Experimental Ethnographies
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Level: Graduate
Division: The New School for Social Research
Department: Anthropology
Course Number: GANT 6325
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
Topics:
  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences
  • Sciences
Description:
In its attempt for scientification in the 1950s, feeling the pressure from positivism and objectivism in the social sciences as a response to the Cold War, anthropology engaged in the sort of writing that could be employed in the production of vast databases of human behavior. Anthropological writing became more streamlined and tight than ever before. The establishment, however, of interdisciplinary locations of production of knowledge, such as the Committee on Social Thought, brought together a variety of problematics and disciplinary approaches that opened up the space for hybrid texts. What started as a paedagogical experiment, though, became articulated as a disciplinary position within anthropology in the 1970s, largely as a response to the questions that had been brought up by the theoretical positions of thinkers such as Clifford Geertz, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and the feminist movement. In this course we will trace the development of this new position, from the original texts that suggested a form (Gregory Bateson’s Naven in the late 1930s and, later on, Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques), to the critical examination of anthropological writings from within the discipline that gave rise and legitimated the experimental ethnographic writings of the 1980s. Within that trajectory we will read both some of the theoretical texts that inaugurated this new location of writing (by Clifford Geertz, Lévi- Strauss, Marcus and Cushman), but also ethnographies that hold the problematic of these questions, among which are: James Wafer’s The Taste of Blood, Diane Nelson’s A Finger in the Wound, Richard Kernaghan’s Coca’s Gone, James Boon’s Affinities and Extremes, Michael Jackson’s The Palm at the End of the Mind. This Practices seminar is addressed primarily to first year MA Anthropology students, but also to any students who engage with ethnographic writing as ethnography becomes part of the methodology of neighboring disciplines, such as social history and sociology.
Course Open to: Degree Students with Restrictions