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
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies
Over 80 years ago, anthropologist Ruth Benedict, one of the leading figures in the cross-cultural exploration of diverse behaviors, made a declaration to her colleagues in the field of psychology that was extremely radical for the times: Behaviors that many Americans considered abnormal, such as homosexual acts or going into a trance state, were regarded as normal elsewhere. Therefore, Benedict proclaimed, abnormalities were not caused by individual psychological or biological problems; rather, they were the products of a society’s system of defining and classifying so-called normal behavior. In this course we read anthropologists, philosophers, 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 altered by those same people, and to be both politically problematic and politically useful. Our topics range from transgender identities to refugee status to racial categories of colonial rule. We also ponder a critical question: do we need to categorize our worlds to be able to think about them? (This course counts towards the Gender Studies minor.)
Course Open to: Degree Students