ANTHRO 2643 - Paperwork: What Does Paper Do for Social Life?





Prof. Malavika Reddy
Thurs. 9:00 AM - 11:45 AM
Tozzer 203

How does paper work in contemporary life? This course approaches this question by focusing on the paperwork, files, and record keeping practices of three organizational forms – bureaucracy, the corporation, and the nation-state. The aim of the class is for students to develop, in relation to their research sites and questions, a media theory of paperwork, a conceptual toolkit to make visible and to theorize an often-overlooked form. Tacking among ethnography, history and social theory, this course examines how paperwork – from forms, reports and memoranda to identity papers, receipts and business cards – mediate and materialize the collective projects that produce them. What is the relation of power and paper, and how might this question help us locate and understand the mundane materiality of social life?   

The course begins with a discussion of methods. With what conceptual and ethnographic tools have social scientists made sense of paper forms? The class is then divided in thirds: the first examines the relationship of documents and bureaucracy; the second asks about the ways in which paperwork makes people and power; and the final section considers how paper artifacts construct pasts and (purportedly paperless) futures.