Courses

Fall 2021

Beginning Yoruba I
Yorùbá is a West African language spoken by about 50 million native speakers. Most of its speakers live in Nigeria. There are also Yorùbá speakers in Togo, Benin Republic, and the Caribbean. This course offers students an intensive training and practice in speaking, listening, reading, and writing Yorùbá. Initial emphasis is on spoken language and conversation all rooted in the culture of the people. During the second term students read and listen to texts that provide an introduction to independent search in the Yorùbá culture.
Intermediate Yoruba I
This course offers a refinement of the student's speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. It prepares the student for further work in literary, language, and cultural studies as well as for a functional use of Yoruba. Study of structure and vocabulary is based on a variety of cultural documents including literary and nonliterary texts.
Native American Literature
An analysis of the written and oral literary traditions developed by Native Americans. American Indian and First Nation authors will be read in the context of the global phenomenon of indigeneity and settler colonialism, and in dialogue with each other. Through readings, discussions, and guest speakers, we will consider linguistic, historical, and cultural approaches. This course offers an occasion to reflect on, critique, and contest settler colonialism, or the dispossession of land and waters and the attempt to eliminate Indigenous people.
Instructors: Sarah Rivett
The Anthropology of Development
Why do development projects fail? This course examines why well-meaning development experts get it wrong. It looks closely at what anthropologists mean by culture and why most development experts fail to attend to the cultural forces that hold communities together. By examining development projects from South Asia to the United States, students learn the relevance of exchange relations, genealogies, power, religion, and indigenous law. This semester the class will focus on energy in Africa.
Instructors: Carolyn Rouse
Reckoning: Complicated Histories and Collective Identities
How do we grapple with complicated, violent, and disavowed aspects of our collective histories in contemporary society? This class takes as its central issue how societies chose (or not) to reckon with, redress, and repair their difficult pasts. This course will challenge students to take on the difficult work of grappling with violent and otherwise negative pasts through the cultural media of memorial, monument, museum, and collaborative heritage practice. See "Other Information" below about a possible Break Trip to a memorial to the victims of racial terrorism in the U.S. South, located in Montgomery, Alabama.
Instructors: Tiffany Fryer
American Literary History
This course surveys American literature from the colonial period to the Civil War. We will read autobiographies, sermons, slave narratives, revolutionary tracts, essays, novels, and poems. We will also discuss how early American literature shaped and was shaped by settler colonialism, and how origin stories continue to define our understanding of America. One goal of the class will be to learn from the political work of land acknowledgements, and Indigenous and African American practices of storytelling and memorialization.
Instructors: Joshua Kotin, Sarah Rivett
American Literary Traditions: The Other America: Caribbean Literature and Thought
How do Caribbean writers articulate literary and theoretical imaginaries that shift our thinking about this archipelago of islands, its diaspora, and the globe? How does the Caribbean demand an account of entangled legacies of indigenous decimation, enslavement, colonization, and revolution? This seminar will center what the Caribbean necessitates in thought: relation, ruination, decolonization, environmental precarity, the plantation matrix, and translation. We also pay attention to how Caribbean writers have conceptualized counter-humanisms that shift and texture critical theorizations of race, feminism, and queerness.
Instructors: Christina León
Race, Gender and the Anthropocene
What does the Anthropocene have to do with gender, race and sexuality? This course explores the ways in which urgent environmental issues intersect with questions of gender, race and sexualities. Exploring films, images and non-fiction writing, we engage themes such as the invention of the wilderness idea; being Black in nature; Indigenous lifeways and land rights; feminist and queer ecologies; animal, tree and plant intelligence; slow violence; the commons; COVID and climate; masculinities, militarization and climate change; gender and environmental justice, and strategies for change.
Instructors: Anne McClintock, Rob Nixon
Colonial Latin America to 1810
What is colonization? How does it work? What kind of societies does it create? Come find out through the lens of the Latin America. First we study how the Aztec and Inca empires subdued other peoples, and how Muslim Iberia fell to the Christians. Then, we learn about Spanish and Portuguese conquests and how indigenous resistance, adaptation, and racial mixing shaped the continent. You will see gods clash and meld, cities rise and decline, and insurrections fail or win. Silver mines will boom and bust, slaves will toil and rebel; peasants will fight capitalist encroachments. This is a comprehensive view of how Latin America became what it is.
Instructors: Vera Candiani
Political Natures: The Politics of Nature and Development in Latin America
Popular imaginaries depict Latin America as both brimming with pristine nature and afflicted with devastating environmental degradation. This lecture explores Latin American nature as an ecological, political and cultural creation, asking: Where do these imaginaries of pristine/despoiled nature come from? How are they used, perpetuated or debunked by scientists, Indigenous peoples, politicians and NGOs? We apply these questions to an array of environmental issues, including climate change, deforestation and ecotourism, to analyze the effects of these imaginaries on people's lived experiences of nature, conservation and economic development.
Instructors: Marian Thorpe
Muertos: Art and Mortality in Mexico
For two millennia, the peoples of Mexico have lived in close proximity with the dead. When in the 16th century uninvited Europeans arrived in Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City, offering a path to "eternal life", Mexicans were decidedly uninterested. In this course, students will journey down the road to Mictlan, the watery Mexican underworld, to learn from artworks an ancient, alternate approach to understanding the social construction of death. Three quarters of the course will consider arts of the Native pre-Hispanic context, with equal time dedicated to Teotihuacan, the Maya, and the Mexica ("Aztecs").
Languages of Africa
About 2000 of the world's 6000 to 7000 languages are spoken in Africa. The diversity that characterizes these languages is exceptional, but very little is known to non-specialists. In this course, we will learn about the languages of Africa: the diversity of their linguistic structures (including famous features that are found nowhere else, e.g. click consonants), their history and the history of their speakers (from ca 10,000 BP to the (post) colonial period), and their cultural contexts, among other topics. This course has no prerequisites, and is open to anyone with an interest in African languages or the African continent.
Instructors: John Merrill
Languages of the Americas
This course explores the vast linguistic diversity of the Americas: native languages, pidgins, creoles, mixed languages, and other languages in North, Central, and South America, including the Caribbean. We will examine historical and current issues of multilingualism to understand the relationship between language, identity, and social mobility. We will discuss how languages played a central role in colonization and nation-building processes, and how language policies contribute to linguistic loss and revitalization. This course has no prerequisites and is intended for students interested in learning more about languages in the Americas.
Instructors: Dunia Méndez Vallejo
Identity in the Spanish-Speaking World
How are ideas of belonging to the body politic defined in Spain, Latin America, and in Spanish-speaking communities in the United States? Who is "Latin American," "Latinx," "Chino," "Moor," "Guatemalan," "Indian," etc.? Who constructs these terms and why? Who do they include/exclude? Why do we need these identity markers in the first place? Our course will engage these questions by surveying and analyzing literary, historical, and visual productions from the time of the foundation of the Spanish empire to the present time in the Spanish speaking world.
Instructors: Christina Lee