2021-22 Courses

Spring 2022

Amazonia, The Last Frontier: On Colonization and Decolonization (SA)
Subject associations
LAS 329 / ENV 390 / ANT 329

Amazonia is a vital nexus for planetary survival. This course focuses on the world's largest tropical forest and the ancestral home of over one million indigenous peoples, now threatened by deforestation and megafires. Further degradation will have disastrous consequences for its peoples, biodiversity, rainfall and agriculture, and global climate change. Combining perspectives from the social sciences and the humanities, we will critically examine projects to colonize, develop, and conserve the Amazon over time and reflect on the agency of indigenous peoples, maroon and riverbank communities and their creative modes of existence.

Archival Re-imaginings
Subject associations
AMS 540 / ENG 587

Archives shape the stories we tell about the past. Blending fiction and fact, history conditions how archives are constructed and read. This course thinks past conventional modes of knowledge production to reimagine the use and interpretation of archival documents at Firestone Library, the Princeton University Art Museum and elsewhere. Students acquire their own methods by attending to questions of Indigenous sovereignty, access, archival silences, and traces of what Marisa Fuentes calls "dispossessed lives." We expand sites of knowledge production beyond the archive to the land itself. Archival reimagining shifts understanding of the past.

Art, Apartheid, and South Africa
Subject associations
AAS 411 / ART 471 / AFS 411
Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa.
Black and Indigenous Feminist Survival and Experimentation in the Americas (CD or SA)
Subject associations
AMS 351 / GSS 443 / AAS 352

This course is designed to explore how centering Black and Native/Indigenous feminist epistemologies (ways of knowing), theories, methods, themes, cultural production, and decolonial and abolitionist struggle reorient the field of American Studies. If we orient American Studies around and through Black and Native/Indigenous gendered, sexualized, feminist and queer modes of survival and ingenuity; what themes, debates, and questions rise to the surface and become salient?

Colonial and Postcolonial Africa
Subject associations
HIS 315 / AFS 316
This course is an examination of the major political and economic trends in twentieth-century African history. It offers an interpretation of modern African history and the sources of its present predicament. In particular, we study the foundations of the colonial state, the legacy of the late colonial state (the period before independence), the rise and problems of resistance and nationalism, the immediate challenges of the independent states (such as bureaucracy and democracy), the more recent crises (such as debt and civil wars) on the continent, and the latest attempts to address these challenges from within the continent.
Culture, Media, and Data (CD or SA)
Subject associations
ANT 347

Students study the agency of media and data in human cultural and social life with an emphasis on the generation of differences and inequalities. We excavate assumptions beneath representations of reality in documentary film, track the circulation of mass media across cultures, watch indigenous filmmakers as cultural producers, and explore the datafication of media and experience. We carry out our analyses by using the tools for making media and data to break them apart. Looking closely at their individual elements, we can view media and data as cultural constructions as well as use them to produce alternative images and counter-narratives.

Culture, Politics, and Human Rights in Latin America (CD or SA)
Subject associations
LAS 217 / POL 271 / ANT 397 / URB 217

From the US-backed dictatorships of the Cold War, to contemporary examples of state violence, many Latin Americans have experienced grave human rights violations. At the same time however, activists in the region have propelled significant international human rights advances. Examining concepts and cases from the anthropology of human rights, this course explores questions of rights as they affect Indigenous peoples, women, gay and lesbian populations, migrants, the urban poor, and children. By analyzing these cases, we will gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities and risks facing the future of human rights in the Latin America.

Egypt in the Pyramid Age
Subject associations
ART 340 / NES 352 / AFS 340
Around 3000 BCE, the first state in history was formed in the northeastern part of Africa, from the Delta to the first cataract of the Nile. With it came the invention of writing, new ideologies, and monumental forms of art and architecture. In this course we will consider ancient Egyptian material, visual, and textual culture from this early phase (c. 3500-2150 BCE). With a focus on recent fieldwork done across the country, we will consider how the state was formed, the challenges it faced, the way members of the community variously functioned within it, and how it adapted and eventually disintegrated after a long period of stability.
Environmental Justice Through Literature and Film (LA)
Subject associations
ENG 384 / ENV 383

How can literature and film bring to life ideals of environmental justice and the lived experience of environmental injustice? This seminar will explore how diverse communities across the globe are unequally exposed to risks like climate change and toxicity and how communities have unequal access to the resources vital to sustaining life. Issues we will address include: climate justice, the Anthropocene, water security, deforestation, the commons, indigenous movements, the environmentalism of the poor, the gendered and racial dimensions of environmental justice, and the imaginative role of film makers and writer-activists.

Environmental Literature: Thinking Through Plants (LA)
Subject associations
POR 407 / LAS 427 / ENV 408

Do plants think? Do forests have a language? Are our bodies separate from the environment? Are we substantially different from what we once called "nature"? Such questions have been emerging in philosophy and literature, bringing to light new forms of knowledge that are both integrative and holistic. This seminar will discuss the visual arts, literature and musical experiments produced by thinkers (Indigenous or otherwise) who can help us imagine a planet where, differently from our current world, we may still be able to survive.

Human Evolution
Subject associations
ANT 206 / AFS 206
Humans have a deep history, one that informs our contemporary reality. Understanding our evolutionary history is understanding both what we have in common with other primates and other hominins, and what happened over the last 7 to 10 million years since our divergence from the other African ape lineages. More specifically, the story of the human is centered in what happened the ~2.5 million year history of our own genus (Homo). This class outlines the history of our lineage and offers an anthropological and evolutionary explanation for what this all means for humans today, and why we should care.
Indigenous American Urbanism: Teotihuacan and its Legacy in Comparative Perspective (CD or LA)
Subject associations
LAS 307 / ANT 307 / ARC 317 / ART 388

This course invites students to study Teotihuacan, Mexico, the largest urban development of American antiquity. It considers this city's art history and archaeology over six weeks, to culminate in a 1-week fieldtrip to view the city's ruins, if possible. We will then examine those major pre-Hispanic polities with which Teotihuacan interacted, including Tikal, Guatemala, or upon which it exerted historical influence, such as Tenochtitlan, Mexico City. The final two weeks will consider comparative settlement and architectural data from the Mississippian, Puebloan, and Inka cultures of Indigenous North and South America.

Insurgent Indigenous Art (CD)
Subject associations
ANT 364 / ART 346 / ENV 392 / LAS 328

This seminar addresses the field of "indigenous art" to unsettle current understandings of self and alter representation. Focusing on South America and drawing parallels with the Americas and Oceania, it investigates studies of material and immaterial culture from the perspective of indigenous world-makings. Attention will be paid to how indigenous arts speak to the dilemmas of self-governance, biocultural diversity, and conservation. We will also address forms of decolonization of Amerindian arts that are at play in museums, festivals, and environmental storytelling, with indigenous artists and intellectuals as their protagonists.

Introduction to African Art
Subject associations
ART 260 / AAS 260 / AFS 260
An introduction to African art and architecture from prehistory to the 20th century. Beginning with Paleolithic rock art of northern and southern Africa, we will cover ancient Nubia and Meroe; Neolithic cultures such as Nok, Djenne and Ife; African kingdoms, including Benin, Asante, Bamun, Kongo, Kuba, Great Zimbabwe, and the Zulu; Christian Ethiopia and the Islamic Swahili coast; and other societies, such as the Sherbro, Igbo, and the Maasai. By combining Africa's cultural history and developments in artistic forms we establish a long historical view of the stunning diversity of the continent's indigenous arts and architecture.
Introduction to Latin American Cultures (CD or LA)
Subject associations
SPA 222 / LAS 222 / LAO 222

An introduction to Latin American cultures and artistic and literary traditions through a wide spectrum of materials. We will discuss relevant issues in Latin American cultural, political, and social history, including the legacy of colonialism and indigenous resistance, the African diaspora, national fictions, popular and mass culture, gender and racial politics. Materials: essays by Ángel Rama, short stories by Julio Cortázar and Samanta Schweblin, poems by Afro-Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén and period Cuban son music; paintings by Mexican muralists, films by Patricio Guzmán and Jayro Bustamante, writings by indigenous activist Ailton Krenak.

Latin American Philosophy (EM)
Subject associations
PHI 372 / SPA 393 / LAS 372

The course deals with philosophy as practiced in Latin America from the Spanish Conquest until the contemporary period. Unifying themes are race, identity, and the relationship between European influences and the specific circumstances of Latin America. We will explore these themes by examining the following topics among others: the use of Aristotelian ideas in debates about the appropriate treatment of the indigenous populations of the Americas; and ways in which Latin American thinkers employed ideas of the French enlightenment, Comte's positivism and Marxist concepts to articulate programs for political and cultural change.

Picturing Africa. Multicultural Visions for a Global Youth
Subject associations
FRE 245 / AFS 245
This interdisciplinary course looks at representations of North and sub-Saharan Africa in modern popular culture aimed (supposedly) at a younger audience. Through literature, graphic novels, films, advertising and digital media, we will see how artistic and more practical goals coexist with didactic intentions. This will lead us to address critical contemporary issues in Africa, such as education, multiculturalism, gender equality, politics, ecology, etc. We'll see how these productions by Europeans, Europeans of African descent, and Africans, do not only perpetuate and transmit stereotypes, but also convey progressive visions.
Pre-Columbian Peoples of Tropical America and Their Environments (SA)
Subject associations
EEB 332 / LAS 350

The pre-European history of Amerind cultures and their associated environments in the New World tropics will be studied. Topics to be covered include the peopling of tropical America; development of hunting/gathering and agricultural economies; neotropical climate and vegetation history; and the material culture and social organization of native Americans. Field and laboratory experiences will incorporate methods and problems in field archaeology, paleoenthnobotany and paleoecology, and archaeozoology.

Rethinking the Northern Triangle: Violence, Intervention, and Resistance in Central America (CD or SA)
Subject associations
LAS 234 / ANT 333

In this class we will trouble the idea of "The Northern Triangle" by prying apart that grouping, examining each country's unique stories, and taking a nuanced look at shared phenomena. We will cover: the history and legacy of US intervention, the evolution of state and criminal violence, resistance struggles and Indigenous movements, and the varied and complex reality of drug cartels and street gangs. The course will touch on themes of transparency, impunity, and corruption in the democratic, post-war present and also focus on the emergence of and challenges to attempts to hold the post-dictatorial governments to account.

Revolutionary America (HA)
Subject associations
HIS 372

Why was there an American Revolution? How revolutionary was it, and for whom? Why did it end with the creation of a fractious independent republic, an "empire of liberty" rooted in slavery? This class explores the causes, course, and consequences of the American Revolution, from the Seven Years War through the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Lectures, readings, and precepts will trace the ideas and experiences of the many peoples whose lives intersected with the United States' struggle for independence: female and male, Black and white and Native American, free and enslaved, American and British, Loyalist and Patriot.

Seminar in Colonial Spanish American Literature: Colonial Palimpsests: Mexico, Lima, Cuzco
Subject associations
SPA 550

The three cities that we "visit" were major population centers in their own right prior to the arrival of the European invaders in the 16th century. We ask ourselves, both how they became colonial cities and how might we, as readers in the 21st century, see the traces of these transformations in the cultural artifacts produced by Spanish, Criollo, Indigenous, and Afro-Peruvian authors. The palimpsest as metaphor for the city would imply that many layers of writing, traces and erasures may be observed on the urban surface.

The Mother and Father Continent: A Global History of Africa
Subject associations
HIS 250 / AFS 250
Africa is both the Mother and Father Continent: it gave birth to Humankind (as a biological species) and our African ancestors created Human history, Culture, and Civilization. Human and Global History developed literally for hundreds of thousands of years in Africa before it spread worldwide. The depth of Africa's history explains the continent's enormous diversity in terms of, for example, genetics and biodiversity and languages and cultures. Moreover, as the course demonstrates, Africa and its societies were never isolated from the rest of the world. Rather, the continent and its peoples remain very much at the center of global history.
Topics in 18th-Century Literature: The Red Atlantic and the Enlightenment (LA)
Subject associations
ENG 338 / HIS 318 / AMS 348

Anishinaabe writer Gerald Vizenor notes the word "indian" is a "colonial enactment" that "has no referent in tribal languages or cultures." But as a trope it has long provided Western culture with a vision of romantic primitivism, of savage cruelty, or of the doomed victims of colonial expansion. This course will examine eighteenth-century transatlantic representations of North American Indigenous people and consider the cultural functions of these representations and their role in settler colonialism. In addition to literary texts, we will also examine art and visual culture, collected objects, and philosophical writing from the period.

Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity: Race, Revolution, and Counterrevolution (HA)
Subject associations
AAS 303 / HIS 300 / LAS 363

'Revolution knows no compromise,' Malcolm X said in a 1963 speech. 'You haven't got a revolution that doesn't involve bloodshed.' This course investigates the concepts of revolution and counterrevolution by centering the race question. We will explore the strategies that liberation movements used to achieve revolution and conversely, how imperial states aimed to subvert these movements through counterrevolutionary warfare. Our class will highlight Black, Indigenous, and Third World liberation struggles, and we will look at cases in Haiti, the U.S., Russia, Algeria, Cuba, and Iran.

Violence (SA)
Subject associations
ANT 264 / HUM 264

This course draws on anthropology, history, critical theory, films and documentaries, fictive and journalistic writing to explore violence, its power and meaning. We will explore conquest and colonialism, genocidal violence, state violence and political resistance, everyday violence, gendered violence, racialization, torture, as well as witnessing and repair. Building across disciplines and working with heterodox theoretical frameworks (post-colonial/decolonial, non-Western, feminist, and indigenous approaches), this course invites us to understand violence in its multifaceted physical, symbolic, social, political and cultural manifestations.

Fall 2021

American Literary History
Subject associations
ENG 201
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.
Joshua Kotin
Sarah Rivett
American Literary Traditions: The Other America: Caribbean Literature and Thought
Subject associations
ENG 555 / GSS 555 / LAS 505
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.
Christina León
Beginning Yoruba I
Subject associations
AFS 101
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.
Colonial Latin America to 1810
Subject associations
HIS 303 / LAS 305
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.
Vera Candiani
Identity in the Spanish-Speaking World
Subject associations
SPA 250 / LAS 250 / HUM 251
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.
Christina Lee
Intermediate Yoruba I
Subject associations
AFS 106
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.
Languages of Africa
Subject associations
LIN 260 / AFS 262
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.
John Merrill
Languages of the Americas
Subject associations
SPA 233 / LIN 233 / LAS 233
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.
Dunia Méndez Vallejo
Muertos: Art and Mortality in Mexico
Subject associations
LAS 325 / ART 381 / ANT 325 / SPA 397
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").
Native American Literature
Subject associations
AMS 322 / ENG 242
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.
Sarah Rivett
Political Natures: The Politics of Nature and Development in Latin America
Subject associations
LAS 317 / ENV 376 / ANT 317
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.
Marian Thorpe
Race, Gender and the Anthropocene
Subject associations
GSS 504 / ENG 507
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.
Anne McClintock
Rob Nixon
Reckoning: Complicated Histories and Collective Identities
Subject associations
ANT 328 / AAS 396 / AMS 314 / ART 327
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.
Tiffany Fryer
The Anthropology of Development
Subject associations
ANT 314 / ENE 314 / AFS 314
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.
Carolyn Rouse