the gendered politics of religious difference in our presumed era of secular modernity. During the course of the semester, we explore ethnographic material from a range of world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) and local traditions as practiced in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Reading will be supplemented by films, an ongoing ethnographic project throughout the semester, brief writing assignments and discussions of personal experience.

ANTH 311          Anthropological Theory

This class will explore key texts and issues in the theoretical development of sociocultural anthropology in the twentieth century. Following a discussion of religion and ritual in Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, and economics and exchange in Marcel Mauss’ The Gift, we will consider the sources of structuralism along with various anthropological concepts of structure and function (Ferdinand de Saussure, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Claude Levi-Strauss), move to mid-century interpretive and symbolic anthropology (Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz), consider some ‘post-structuralist’ and processual approaches (Sherry Ortner, Pierre Bourdieu, Marshall Sahlins, Michael Silverstein), and address the problems of culture, gender, sexuality and history in anthropology (Ortner again) and in broader social theory (Joan Scott and Michel Foucault). We finish with a consideration of the frictions of contemporary anthropological theory and ethnography (Tsing). Click here to download the syllabus.

ANTH 470/670/SAST 319          Affirmative Action in South Asia and the USA

In this course we investigate the concept, policy implementation, and socio-cultural effects of affirmative action from an anthropological perspective. The course focuses primarily on South Asia (especially India and Nepal) and the US. In the first section of the course, we look historically at the development of ‘affirmative action’, ‘positive discrimination’, ‘reservations’, ‘quotas’ and ‘social inclusion’ as related but distinct ideological interventions within debates over inequality in both South Asia and the US. We then examine the different ways in which social difference can be defined for the purposes of affirmative action policy-making, focusing on the comparisons and contrasts between ‘race’ and ‘class’, ‘ethnicity’ and ‘caste’ as categories in the US and South Asia respectively. We also discuss the tensions between models of affirmative action based on individual economic status and those based on group-based socio-cultural identity in reference to debates over the ‘politics of recognition’. The second section of the course focuses on several ethnographic case studies that demonstrate the cultural effects of affirmative action in practice. We examine the potential ‘lingering effects’ of both past discrimination and present affirmative action policies. Students are asked to consider carefully the relationship between state policies and cultural practice in social settings both familiar and unfamiliar to them. In the third and final section of the course, we examine the methodological and theoretical implications of conceptualizing ‘affirmative action’ as a subject of anthropological analysis—particularly in relation to disciplinary debates over this issue within sociology, political science, economics and development studies—and also consider the potential impact of anthropological studies on policy-making. Click here to download the syllabus.