Anthropology Courses Fall 2017

Archaeology Courses Primarily for Undergrads and Grads

This individual tutorial for archaeology students intending to write a senior thesis is normally undertaken with a member of the faculty during the second term of junior year. To enroll, a student must submit a petition form (available from the Head Tutor for Archaeology, or downloadable from the department's Anthropology [Archaeology] website) with a proposed course plan of study and the tutorial adviser's signature.
Research and writing of the Senior Thesis. Limited to honors candidates. Signature of the faculty adviser on a departmental form is required. This form is available from the Head Tutor for Archaeology or downloadable from the department's Anthropology (Archaeology) website. Part two of a two-part series.
A comprehensive introduction to the practice of archaeology and major themes from our human past: how do archaeologists know where to dig? How do we analyze and understand what we find? What do we know about the origins of the human species, agriculture, cities, and civilization? The course integrates methods and theory, and utilizes Peabody Museum collections, to show how we reconstruct ancient diet, trade, and political systems. We also explore the role of archaeology in colonialism, modern politics, and film.
The most significant lifestyle revolution in the human past was the change from hunting and gathering to agriculture and pastoralism. That shift in the subsistence base has facilitated, and has been facilitated by, increasing populations and a restructuring of social and economic relations over the past 10,000 years. Focusing on key geographic areas and transformative time periods, we discuss how this process began by focusing on the domestication of what have become the staples and major condiments of modern diets around the world. We also consider the spread and adoption of domestic plants and animals across the Eastern and Western Hemispheres as well as the globalization of food that began at the end of the 15th century CE with the Columbian Exchange.

To study the processes of domestication and subsequent exploitation of domestic plants and animals requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Thus we sample contributions from a wide range of fields including archaeology, anthropology, history, linguistics, botany, zoology, genetics, biogeochemistry, climatology, geomorphology, oceanography, demography, and nutritional science. Fundamental, however, are archaeological excavations, which provide the material remains necessary for specialized analyses as well as the temporal and social contexts needed for their interpretation.

The course is discussion-based, with background material, concepts, and topics introduced by the instructor. Geographical focus is on West, South, and East Asia, Mesoamerica, and the Andean region, with other areas (Europe, Central Asia, Africa, New Guinea, Oceania, Amazonia, and North America) touched upon for specific foods. Readings are in the primary and secondary literature, focusing on key plants, animals, analytical methods, and interpretative debates. Evaluation is based on completing readings and two short written assignments each week and participating in class discussions. Graduate students are required to submit a short tightly focused research paper.
Archaeologists often draw on ethnographic studies of Western and non-Western societies as sources of explanation for ancient cultural practices. But the questions remain: how valid is the use of ethnographic analogy in the study of the past? What assumptions do archaeologists make about past social processes in their uses of ethnographic studies? These are some of the questions addressed in this course.
Examines the development and structure of the earliest state-level societies in the ancient world. Archaeological approaches are used to analyze the major factors behind the processes of urbanization and state formation in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Central Asia, the Indus Valley, and Mesoamerica. The environmental background as well as the social, political, and economic characteristics of each civilization are compared to understand the varied forces that were involved in the transitions from village to urbanized life. Discussion sections utilize archaeological materials from the Peabody Museum and Semitic Museum collections to study the archaeological methods used in the class.
A survey of the archaeology of China from the origins of humans during the Palaeolithic into the Bronze Age (ca. 220 BCE), with an emphasis on the origins of agriculture and the emergence of complex society during the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. We survey important archaeological finds from these periods and examine relevant issues in anthropological archaeology. Sections will involve the discussion and use of materials from the Peabody and Sackler Museums.
New interdisciplinary curriculum centered on 5 kinds of quests for wisdom that involve moral, religious and aesthetic pursuits and that focus on practices of mentoring and caregiving. Students will engage in short lectures, interactive discussions, student led seminars, and music and film. Students' required projects include a personal story that narrates an experience in the art of living and writing assignments that focus on assisting and accompanying experiences of others.
This course will show the usefulness of anthropology, conceptually and methodologically, for understanding water consumption and management in past and contemporary societies, especially those undergoing water stress. Topics include cultural notions and values of water, the hydrology and technologies of water purification and conservation, irrigation and the state, big dams controversies, water as a “right” and water as a “commodity,” and local, national and international water management schemes. Case studies are drawn from around the world. Though social anthropology and archaeology are the main disciplines upon which the course draws, it will also engage developmental economics, geography, political ecology, history, and water sciences such as conservation and engineering.
This language course explores the fundamentals of Middle Egyptian, the classical stage of Egyptian hieroglyphs used throughout much of ancient Egyptian history. Lessons in the Egyptian writing system, grammar, and culture, with weekly vocabulary and exercises, will introduce the language and verbal system in a systematic fashion. By the end of the semester, students may begin to read selections from Egyptian classic stories and historical texts. Visits to the Semitic Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in order to read ancient hieroglyphic inscriptions on the original monuments, may also be included.
The film "Clash of Titans" was a British extravaganza dedicated to exploring the ancient Greeks' concepts of the interactions between humans and their gods. In Ancient Mexico, the tale of Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl, Toltec Prince of Tula, is the best-known example of the intervention of rival gods, in the affairs of kingdoms and empires, and serves as the point of departure for our seminar. Just as the Greeks countenanced sacrifices and political assassinations, in Ancient Mexico the three great empires practiced human sacrifice, regicide, and engaged heavily in warfare which was vital in their statecraft and economy. We will explore how these central components were explained and justified in their mythology, why reciprocity with the gods was so vital, and how and why each empire came to a violent end. We begin with the first-person description of the Aztec Empire and its violent conquest, penned by a foot solider in Hernán Cortés's army, Bernal Díaz del Castillo. In the following weeks we will explore the environmental basis, religious dimensions, and social and political development of civilization, cities, at the three seats of empire in ancient Mexico. We will make extensive use of Peabody Museum collections, archaeological studies, historical accounts, and recent films and other media to critically examine ancient practices and current perceptions of the Aztec empire (1428-1519 CE); its predecessor the legendary Toltec empire of Tula (850-1100 CE); and the foundational Teotihuacan empire (100-550 CE), known as “The City of the Gods” to people throughout the region. The Aztecs and Toltecs went to Teotihuacan on pilgrimage every 20 days, because the scale of that ancient city was so massive, the architecture so impressive, and the religious art and historical lore so compelling, that the Aztecs had a legend that it was built in an earlier creation, by a race of giants. Seminar participants will explore how the biases of the observer play a role in describing and explaining “the Other.” Students will analyze the ways in which religion and the quest for power fueled the genesis, expansion and demise of all three empires. First-years in this seminar will also explore the ways in which the living descendants of the Aztecs are reviving their traditional culture and how the Pre-Columbian civilizations are integral to the national identity of Mexico and Chicanos in this country, vs. the way they are portrayed in Hollywood and U.S. popular culture, through films and other media in the U.S. and Mexico.
Much of our history is written in our genes, and analyses of ancient and modern DNA have revealed that many living humans retain a genetic signature from our extinct evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals. In this course, we will work together to help you find your inner Neanderthal. Our understanding of the past begins as you learn to make your own stone tools, a unique window to interpret the Paleolithic record. This experience guides your examination and analysis of real artifacts made and used by Neanderthals >50,000 years ago, drawn from the extensive collections of Harvard’s Peabody Museum. The ability to create and interpret the archaeological record provides unparalleled insight to explore what the Neanderthals did and thought, and how they lived, loved, and died in Ice Age Eurasia. In addition to artifact manufacture, analysis, and weekly readings, there will be a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to examine how Neanderthals and other early humans are represented in public displays of the past, and the course will culminate in the student design of a museum exhibit to be displayed on the Harvard campus. This freshman seminar will draw on perspectives from archaeology, paleontology, the history of science, and museum studies to study the Paleolithic, will provide the ability to think critically about how we interpret the past, and will explore how a study of our extinct relatives reveals the biases inherent in our perceptions of the world around us.
Explorations of the mythical and social origins, glory days and political collapse of the Aztec Empire and Maya civilizations followed by study of the sexual, religious and racial interactions of the Great Encounter'' between Mesoamerica and Europe. Focus on the archaeology, cosmovision, human sacrifice, divine kingship, the mystery of 2012 and rebellion in Mesoamerican cities and in colonialism. Hands-on work with objects at the Peabody Museum aid in examining new concepts of race, nation and the persistence of Moctezuma's Mexico in Latino identities in the Mexico-US Borderlands.


Archaeology Courses Primarily for Graduate Students

This course examines the technologies used in the production of ceramic vessels, bricks, tiles, and mortars in ancient and non-industrial societies. It also focuses on the laboratory-analytical techniques that enable reconstruction of these technologies.
The course has been designed to consider: (1) the principles of geology and of materials science and engineering that provide an understanding of the properties and behavior of clays (and other ceramic materials) as materials systems; (2) the activities involved in producing, using, and distributing ceramic materials and ceramic products; (3) the culture-producing and culture-using aspects of ceramic technologies.
Laboratory sessions include microscopy with emphasis on petrography of ceramics and geological materials, mechanical testing of fired ceramics, and the appropriate methods for documenting and reporting the analyses of archaeological artifacts made from ceramic materials.
Stone tools represent the oldest known human technology. They represent the most abundant and arguably one of the most informative elements of the archaeological record for reconstructing ancient human behavior over the last 3.3 million years. In this graduate seminar that is open to undergraduates with permission, students are provided with a solid methodological and theoretical grounding in how to interpret stone (lithic) tools. The course includes hands-on training in how to make stone tools, a practical grounding in their identification, qualitative and quantitative approaches to their analysis, and detailed discussions of current theoretical perspectives that use stone tools to understand broader questions about the evolution and diversity of human behavioral adaptations. The course also provides a global synthesis of stone tool variation since their advent, drawing heavily on the analysis of archaeological collections from New World and Old World stored at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, capped by student-devised experimental research projects.
The goal of this graduate seminar is to develop an introductory undergraduate lecture course on “deep history,” an approach that combines findings drawn from archaeology, anthropology, and history into a single historical narrative spanning the entirety of the human past. The seminar will have two main elements. The first features readings in the historical, archaeological, and anthropological literature that offer devices for framing the deep human past (e.g. universal history, four-field anthropology, and “Big History"). The second is dedicated to developing and workshopping graduate-student-designed teaching modules that will form the core of a spring 2018 course.
The class covers archaeological method and theory emphasizing the 1950s onwards. Large-scale trends in social theory will be balanced with attention to the ideas and writings of significant anthropologists and archaeologists.
This graduate seminar reviews critical issues in archaeological approaches to the study of complex societies, including writing, trade, craft specialization, technology, landscape, urbanism, and political organization.
Graduate level course in the reading of primary Egyptian texts. This semester features readings in Middle Egyptian historical texts.

Social Anthropology Courses Primarily for Undergrads and Grads

This course is focused on preparing students to do anthropological fieldwork and develop their own research projects. Through concrete case studies and practical exercises students will be introduced to different approaches to developing research problems, conducting research, and ethnographic writing. Topics covered will include defining research questions and objects of study, situating projects within scholarly literature, and bringing together research data and analysis in different forms of anthropological writing.

This is a full year research and writing seminar limited to senior honors candidates. The course is intended to provide students with practical guidance and advice during the thesis writing process through structured assignments and peer feedback on work-in-progress. It is intended to supplement not replace faculty thesis advising (with the requirement of consulting regularly with the advisor built into the assignments) and, most importantly, allow students to share their work and experiences with other thesis writers in a collegial and supportive environment. The seminar will be run jointly by the Department of Anthropology Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies and the Writing Tutor. Part one of a two part series.

New interdisciplinary curriculum centered on 5 kinds of quests for wisdom that involve moral, religious and aesthetic pursuits and that focus on practices of mentoring and caregiving. Students will engage in short lectures, interactive discussions, student led seminars, and music and film. Students' required projects include a personal story that narrates an experience in the art of living and writing assignments that focus on assisting and accompanying experiences of others.

Kaya Williams

Introduction to methodology for contemporary ethnographic field research in anthropology. Students complete assigned and independent research projects relying on a variety of ethnographic methods, under supervision of department faculty.

This course grapples with key controversies – suicide bombings, blasphemy, gender, Muslim minorities, Islamism – as a point of entry into understanding Muslim cultures and societies. Drawing on insights from Cultural Anthropology and related fields (Religious Studies, History, Government, Philosophy, Law), the course also encourages self-reflection on our own assumptions regarding religion, secularism, freedom, tolerance and violence. Finally, by dwelling on the case of cross-cultural (mis)understandings related to Islam, the course underscores that no matter what our personal objectives – social theorizing, developing policy, or being an engaged global citizen – there is value in understanding how historical and cultural contexts shape us all. No prior familiarity with Islam is required or assumed.

Kaya Williams

This course will investigate the conditions of mass incarceration in America through the figure of the municipal jail (which sees on average twelve million admissions annually). We will begin with the question “What is a jail?” and move from there to interrogate the cultural, economic, political and legal forces that shape the conditions of possibility for the 21st century jail. Taking as objects of study both the jail itself and the practice of incarcerating people in local jails, this course will combine scholarly work on U.S. criminal justice with a variety of non-academic texts including legal decisions, contemporary journalism, and documentary film. Over the course of the semester students will learn to “locate” the city jail in a number of different ways: within the complex political and economic structures of the American municipality, within the criminal justice system writ large, and within the country’s long history of anti-black racism and struggles for freedom. Students will use the jail itself as a conceptual anchor from which to question the taken-for-granted terms of American practices of captivity.

The celebration of national and local forms of heritage often rides roughshod over the interests of the local citizenry it is intended to serve. In this course we look at how such conflicts play out in several cities - notably Athens, Bangkok, Beijing, Istanbul, Jerusalem and Rome - and address the ethical, practical, and architectural conflicts that arise from an anthropological perspective.

This course will analyse the observational films of pioneering American documentarian Frederick Wiseman.  It will concentrate on their representations of social institutions and power, both in the United States and in Europe.

In a story titled Africa Rising (2011), The Economist argued that the continent epitomizes both the "transformative promise of [capitalist ] growth and its bleakest dimensions." This workshop will explore Africa's changing place in the world - and the new economies, legalities, socialities, and cultural forms that have arisen there. It will also interrogate the claim that the African present is a foreshadowing of processes beginning to occur elsewhere; that, therefore, it is a productive source of theory about current conditions world-wide. The workshop, open to faculty and students, will meet Mondays from 6:00-8:00. 15 students will be permitted to take it as a course; they will also meet on Mondays, 12:00-1:30.

Oceans divide distant places but throughout history societies have looked across the sea for ways to make faraway connections. This seminar will examine many ways that cultures around the world have been shaped by maritime matters.  Navigation, Vikings and Basques in North America, the spice trade, Spanish galleons, slavery, New England’s trade with Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries, Maine lobstermen, naval warfare, and overfishing are all part of the story. Two short essays and a term project (approximately 12 pages).

David Shumway Jones/Arthur Kleinman/Karen Thornber

Disease and healing pose pragmatic and moral challenges for individuals and societies. Artists and writers have struggled to make sense of these tragic and transcendent experiences through fiction, poetry, art, and music. Scholars can explore these archives of the illness experience to understand not just disease and medicine but also what it means to be human. This interdisciplinary course examines how the medical humanities can change how we think about suffering, resilience, and caregiving. We will consider caregiving at different scales, from the traditional focus on patient-doctor relationships to emerging concerns with climate change and planetary health.

This is a course in linguistic anthropology. We explore key theoretical issues in the semiotic anthropology of language use, focusing on communication, social (inter)action, representation, cultural conceptualization, and language ideology. By presenting many of the most influential and innovative contributions to the study of language in culture and society—both recent and classic—the course aims to guide students in asking fundamental questions about language and communication more broadly as facts of everyday sociocultural experience.

Anne Becker/Paul Farmer/Salmaan Keshavjee/ Arthur Kleinman

Examines, through a series of lectures and case-based discussions, a collection of global health problems rooted in rapidly changing social structures that transcend national and other administrative boundaries. Students will explore case studies (addressing AIDS, tuberculosis, mental illness, ebola, cholera, and other topics) and a diverse literature (including epidemiology, anthropology, history, and clinical medicine), focusing on how a broad biosocial analysis might improve the delivery of services designed to lessen the burden of disease, especially among those living in poverty.

This course examines the historical, social, and political life of nature in its many manifestations--as a source of life and livelihood, as a resource for exploitation, as a heritage to be protected, and as a post-industrial hybrid--in order to understand the variety of human interactions with the natural environment. Through a focus on property relations, imperialism, development, and science, students will be exposed to the intimate connection between social inequality and ecological degradation, and encouraged to envision possibilities for a future of greater equality and sustainability.

Social Anthropology Courses Primarily for Graduate Students

This course is a practicum designed to help students craft effective research and grant proposals, learn how to constructively critique others’ proposals, and develop enduring collaborative relationships. Many writing problems are fundamentally thinking and design problems. For this reason, conceptual structure, project design, and methodological choices will occupy a great deal of our time. The first half of the semester will focus on Wenner-Gren-type proposals, the second half on proposals for the National Science Foundation and similar funders.

Explores the relations among technologies of image production and circulation, the nature and intensity of the circulating image, and the generation of publics and counter-publics. Questions of scale, mediation, publicity, and mobilization will be considered.

Infrastructures are the sociotechnical unconscious of modern societies. Bridges, cables, and pipes, but also assemblages of affect, information, and value—infrastructures underpin everyday living by coordinating the flow of people, things, and knowledge. Infrastructures often remain unremarked, and only when they break down do we become aware of them. Recently, however, infrastructures have surfaced as a key problem in public life. In response, a growing body of scholarship has sought to rethink infrastructure, its politics and poetics. Drawing on classic and contemporary readings, this course takes up the anthropology of infrastructure. What is infrastructure? What new questions and concerns are raised by exploring sociocultural worlds through the optic of infrastructure? What concepts and methods are helpful for researching and writing about infrastructure? The first part of the course tackles these conceptual and methodological questions; the second part turns to recent ethnographies of infrastructure, exploring infrastructural politics; the third part looks at infrastructures in terms of the imaginaries they help stabilize and sustain.

A critical review of the major theoretical approaches in social anthropology.

Exploring classic theory and recent innovations in linguistic anthropology and the semiotic anthropology of communication, we connect the social life of language to its role in culture.

Byron Good/Alasdair Donald/Robert LeVine 

This course will examine the history of psychological anthropology, particularly American psychological anthropology, reading classic writings, examining historical lineages, the social and institutional settings in which this field and its subfields developed, and key events and relationships that shaped the field.  The course will maintain an eye to the future, linking current work to those past writings and lineages, as well as to new influences, with a goal of thinking through emergent and future directions for the field.

Rooted in the writings of both Marx and Foucault, a growing body of scholarship has started to take up the study of biocapital, following its production and circulation across diverse domains, from bioprospecting and drug development to blood banks and organ transplantation to food production and stem cell research. In these ways, this work has started to rethink longstanding themes in anthropology—kinship and citizenship, race and gender, sociality and the self, the relationship between nature, culture, and history—revealing the surprising ways that new forms of marketable knowledge are reworking contemporary lifeworlds. Relating this emerging scholarship to classical readings on capitalism and biopolitics, this course offers an introduction to these novel configurations of knowledge and value. Special attention is paid to relationships between economy and ethics, profit and promise, speculation and subjectivity, life and it definition, and visions of history and the future in the creation and circulation of these new marketable knowledges. We will likewise seek to locate biocapital as much within histories of continuity as those of rupture.

This course considers space as a structuring principle of social life and as a product of political activity. It treats space as a dynamic force animating human existence rather than as its static backdrop.

Following World War II, the fabric of Euro-American empire in Asia and Africa began to unravel. Through revolutionary violence, nonviolent movements or diplomatic negotiation, new nations asserted their independence from colonial rule. This course examines colonialism’s 20th century heyday, decline and aftermath, giving particular attention to local anticolonial struggles and to the many forms the postcolonial condition may take. This is an interdisciplinary seminar focusing on the experiences of colonization and decolonization rather than their institutional histories.  

The seminar will design and develop a General Education course on these themes for undergraduates.

This course addresses the ways in which people conceive of alternatives to state authority.  Ranging from revolutionary ideologies to passive resistance, such frameworks also reflect older ideas that have been buried but not destroyed by state authority.  Examples addressed include several from Europe and Asia, and are primarily examined through the prism of local-level ethnography.