Special Topics Courses 2021-22

ANT384H1F Special Topics in Society, Language, Culture

Border and Borderlands: Anthropological Perspectives - Prof Valentina Napolitano

Borders and borderlands have been part of reflections and engagements since the inception of the anthropological discipline and yet, more than ever, they are central to our current times. From early colonial periods and the imagination of boundaries-drawing creatures (such as monsters and strangers), borders have been at the core of making and unmaking the permeability and impermeability of spaces and materialities, nations, communities, people and bodies. From the militarization and fortification of borders, their trafficked nature, their utopian, theological renderings and creative potential they help us to be aware of global, local and intimate ways in which we (un)relate. This course will largely focus on cases from the Americas and the Trans-Mediterranean and may have an ethnographic practicum component.


ANT384H1S Special Topics in Society, Language, Culture  ***Cancelled***

Anthropology of Race and Racism - Prof Andrea Allen

The concept of race and the inextricably related concept of racism have been much discussed throughout the history of anthropology as a field of discovery and knowledge.  In this course, we will examine these concepts and how anthropologists over the years have discussed race as an evolutionary fact, a biological fact, a social cultural fact, and as a lived experience.  Foundational to these discussions of race has been its relationship with racism and white supremacy as structural and world-making forces.  Drawing on texts from evolutionary, biological, social cultural, and linguistic anthropologists, the course will provide students with a deep understanding of anthropology’s role in shaping historical and present-day discussions about race and racism.


ANT390H1F Special Topics in Anthropology

Political Anthropology - Prof Omer Ozcan

What is politics? How do anthropologists approach the study of politics? What types of actions, events, attitudes, and ideas count as political? How do anthropologists theorize politics in relation to power, authority, coercion, and consent? What methodological insights do they bring to the study of politics? This course explores the conceptual and methodological tools anthropologists employ to study the ways social groups enact, resist, and transform social relations that involve the production and distribution of power. Topics explored in this class include political cultures in small- and large-scale societies, state and statelessness, political affect and the politics of everyday life, hegemony and resistance, governmentality and bio-politics, violence and militarization, social movements and citizenship, and the difficulties of anthropological research in places of conflict.


ANT390H1S Special Topics in Anthropology

The Anthropology and Archaeology of Fire - Prof Michael Chazan

Fire is a key component of human experience reaching back over a million years.  Human engagement with fire brings together subsistence (diet, warmth), technology (methods for accessing fire, harnessing the energy released, transforming materials), society (site structure, social interaction), and cosmology (rituals involving fire, beliefs about fire).  This topic has added urgency in the contemporary world as we grapple with the consequences of global warming (including devastating wildfires) and think about how to transform our engagement with fire to mitigate our future effects on the planet.  In this course we will use the breadth of anthropology to grasp this elusive yet critical topic.  We will begin with reading in archaeology and biological anthropological anthropology looking at the origins of the use of fire and the impact of cooking on diet.  From there we will examine the long prehistory of shifting human engagements with fire including an emphasis on anthropological perspectives the role of fire in society and religious practice.  Students will each develop a research project looking at the role of fire in the contemporary world or considering how to expand our understanding of the use of fire in the past.  This course is open to all anthropology students and is meant to provide a context in which to consider the value of considering anthropological phenomena from multiple perspectives.


ANT438H1S Topics in Emerging Scholarship (Evolutionary Anthropology)

The Evolution of Bipedalism - Klara Komza

This course will investigate the evolution of bipedalism in the hominin lineage. Starting from the Late Miocene, we will examine how skeletal morphology has changed to allow for a fully bipedal mode of locomotion. The course will incorporate theoretical and functional approaches to address why bipedalism evolved, what makes it unique, and how we can reconstruct locomotor behaviour in extinct hominins. The course will also explore how bipedalism affects us today, from childbirth to movement-related injuries. Finally, students will be familiarized with new, digital methodologies being used to research bipedalism within palaeoanthropology.


ANT483H1S Special Topics in Linguistics Anthropology

Language, Mobility, and Migration - Prof Shirley Yeung

How do ideas, practices, and policies surrounding language shape immigrants’ transnational and social mobility? Discussing various ethnographic works on North America, Europe, and Asia, this course examines the ways language and communication are implicated in border-crossings, asylum, citizenship, integration, labour recruitment, and migrant-citizen encounters in the everyday.


ANT484H1F Special Topics in Social Cultural Anthropology

Global Indigeneity and Human Rights - Prof Omer Ozcan

This course approaches indigeneity and human rights as both objects of inquiry and subjects of critique. Studying diverse anthropological perspectives that shed light on different aspects of indigeneity and human rights, we will explore (a) the heterogeneous practices and tangible social processes that shape our understanding of human rights, and (b) how indigeneity, as both a theoretical concept and a lived experience cuts across ideas about colonialism, sovereignty, citizenship, race, gender, and human rights. The course will explore the history, politics, and everyday life of indigenous people across the globe and the limits and possibilities of the discourse of human rights for the struggle of indigenous people.

Throughout the course, we will survey a wide array of anthropological studies, historical texts, films, and documentaries to address key issues and topics critical to indigenous communities. These include histories of colonialism; the politics of indigenous political recognition; the relationship between sovereignty and citizenship; the various forms of legal inclusion and exclusion of indigenous people; and their historical, cultural, and individual rights.


ANT484H1S Special Topics in Social Cultural Anthropology

Autotheory and Autoethnography - Prof Naisargi Dave

This seminar explores the body of work known as autotheory, an encounter between first person narration and social theory. Autotheory often defies the conventions of academic discourse in order to produce intellectual texts that disrupt common sense ideas of the self, the social, and the means of knowledge production. This oblique relationship to the norms of academic inquiry has enabled autotheorists to create what Christina Sharpe has called “microclimates,” interruptions in the climate of anti-Blackness, homo- and transphobia, racism, misogyny, and dispossession such that we can, in these moments of reading and writing, live and imagine otherwise. Among the authors we will be reading in this course are: Frank Wilderson, Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart, Saidiya Hartman, Maggie Nelson, Julietta Singh, Paul B. Preciado, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and Frantz Fanon. The relationship between autotheory and ethnographic writing will be a thread throughout. 


ANT485H1F Topics in Emerging Scholarship (Society, Culture and Language)

An Environmental Anthropology of Canada: Land, Atmosphere, and Settler Colonialism - Sophia Jaworski

In this advanced upper-level seminar, we place ourselves at the intersection of recent ideas related to land, atmosphere, and settler colonialism, in order to construct a critical anthropological approach to the environment in Canada, past, present, and future. Over the course of the semester, we explore topics including toxicity and extraction, Indigenous environmental knowledge and justice, sovereignty and decolonization. With a specialized focus on ethnographies of Canadian contexts, this course brings together insights from sociocultural anthropological theory, feminist STS scholarship, the anthropology of ethics, and Indigenous scholarship, to trouble the histories and assumptions embedded in universalized understandings of environment.

The overarching intention guiding this course is to provide students the opportunity to develop critical thinking by introducing key literature of the anthropology of Canada, reflecting on the current stakes of envisioning a future beyond inevitable environmental collapse. Students will leave this course with a strong and specialized skill set of anthropological perspectives about the environment, in particular, how ‘what it means to be human’ can illuminate contemporary environmental issues facing Canada during an era of intensified planetary change.


ANT486H1F Special Topics: Socio-Cultural Research Seminar

Anthropology of State and Statelessness - Prof Omer Ozcan

This course explores the experiences and struggles of stateless peoples within a nation-state-dominated world. In the wake of the current refugee crisis following the Arab Spring, the international community has posed statelessness as one of the urgent problems to be resolved. Defining statelessness as the lack of formal/legal status, however, these efforts often fail in capturing the political, legal, cultural, and theoretical complexity of statelessness. In fact, statelessness takes on various forms that range from lacking a sovereign nation-state, being a minority or exiled within another state’s borders to statelessness as a political aspiration. The complexity of statelessness manifests itself more clearly in conflict situations and zones where the legitimacy and boundaries of nation-states are contested. Here, we sometimes observe stateless/minority communities’ struggles for recognition and rights, and other times, we witness the rise of quasi-states or non-state actors with claims on sovereignty. This course will focus on the vexed relationship between the state and statelessness and discuss: How does anthropology approach the question of the state and sovereignty? What forms have the states and statelessness taken throughout history? What does it mean to be stateless in a world dominated by states? How does the state appear in the lived experiences of stateless people? And can we imagine a life without the state today?


ARH482H1F Special Topics in Archaeology

3D Modeling and Archaeological Analysis - Prof Philip Sapirstein

Computer modeling has become increasingly common with the wide availability of powerful computers and software. In particular, 3D recording and analysis have found many applications in archaeology, conservation, and many other areas of research on antiquity. It is now possible to create very lifelike 3D models from no more than a set of photographs, using a process generally called photogrammetry which relies on several new sophisticated image-analysis techniques. We’ll learn about how this has become possible through recent advances in computational techniques, and how to make photogrammetry work with a variety of subjects such as museum objects, pottery, and buildings in town. We’ll also learn how to manipulate, analyze, and present the 3D models on the computer.


ARH482H1S Special Topics in Archaeology

Archaeology of Southern Africa - Prof Michael Chazan

The archaeological record of southern Africa encapsulates the entirety of human experience including the earliest stages in the emergence of human ancestors through to the first appearance of modern humans; the development of complex hunter-gatherer societies; adoption of domesticated animals; development of indigenous social complexity; and the impact of expanding colonialism.  The goal of this course is to introduce students to the archaeological record for southern Africa from earliest prehistory to modern times.  This is an exciting time in the archaeology of southern Africa as the region emerges from the shadow of Apartheid and new research perspectives emerge.  The emphasis of this course will be on lecture and discussion with reading drawn from the recent literature.  Students will also be writing a brief research on a specific aspect of the archaeological record that they select to examine in greater detail.  This course is open to all students with a background in either archaeology or African studies.