Labels, Categories and Names: The Anthropology of People "Out of Place"
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students
Department: Social Sciences
Course Number: NANT 3655
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology
More than 70 years ago, anthropologist Ruth Benedict made a declaration that was radical for its time: Behaviors that many Americans considered abnormal, such as homosexuality or entering a trance state, were regarded as normal elsewhere; therefore, these so-called abnormalities are not caused by individual psychological or biological "problems" but are, rather, the products of a society's system of defining and classifying behaviors. We read anthropologists, autobiographers, and other social theorists who explore the extraordinary power of labels, categories, and names to include and to exclude, to create people in their image and to be shaped by the same people, and to be both politically problematic and politically useful. We also ponder the underlying question: Must we categorize phenomena in order to think about them? Readings include Foucault's Herculin Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a 19th-Century French Hermaphrodite and Dominguez's White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana.
Course Open to: Degree Students