Below you will find a list of selected courses* I have taught, accompanied by short descriptions of the course contents.
Anthropological Theory (graduate and undergraduate)
This course provides a survey and overview of anthropology as a theoretical discipline. Students will gain an understanding of the historical development of the field of anthropology through an introduction to the major schools of thought and key debates in anthropology, from the 19th century to the present. Additionally, students will learn about and have the opportunity to debate the relationship between theory and ethnography and anthropology. They will also get to practice applying anthropological analysis grounded in particular theoretical paradigms to selected cultural phenomena (undergraduate) and to research and re-enact “classic” anthropological debates, such as the ones between Lewis and Redfield, Levy-Bruhl and Levi-Strauss, and Sahlins and Obeyesekere (graduate).
In this course, students engage in-depth with historical, ethnographic, and theoretical literature about the Amazon. The Amazon has long been a locus of fascination for anthropologists and non-experts alike. Through a historical overview, starting with a unit on pre-Columbian Indians and finishing with contemporary issues facing the Amazon today, students explore the key facets of the fantasy and reality of the Amazon basin. Topics will include European explorer narratives of the region; the consequences of the rubber and oil booms; colonialism and imperialism in the Amazon and postcolonial Indian ethnopolitics; and the expansion of conservation projects in the rainforest today. Academic texts are augmented by audiovisual material and texts from popular culture as objects of analysis. Students gain a nuanced understanding of the subject through weekly writing exercises, presentations, and in-class discussion. For a final project, students write a long-form book review of a single book.
This course deals with the development of visual anthropology as a discipline, the particular problems and challenges involved in practicing this type of ethnography, the evolution of ideas about accountability, representation, reflexivity and positioning in visual ethnographic methods. We explore the role of image in ethnographic filmmaking, from Robert Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North,” (considered to be the first ethnograpahic documentary), to the development of Cinema Verite (Dziga Vertov, Jean Rouch), to the emergence of indigenous media.
Research Seminar in Anthropology
This course focuses on the development, research, and writing of an academic paper in Anthropology, with special emphasis on original research, clear expository writing, and oral presentation of research. The course will be taught as a mixture of seminar and one-on-one and paired meetings with the instructor. In-class time will be divided between short lectures on methodology, discussions of readings, and reports from the field, peer feedback, and general “workshopping” of the students’ ongoing senior projects. It will also include skills training in library research and in preparing an IRB application.
LEIDEN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
Representations of Culture: Topics in Cultural Anthropology
Culture and its representation lies at the heart of cultural anthropology (as the name suggests). This course is designed to acquaint students with the analytical and representational tools used by anthropologists. It will introduce the students to the basic concepts in cultural anthropology (e.g. what exactly is “culture”), some of its most important fields of study (such as kinship, religion, exchange, and communication), and show how anthropology can be used to both understand and represent both one’s own culture and the world “out there.”
Cultural Theory and Area Studies: Latin America
How is knowledge about a “place” produced and circulated? Who has the power to discursively construct a geographic area as a subject of academic inquiry? How do the boundaries of what is considered “useful” knowledge about this area shift? How does the invention and re-invention of “area studies” cast residents of particular places under academic scrutiny? How has the image of the cultural “other” evolved historically? This course will take one such area—Latin America—as its case study. The students will familiarize themselves with the different ways that knowledge about Latin America has been produced. Through reading and discussion, the students will critically reflect on the plural, often contradictory, notions of Latin America—as a colonial subject, a mythological exotic place, a hotbed of poverty and violence, a popular tourist destination—and the fears, fantasies, and power relations that underlie them.
This course will use frameworks of political ecology to look how human-nature relationships are negotiated and how knowledge, expertise, and governance of environments is produced and deployed. While historically informed, the course will primarily focus on contemporary relationships between political economy, models of global and local environmental governance, paradigms of neoliberalism, and cultural and environmental rights in the age of globalization. We will critically engage with the ideologies and policies of resource extraction, neoliberal conservation, “green governance”, and environmental social movements, among other topics. We will discuss a range of ethnographic case studies focused on understanding local and global environments as social fields of engagement between a variety of actors, including state institutions, NGOs, regional environmental coalitions, transnational indigenous activist organizations, etcetera. By the end of the course the students will have a sophisticated understanding of the major debates, theories, and case studies in political ecology as an interdisciplinary field of studying human-nature relationships.
This course in focuses on the range of data collection and analysis approaches encompassed by “ethnographic methods.” Ethnography is the study of culture(s) through participant-observation, interviews, and other methods standard in anthropological fieldwork. Ethnographic research is carried out by researchers who become temporary participants in the social settings they decide to study. Ethnographic data analysis allows the researchers to understand and communicate to others the symbolic and contextual meanings that belie the routines and practices of everyday life. Doing ethnography in other cultures means that the researcher has to understand and sensitively represent the “insider” perspective of the members of that culture. Doing ethnography in one’s own culture means that the researcher has to “make the familiar strange” and illuminate and explicate the implicit aspects of culture that are taken for granted. Students will learn an array of practical qualitative methods that comprise the ethnographic approach, through a study of relevant literature, and through undertaking a six-week ethnographic research project in The Hague, or in its surroundings.
Globalization and Inequality
This course introduces students to processes of globalization and inequality by critically focusing on structural issues of development. By studying and analyzing the increasing interdependence of states, markets and civil societies, from several disciplinary perspectives, the contemporary development challenges in the context of power struggles between the poor and the affluent become clear. By focusing on inequality and poverty — on a global, international, national and local level — from several theoretical perspectives, it is shown how these yield different analyses and solutions. By taking into account the role of public, private and civil society actors, it furthermore aims to understand the underlying development processes and unlock ongoing debates. The Millennium Development Goals act as a thematic roadmap. Besides an insight into the historical background of globalization and inequality, the course aims to focus on the fields of global governance and neoliberalism, democratization & human rights, health & women, global migration, and issues around agriculture and food. Several disciplinary perspectives are used: development studies, anthropology, history, political, international law, medicine and health sciences.
Development and Poverty in the 21st Century
This course looks at “the city” as a lens for considering issues of development and poverty in our globalized world. As the world is experiencing a series of interlocked crises –the financial crisis, the food crisis, the population crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis– this course aims to examine the way in which these crises are a) produced and narrated and b) illuminate and exacerbate the fault lines in the global economic and social infrastructure. Modern urban growth and development has been inexorably entwined with the globalization of economy and the agro-industrial complex. But who are the actors in these processes of global change? Who benefits, and who is marginalized? The city, as an urban space, can be conceptualized as a contested site, where various social actors pursue their agendas and negotiate their identities. Through readings in this course we delve into the human aspects of these loci, exploring convergences and contradictions, and analyze social, economic and political processes in industrial and post-industrial cities. We discuss connections and tensions between urban communities and economic development, the creation of vulnerable populations through urbanization, and the structural architecture of slum ecologies. We examine the articulation of neoliberalism in urban space, and the consequences of international debt and structural adjustment projects in “megacities” and consider the relationship between the city and the environment, and the ways in which bodies are commodified in cities around the world. But we also examine the opportunities these cities represent: as spaces of creativity, new melanges of identity, new cultures and novel economic, social and political prospects.
*A full list of courses I have taught also includes Designing Academic Inquiry, Summer Field School in Ecuador (at Leiden University College); Migration Seminar and Symposium, Culture and Identity in a Globalizing Europe, Trade and Aid (at Maastricht University); Global Perspectives, Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology, Topics in Visual Anthropology (at University of New Hampshire); Anthropology of Communication and Media, Visual Culture (at Brandeis University).