Special Topics Courses 2022-23

ANT384H1F Special Topics in Society, Language and Culture

Anthropology of Life and Death - Prof Sumayya Kassamali

What, exactly, is death? Is it the biological end of life? Is it something hidden away in hospitals or distant wars — is it a set of cultural rituals around burial and mourning — or is it a philosophical limit of that which we can never really know? What might it mean if we thought about death inside of life, as opposed to at the end of it? This class will ask how Anthropology can help us better understand the nature of death in our contemporary moment, one marked by widespread illness, war, policing, suicide, accident, and further loss. How do we go on living surrounded by death everyday? Why are certain deaths valued above others in popular consciousness? And what role do social hierarchies of race, class, and gender (among others) play in shaping one's vulnerability and proximity to death? Drawing from diverse global examples, we will consider the many ways in which we negotiate the tenuous balance between what lives and dies around us. To do so, we will explore ethnographic writing alongside other forms of knowledge production (eg. film, literature, journalism), working to understand death through its many intellectual, political, and creative dimensions.

 

ANT384H1S Special Topics in Society, Language and Culture 

Walking, Wandering, and World Making - Prof Naisargi Dave

Walking, for those of us who are able to walk with relative ease, is a quotidian aspect of life: a mode of transport, an opportunity for reflection, a way to see the world, a way to escape it. Walking is also, for all its everydayness, a question of power: who gets to walk where, and under what freedoms and constraints? This course explores walking as a fundamental practice of world-making, from self-invention & philosophy to empire-building & travel. In this course we will read writers on walking (anthropologists, philosophers, novelists, travel writers, and other historical figures) and go on walks ourselves (please note that most walks must be completed outside of regular class hours). Assessment will be based on weekly course participation, reading & film responses, and a walking diary, all of which will be self- & peer-evaluated.

ANT385H1S Special Topics in Sociocultural Medical Anthropology

The Mediated Body: Medical Anthropological Perspectives on the Body - Prof Anisha Chadha

How has medical anthropology apprehended bodies through its decades-long history? In this course we will nest larger anthropological understandings of the body within central concepts in medical anthropology, namely: medicalization, disease/illness dichotomies, and the history of “alternative” and biomedical cultural systems. In the first unit of the course, we will trace how the concept of the body has morphed throughout the history of medical anthropology in response to theoretical turns occurring between the mid-twentieth century to the present. In the second unit of the course, we will move into discussions that interrogate assumptions about the body as a natural, universal, and uniform entity to yield broad anthropological insights onto the multiplicity of bodies and embodied experiences, as well as specific medical anthropological insights into the ways this multiplicity factors into contemporary healthcare contexts. In the third and final unit of the course, we will focus on the ways bodies and embodied experiences are mediated through technologies. Drawing from the insights of visual anthropologists and science and technology studies scholars in addition to medical anthropologists, we will examine how technologies have mediated bodies, embodied experiences, and bodily images across spatiotemporal distances, and the resultant implications to contemporary medical cultures.

ANT390H1F Special Topics in Anthropology

Indigenous Archaeologies - Prof Lindsay Montgomery

How do Indigenous people around the world engage with archaeology? What methods do they use to study and protect their sacred sites and landscapes? What research frameworks can we follow when conducting research on Indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage? In ANT 390H1F: Indigenous Archaeologies, we explore these questions by tracing the emergence and evolution of Indigenous Archaeology (IA) in North America and abroad. Over the course of the semester, we will cover the settler colonial roots of Anthropology and Archaeology, Indigenous activism and its impacts on the field, decolonization, sovereignty, and community-based research methods. Students will also be introduced to new theoretical perspectives emerging out of the intersection of Anthropology and Indigenous Studies, including persistence, survivance, refusal, futurity, and resurgence. Through seminar discussions, examinations of IA case studies, and applied research students will develop an ethical toolkit for building collaborative research projects with and for Indigenous peoples and other historically marginalized communities.

 

ANT390H1S Special Topics in Anthropology  ***Cancelled***

Anthropology of Dispossession - Prof Nisrin Elamin

This 300 level undergraduate course explores contemporary forms of dispossession with a focus on Africa, North America and parts of the Middle East. How do we define dispossession and how do we identify and examine its multiple meanings, trajectories and legacies in our contemporary world? We will explore this question by looking at the various forms through which people can be dispossessed. Considering dispossession broadly, we will explore not only processes that dispossess people of property and land but also of rights, modes of belonging, health, citizenship and life. We will also look at the ways people are pushing back and re-claiming what they have been denied or dispossessed of, from anti-eviction and landless movements to struggles for reproductive rights and climate justice.

In the first part of this course, we will engage with critical theories of dispossession and put them in conversation with readings on racial capitalism and white supremacy. We will trace multiple genealogies of thought in an attempt to define these terms and concepts in ways that historicize and deepen our understanding of them in relation to varied forms of dispossession. In the second part of this course, we will continue to engage with different conceptions of dispossession through films, ethnographies and select pieces of literature, that explore how people and communities are negotiating and contesting different forms of dispossession in their everyday lives.

ANT480H1F Special Topics in Anthropological Research

Anthropology of Dispossession - Prof Nisrin Elamin

This course explores contemporary forms of dispossession with a focus on Africa, North America and parts of the Middle East. How do we define dispossession and how do we identify and examine its multiple meanings, trajectories and legacies in our contemporary world? We will explore this question by looking at the various forms through which people can be dispossessed. Considering dispossession broadly, we will explore not only processes that dispossess people of property and land but also of rights, modes of belonging, health, citizenship and life. We will also look at the ways people are pushing back and re-claiming what they have been denied or dispossessed of, from anti-eviction and landless movements to struggles for reproductive rights and climate justice.

In the first part of this course, we will engage with critical theories of dispossession and put them in conversation with readings on racial capitalism and white supremacy. We will trace multiple genealogies of thought in an attempt to define these terms and concepts in ways that historicize and deepen our understanding of them in relation to varied forms of dispossession. In the second part of this course, we will continue to engage with different conceptions of dispossession through films, ethnographies and select pieces of literature, that explore how people and communities are negotiating and contesting different forms of dispossession in their everyday lives.

ANT480H1S Special Topics in Anthropological Research

Health Care and Aging - Prof Janelle Taylor

What does it mean to grow older? How is the experience of aging shaped by family and work arrangements, economic inequalities, and cultural ideas about the life-course? What changing health challenges and needs accompany aging, and how are they addressed? This course introduces anthropological perspectives on population aging as a global phenomenon with important health and social consequences, but one that is everywhere embedded within specific demographic, sociocultural, and political-economic contexts. Readings include ethnographic accounts based on research both in North America and in other parts of the world. Topics and concepts addressed include population aging, gerontechnology, intergenerational relationships, anti-aging medicine, cumulative inequality, and more.

 

ANT481H1F Special Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology  ***Cancelled***

Human Birth and Infant Care: an Evolutionary Perspective - TBA

 

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

Anthropology Through the Novel - Prof Naisargi Dave

This seminar explores the relationship between ethnography & literature. Are (some) novels ethnographic, and how so? Are (some) ethnographies works of literature, and how so? How do ethnography and literature do similar work, and in what meaningful ways do they diverge? Because this is a fourth-year seminar, most students will have read full-length ethnographic monographs in previous courses. The readings for this seminar will be comprised mostly of novels and some short stories, which we will assess and discuss in their relationship to anthropological knowledge production as well as, of course, questions of beauty, morality, and social commentary. All course marks will be self- and peer-assessed.

ANT485H1S Topics in Emerging Scholarship (Society, Culture and Language)

Ethnographic Writing Workshop - Wesley Brunson

This workshop aims to foster a space for experimentation, play, and critique as students explore the possibilities and limitations of ethnographic writing as a genre. Central to our work this semester will be to develop and deepen our individual and collective understandings and practices of writing about the social and cultural world(s) where we find ourselves embedded. We will draw on and depart from feminist, decolonial, disability, POC, Black, and queer critiques of positivist knowledge production to explore how writing from our own subjective positionalities can teach us to sense, to empathize with, and to critique social and cultural life. We will aim to cultivate generosity and curiosity as we give feedback on each other’s writing throughout the semester.  

Over the course of the semester, we will read selections of writing from anthropologists and anthropology-adjacent-writers. We will study these readings to understand how their authors make use of form and language and express and grapple with questions of empiricism and knowledge about others. Students will come to seminar prepared to generate and share their individual and collective writing they develop over the course of the semester.

ANT486H1F Special Topics: Socio-Cultural Research Seminar  ***Cancelled***

Perspectives on Africa - Dr. Silvia Forni

How has the image and portrayal of Africa shifted in the academic literature of the last four decades? What are the current issues and questions that animate academic and museological debates on and from the African continent? Drawing from a variety of interdisciplinary sources, this course will explore key topics that animate current debates surrounding the presentation and representation of African cultures in academia and museums.

ANT486H1S Special Topics: Socio-Cultural Research Seminar  ***Cancelled***

Social Studies of Autism - Prof Krista Maxwell

Autism elicits a diverse spectrum of responses: increasingly celebrated by autists and allies as a core identity, the basis for distinct emergent cultures and communities, autism continues to be pathologized and feared in public and clinical discourses, in which it is commonly characterized as a disease to be cured. This course provides an advanced introduction to critical autism studies, an emergent field in which social science and humanities scholars (some themselves autistic) examine autism as both lived experience, and rubric for a complex set of social and cultural phenomena.  Engaging with academic and popular texts and multi-media sources, we will explore how knowledge of autism is socially produced in given historical, political and cultural contexts; autobiographical and ethnographic works challenging dominant ideas about autism; histories of autistic people’s self-organising and advocacy; tensions between adult autists and parents of autistic children; autism and intersectionality, with particular attention to race and gender; and how autism studies converges with and challenges disability studies. Autistic and other neurodivergent students are welcome in this course, which is open to all.

ANT488H1S Special Topics in Medical Anthropology

Medical Materiality: Anthropological Approaches to Biocapital - Prof Anisha Chadha

This seminar will explore anthropological discussions about materiality and economy within the context of medical anthropology. Medical anthropologists have long been focused on the ways health and illness are reconceptualized in relation to the production and circulation of various organic and inorganic materials—for example, drugs, devices, vaccines, organs, and stem cells, to name a few. More recently, as anthropology as a discipline increasingly embraces new materialisms, medical anthropologists have begun to interrogate how relationships between human and non-human actors mutually shape health and wellbeing. Against the backdrop of these scholarly debates, this seminar will take up a series of contemporary medical anthropology ethnographies, each about a different type of “biocapital” broadly construed, to foster student discussions about the global transaction of biological materials in the current “anthropocene” moment of pandemics, vaccine resistance, shifting corporate power and state interests, and more.

ARH494H1S Topics in Emerging Scholarship (Archaeology)

Archaeological Science in Contemporary Practice - Branden Rizzuto

Whether through Global Positioning Systems (GPS), radiocarbon dating, or other methods, most contemporary archaeology utilizes archaeological science in some manner or another. However, recent decades have witnessed a large-scale growth in the use of archaeological science towards addressing research questions of an archaeological nature. In part driven by the “big data” movement, advancements in computational modelling, and “The Turn Towards Things” in archaeological theory and practice, some scholars have controversially labelled this trend “The Scientific Turn” in archaeology. Other scholars contend that this trend represents a return to positivist thinking in archaeology and maintain that there is a fundamental divide between archaeological theory and archaeological science. This course will introduce students to four methods/areas from archaeological science used in contemporary archaeology: 1) Handheld X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (hhXRF); 2) Obsidian Provenancing; 3) Archaeometallurgy; and 4) Bayesian Chronological Modeling. Through weekly readings, lectures, and practical sessions, as well as class discussions of relevant case studies, students will develop an understanding of how the above are currently being used to address research questions of an archaeological nature and to aid interpretations of the archaeological past. In addition, students will critically engage with the various theoretical approaches which have underpinned the generation and interpretation of these types of archaeological science data and if claims of a fundamental divide between archaeological science and archaeological theory are valid. This course will also provide students with the mandatory training required to obtain an XRF Operator Certification from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). Interested students will have the opportunity to seek NRCan XRF Certification from the course instructor after the completion of ARH494H.