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Course 21A: Anthropology
IAP/Spring 2024


The anthropology subjects described below are grouped within six areas: Core Subjects; Culture, Politics, and Identities; Bodies, Health, and Environment; Science, Technology, and Media; Research Methods in Anthropology; and Independent Study, Special Subjects, and Thesis.

Core Subjects

21A.00 Introduction to Anthropology: Comparing Human Cultures
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Through the comparative study of different cultures, anthropology explores fundamental questions about what it means to be human. Seeks to understand how culture shapes societies, from the smallest island in the South Pacific to the largest Asian metropolis, and affects the way institutions work, from scientific laboratories to Christian mega-churches. Provides a framework for analyzing diverse facets of human experience, such as gender, ethnicity, language, politics, economics, and art.
Fall: B. Stoetzer
Spring: B. Stoetzer

21A.01 How Culture Works
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: MW11-12.30 (4-265)
______
Introduces diverse meanings and uses of the concept of culture with historical and contemporary examples from scholarship and popular media around the globe. Includes first-hand observations, synthesized histories and ethnographies, quantitative representations, and visual and fictionalized accounts of human experiences. Students conduct empirical research on cultural differences through the systematic observation of human interaction, employ methods of interpretative analysis, and practice convincing others of the accuracy of their findings.
M. Buyandelger
Textbooks (Spring 2024)

21A.157 The Meaning of Life
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: TR1-2.30 (1-190)
______
Examines how a variety of cultural traditions propose answers to the question of how to live a meaningful life. Considers the meaning of life, not as a philosophical abstraction, but as a question that individuals grapple with in their daily lives, facing difficult decisions between meeting and defying cultural expectations. Provides tools for thinking about moral decisions as social and historical practices, and permits students to compare and contextualize the ways people in different times and places approach fundamental ethical concerns.
S. Helmreich, G. Jones
Textbooks (Spring 2024)

Culture, Politics, and Identities

21A.103[J] The Science of Race, Sex, and Gender
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as STS.046[J], WGS.225[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines the role of science and medicine in the origins and evolution of the concepts of race, sex, and gender from the 17th century to the present. Focus on how biological, anthropological, and medical concepts intersect with social, cultural, and political ideas about racial, sexual, and gender difference in the US and globally. Approach is historical and comparative across disciplines emphasizing the different modes of explanation and use of evidence in each field.
A. Sur

21A.104 Memory, Culture, and Forgetting
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 2-0-7
______
Introduces scholarly debates about the sociocultural practices through which individuals and societies create, sustain, recall, and erase memories. Emphasis is given to the history of knowledge, construction of memory, the role of authorities in shaping memory, and how societies decide on whose versions of memory are more "truthful" and "real." Other topics include how memory works in the human brain, memory and trauma, amnesia, memory practices in the sciences, false memory, sites of memory, and the commodification of memory.
M. Buyandelger

21A.111[J] For Love and Money: Rethinking the Family
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as WGS.172[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Cross-cultural case studies introduce students to the anthropological study of the social institutions and symbolic meanings of family, gender, and sexuality. Investigates the different forms families and households take and considers their social, emotional, and economic dynamics. Analyzes how various expectations for, and experiences of, family life are rooted in or challenged by particular conceptions of gender and sexuality. Addresses questions surrounding what it means to be a "man" or a "woman," as well as a family member, in different social contexts.
H. Paxson

21A.120 American Dream: Exploring Class in the US
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines the "American Dream" — the belief that all individuals and groups can succeed in the US through hard work and determination — in light of decreasing social mobility, increasing inequality, and shifting patterns of immigration. Focuses on how people use storytelling — such as oral narrative, memoirs, home movies, family photo albums, and novels — to reflect on their day-to-day experience of social class in the United States. Considers how social class intersects with other aspects of identity, such as race, ethnicity, and gender. Students undertake research projects and class assignments using oral histories, interviews, and analysis of archival records.
C. Walley

21A.127[J] Power: Interpersonal, Organizational, and Global Dimensions
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as 11.045[J], 15.302[J], 17.045[J])
(Subject meets with 21A.129)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
The study of power among individuals and within organizations, markets, and states. Using examples from anthropology and sociology alongside classical and contemporary social theory, explores the nature of dominant and subordinate relationships, types of legitimate authority, and practices of resistance. Examines how people are influenced in subtle ways by those around them, who makes controlling decisions in the family, how people get ahead at work, and whether democracies, in fact, reflect the will of the people. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
S. Silbey

21A.129 Power: Interpersonal, Organizational, and Global Dimensions
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Spring)
(Subject meets with 11.045[J], 15.302[J], 17.045[J], 21A.127[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
The study of power among individuals and within organizations, markets, and states. Using examples from anthropology and sociology alongside classical and contemporary social theory, explores the nature of dominant and subordinate relationships, types of legitimate authority, and practices of resistance. Examines how people are influenced in subtle ways by those around them, who makes controlling decisions in the family, how people get ahead at work, and whether democracies, in fact, reflect the will of the people. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
S. Silbey

21A.130[J] Introduction to Latin American Studies
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences Communication Intensive HASS
(Same subject as 17.55[J], 21G.084[J], 21H.170[J])
(Subject meets with 21G.784)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines contemporary Latin American culture, politics, and history. Surveys geography, economic development, and race, religion, and gender in Latin America. Special emphasis on the Salvadoran civil war, human rights and military rule in Argentina and Chile, and migration from Central America and Mexico to the United States. Students analyze films, literature, visual art, journalism, historical documents, and social scientific research.
T. Padilla

21A.131[J] Latinx in the Age of Empire
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Humanities
(Same subject as 21H.270[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Analyzes the histories and presence of the Latinx population in the context of US territorial expansion, foreign intervention and economic policy toward Latin America. Combines both historical and anthropological approaches to analyze local conditions that lead people to migrate within the broader forces of international political economy. Pays attention to the historical context in the home countries, especially as impacted by US policy. Explores Latinx community dynamics, politics of migrant labor, relational formations of race and transnational forms of belonging. Historically and ethnographically seeks to understand structures of criminalization, activist practices of resistance and the development of deportation regimes.
H. Beltran, T. Padilla

21A.132[J] Race and Migration in Europe
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Humanities Communication Intensive HASS
(Same subject as 21G.058[J])
(Subject meets with 21G.418)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: M EVE (7-10 PM) (14E-310)
______
Addresses the shifting politics of nation, ethnicity, and race in the context of migration and globalization in Germany and Europe. Provides students with analytical tools to approach global concerns and consider Europe and Germany from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives. Familiarizes students with the ways in which histories of migration, travel, and colonial encounters shape contemporary Europe. Introduces the concepts of transnationalism, diasporic cultures, racism, ethnicity, asylum, and mobility via case studies and materials, including film, ethnography, fiction, and autobiography. Taught in English. Limited to 18.
B. Stoetzer
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.135[J] Africa and the Politics of Knowledge
______

Not offered academic year 2024-2025Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as 21G.025[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Considers how, despite its immense diversity, Africa continues to hold purchase as both a geographical entity and meaningful knowledge category. Examines the relationship between articulations of "Africa" and projects like European imperialism, developments in the biological sciences, African de-colonization and state-building, and the imagining of the planet's future. Readings in anthropology and history are organized around five themes: space and place, race, representation, self-determination, and time. Enrollment limited.
D. Asfaha

21A.136[J] Global Africa: Creative Cultures
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Not offered regularly; consult department
(Same subject as 21G.026[J])
(Subject meets with 21G.326)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines contemporary and historical cultural production on and from Africa across a range of registers, including literary, musical and visual arts, material culture, and science and technology. Employs key theoretical concepts from anthropology and social theory to analyze these forms and phenomena. Uses case studies to consider how Africa articulates its place in, and relationship to, the world through creative practices. Discussion topics largely drawn from Francophone and sub-Saharan Africa, but also from throughout the continent and the African diaspora. Taught in English. Limited to 18.
A. Edoh

21A.137[J] African Migrations
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Not offered regularly; consult department
(Same subject as 21G.028[J])
(Subject meets with 21G.328)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines West African migration to France and to the United States from the early 20th century to the present. Centering the experiences of African social actors and historicizing recent dynamics, students consider what migration across these three regions reveals about African projects of self-determination, postcolonial nation-building, and global citizenship. Students also comparatively analyze the workings of contemporary French and American societies, in particular, the articulations of race and citizenship in the two nations. Taught in English. Limited to 18.
A. Edoh

21A.141[J] Images of Asian Women: Dragon Ladies and Lotus Blossoms
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as 21G.048[J], WGS.274[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: MW1-2.30 (4-265)
______
Explores some of the forces and mechanisms through which stereotypes are built and perpetuated. In particular, examines stereotypes associated with Asian women in colonial, nationalist, state-authoritarian, and global/diasporic narratives about gender and power. Students read ethnography, fiction, and history, and view films to examine the politics and circumstances that create and perpetuate the representation of Asian women as dragon ladies, lotus blossoms, despotic tyrants, desexualized servants, and docile subordinates. Students are introduced to debates about Orientalism, gender, and power.
M. Buyandelger
Textbooks (Spring 2024)

21A.143[J] Gender and Japanese Popular Culture
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Humanities
Not offered regularly; consult department
(Same subject as 21G.039[J], WGS.154[J])
(Subject meets with 21G.591)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines relationships between identity and participation in Japanese popular culture as a way of understanding the changing character of media, capitalism, fan communities, and culture. Emphasizes contemporary popular culture and theories of gender, sexuality, race, and the workings of power and value in global culture industries. Topics include manga (comic books), hip-hop and other popular music, anime and feature films, video games, contemporary literature, and online communication. Students present analyses and develop a final project based on a particular aspect of gender and popular culture. Several films screened outside of regular class meeting times. Taught in English.
I. Condry

21A.150 Teaching and Learning: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Not offered regularly; consult department
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores the diverse ways that people teach and learn in different countries, disciplines, and subcultures (computer gamers, magicians, jazz musicians, etc.). Compares schooling to other forms of knowledge transmission, from initiation and apprenticeship to recent innovations in online education. Students discuss various learning theories and apply them to a variety of in-class activities using qualitative methods to conduct original research on topics of their choice. Limited to 15.
G. Jones

21A.155 Food, Culture, and Politics
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores connections between what we eat and who we are through cross-cultural study of how personal identities and social groups are formed via food production, preparation, and consumption. Organized around critical discussion of what makes "good" food good (healthy, authentic, ethical, etc.). Uses anthropological and literary classics as well as recent writing and films on the politics of food and agriculture. Instruction and practice in written and oral communication provided.
Fall: H. Paxson
Spring: H. Paxson

21A.461 What Is Capitalism?
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences Communication Intensive HASS
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Introduces academic debates on the nature of capitalism, drawing upon the ideas of scholars as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Examines anthropological studies of how contemporary capitalism plays out in people's daily lives in a range of geographic and social settings, and implications for how we understand capitalism today. Settings range from Wall Street investment banks to auto assembly plants, from family businesses to consumer shopping malls. Enrollment limited.
C. Walley

Bodies, Health, and Environment

21A.301 Disease and Health: Culture, Society, and Ethics
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
From a cross cultural and global perspective, examines how medicine is practiced, with particular emphasis on biomedicine. Analyzes medical practice as a cultural system, focusing on the human and social side of things. Considers how people in different societies think of disease, health, body, and mind. Enrollment limited.
A. Moran-Thomas

21A.302[J] Dilemmas in Biomedical Ethics: Playing God or Doing Good?
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Not offered regularly; consult department
(Same subject as 11.133[J], WGS.271[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
An introduction to the cross-cultural study of biomedical ethics. Examines moral foundations of the science and practice of western biomedicine through case studies of abortion, contraception, cloning, organ transplantation and other issues. Evaluates challenges that new medical technologies pose to the practice and availability of medical services around the globe, and to cross-cultural ideas of kinship and personhood. Discusses critiques of the biomedical tradition from anthropological, feminist, legal, religious, and cross-cultural theorists.
Staff

21A.303[J] The Anthropology of Biology
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as STS.060[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Applies the tools of anthropology to examine biology in the age of genomics, biotechnological enterprise, biodiversity conservation, pharmaceutical bioprospecting, and synthetic biology. Examines such social concerns such as bioterrorism, genetic modification, and cloning. Offers an anthropological inquiry into how the substances and explanations of biology — ecological, organismic, cellular, molecular, genetic, informatic — are changing. Examines such artifacts as cell lines, biodiversity databases, and artificial life models, and using primary sources in biology, social studies of the life sciences, and literary and cinematic materials, asks how we might answer Erwin Schrodinger's 1944 question, "What Is Life?", today.
S. Helmreich

21A.311 The Social Lives of Medical Objects
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: M11-2 (E28-330)
______
Explores the theories and assumptions built into objects meant to improve health. Students read and discuss case studies that follow the often unexpected ways intended intervention objects are designed and developed, globally travel, and at times become part of people's everyday lives. Studies include a broad range of medical materials and development technologies, such as penicillin, anti-malarial drugs, water pumps, air filters, prosthetic limbs, glucose meters, scales, DDT insecticides, bednets, and micro-nutrient pills. Limited to 20.
A. Moran-Thomas
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.312 Planetary Change and Human Health
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores intersections between health of the planet and the health of human beings. Drawing upon case studies of growing ecological crisis around the world, topics include the human health implications of global climate change, sea level rise, weather disasters and fossil fuel pollution; connections between the health of plants, animals, microbes, and people; shifting industrial food systems and human nutrition; representations of race and indigeneity amid struggles for environmental justice; waste disposal and nuclear afterlives; and debates surrounding controversial issues such as geoengineering and climate AI.  Students practice inserting environmental sciences in dialogue with toolkits from the social sciences and humanities to explore the uneven social worlds that shape how science gets traction (or not) in policy and law. Limited to 25 students.
A. Moran-Thomas

21A.319[J] History and Anthropology of Medicine and Biology
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Fall)
(Same subject as STS.330[J])
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores recent historical and anthropological approaches to the study of medicine and biology. Topics might include interaction of disease and society; science, colonialism, and international health; impact of new technologies on medicine and the life sciences; neuroscience and psychiatry; race, biology and medicine. Specific emphasis varies from year to year.
A. Moran-Thomas, R. Scheffler

21A.400 The Stakes of International Development
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Not offered regularly; consult department
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Offers an anthropological perspective on international development. Students consider development, not in policy or technical terms, but through its social and political dynamics and its impacts on daily life. Examines the various histories of, and meanings given to, international development as well as the social organization of aid agencies and projects. Follows examples of specific projects in various parts of the world. Examples: water projects for pastorialists in Africa, factory development in Southeast Asia, and international nature parks in Indonesia.
C. Walley

21A.402[J] City Living: Ethnographies of Urban Worlds
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as 21G.029[J])
(Subject meets with 21G.419)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Introduces the ways in which anthropologists have studied cities. Addressing the question of what constitutes the boundaries of life in the city, students familiarize themselves with key themes - such as the relation between city and countryside, space and place, urban economies, science, globalization, migration, nature/culture, kinship, and race, gender, class and memory - that have guided anthropological analyses of cities across the world. Via engagement with case studies and their own small fieldwork projects, students gain experience with different ethnographic strategies for documenting urban life. Taught in English. Limited to 25 across 21A.402 and 21G.419.
B. Stoetzer

21A.404 Living Through Climate Change
(New)
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: F1-4 (66-154)
______
Uses anthropological approaches to better understand those social and political forces shaping climate change as well as proposed solutions, including those leveraging technical and scientific tools. Examines how climate change is bound up, historically and today, with other processes — including land dispossession, pollution, resource insecurity, industrial agriculture, eroding infrastructure, racial housing discrimination, and job loss. Explores perspectives on social justice, community engagement, and lived experiences of climate change — and their implications for science, engineering, and industry. Engages ethnographic case studies that address unequal climate impacts, the effects of policy, and ongoing mitigation efforts unfolding in agriculture, coastal engineering, architecture, urban planning, global migration, and historical repair. Includes a couple of mandatory field trips during class time.
A. Moran-Thomas, B. Stoetzer
No textbook information available

21A.407[J] Gender, Race, and Environmental Justice
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as 21G.057[J], STS.022[J], WGS.275[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Provides an introduction to the analysis of gender in science, technology, and environmental politics from a global perspective. Familiarizes students with central objects, questions, and methods in the field. Examines existent critiques of the racial, sexual and environmental politics at stake in techno-scientific cultures. Draws on material from popular culture, media, fiction, film, and ethnography. Addressing specific examples from across the globe, students also explore different approaches to build more livable environments that promote social justice. Taught in English. Limited to 18.
B. Stoetzer

21A.409[J] Ethics of Intervention
______

Not offered academic year 2024-2025Graduate (Fall)
(Same subject as 11.238[J])
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-0-9
______
An historical and cross-cultural study of the logics and practices of intervention: the ways that individuals, institutions, and governments identify conditions of need or states of emergency within and across borders that require a response. Examines when a response is viewed as obligatory, when is it deemed unnecessary, and by whom; when the intercession is considered fulfilled; and the rationales or assumptions that are employed in assessing interventions. Theories of the state, globalization, and humanitarianism; power, policy, and institutions; gender, race, and ethnicity; and law, ethics, and morality are examined.
E. C. James

21A.410 Environmental Struggles
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Offers an international perspective on the environment. Using environmental conflict to consider the stakes that groups in various parts of the world have in nature, while also exploring how ecological and social dynamics interact and change over time, subject considers such controversial environmental issues as: nuclear contamination in Eastern Europe; genetic bioprospecting in Mexico; toxic run-off in the rural US; the Bhopal accident in India; and the impact of population growth in the Third World.
C. Walley

21A.411[J] People and Other Animals
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Not offered regularly; consult department
(Same subject as 21H.380[J])
(Subject meets with 21A.419[J], 21H.980[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 2-0-10
______
Historical exploration of the ways that people have interacted with their closest animal relatives, for example: hunting, domestication of livestock, exploitation of animal labor, scientific study of animals, display of exotic and performing animals, and pet-keeping. Themes include changing ideas about animal agency and intelligence, our moral obligations to animals, and the limits imposed on the use of animals. Students taking the graduate version complete additional assignments.
Staff

21A.419[J] People and Other Animals
______

Graduate (Fall)
Not offered regularly; consult department
(Same subject as 21H.980[J])
(Subject meets with 21A.411[J], 21H.380[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 2-0-10
______
Historical exploration of the ways that people have interacted with their closest animal relatives, for example: hunting, domestication of livestock, exploitation of animal labor, scientific study of animals, display of exotic and performing animals, and pet-keeping. Themes include changing ideas about animal agency and intelligence, our moral obligations to animals, and the limits imposed on the use of animals. Students taking the graduate version complete additional assignments.
Staff

21A.429[J] Environmental Conflict
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Spring)
(Same subject as STS.320[J])
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores the complex interrelationships among humans and natural environments, focusing on non-western parts of the world in addition to Europe and the United States. Use of environmental conflict to draw attention to competing understandings and uses of "nature" as well as the local, national and transnational power relationships in which environmental interactions are embedded. In addition to utilizing a range of theoretical perspectives, subject draws upon a series of ethnographic case studies of environmental conflicts in various parts of the world.
C. Walley

Science, Technology, and Media

21A.151 Language, Communication, and Culture
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Provides an introduction to linguistic anthropology, which deals with the role of language in social, cultural, and political processes. Considers language as more than just a neutral conduit for exchanging information, but rather as a factor shaping and shaped by interpersonal relationships, national identity, and perception of the world. Drawing on case studies and first-hand observations, students apply methods for analyzing communication and miscommunication in everyday conversation, professional discourse, verbal performance, online interaction, political rhetoric, and more.
Staff

21A.500[J] Technology and Culture
______

Undergrad (Fall, Spring) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as STS.075[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 2-0-7
URL: https://anthropology.mit.edu/21A.500J_STS.075J_Technology_and_Culture
Lecture: T11-1 (32-141)
______
Examines the intersections of technology, culture, and politics in a variety of social and historical settings ranging from 19th-century factories to 21st-century techno dance floors, from Victorian London to anything-goes Las Vegas. Discussions and readings organized around three questions: what cultural effects and risks follow from treating biology as technology; how computers have changed the way we think about ourselves and others; and how politics are built into our infrastructures. Explores the forces behind technological and cultural change; how technological and cultural artifacts are understood and used by different communities; and whether, in what ways, and for whom technology has produced a better world. Limited to 50.
Fall: H. Beltran
Spring: F. Rossi
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.501[J] Art, Craft, Science
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as STS.074[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Credit cannot also be received for 21A.509, STS.474
______
Examines how people learn, practice, and evaluate traditional and contemporary craft techniques. Social science theories of design, embodiment, apprenticeship learning, skill, labor, expertise, and tacit knowledge are used to explore distinctions among art, craft, and science. Also discusses the commoditization of craft into market goods, collectible art, and tourism industries. Ethnographic and historical case studies include textiles, Shaker furniture, glassblowing, quilting, cheesemaking, industrial design, home and professional cooking, factory and laboratory work, CAD/CAM. Demonstrations, optional field trips, and/or hands-on craft projects may be included. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
H. Paxson

21A.502 Fun and Games: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Considers the cultural organization of play in different communities and societies. Explores why all people play, how different cultures experience fun, and what particular games mean, if anything. Surveys major theories of play in relation to a variety of play phenomena, such as jokes, video games, children's fantasies, sports, and entertainment spectacles. As a final project, students develop their own case study.
G. Jones

21A.504[J] Cultures of Computing
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as STS.086[J], WGS.276[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
URL: https://anthropology.mit.edu/21A.504J_STS.086J_WGS.276J_Cultures_of_Computing_Spring_2024
Lecture: MW2.30-4 (E51-085)
______
Examines computers anthropologically, as artifacts revealing the social orders and cultural practices that create them. Students read classic texts in computer science along with cultural analyses of computing history and contemporary configurations. Explores the history of automata, automation and capitalist manufacturing; cybernetics and WWII operations research; artificial intelligence and gendered subjectivity; robots, cyborgs, and artificial life; creation and commoditization of the personal computer; the growth of the Internet as a military, academic, and commercial project; hackers and gamers; technobodies and virtual sociality. Emphasis is placed on how ideas about gender and other social differences shape labor practices, models of cognition, hacking culture, and social media.
D. Banerjee
Textbooks (Spring 2024)

21A.505[J] The Anthropology of Sound
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
(Same subject as STS.065[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines the ways humans experience sound and how perceptions and technologies of sound emerge from cultural, economic, and historical worlds. Consider how the sound/noise/music boundaries have been imagined, created, and modeled across sociocultural and historical contexts. Learn how environmental, linguistic, and musical sounds are construed cross-culturally as well as the rise of telephony, architectural acoustics, sound recording, multi-channel and spatial mix performance, and the globalized travel of these technologies. Questions of sound ownership, property, authorship, remix, and copyright in the digital age are also addressed.
S. Helmreich, I. Condry

21A.506 The Anthropology of Politics: Persuasion and Power
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Introduces the ethnographic study of politics, i.e., what anthropologists understand to be "political" in various social and economic systems, from small-scale societies to liberal democratic states. Examines politics across three contemporary contexts: electoral politics, public spheres, and bureaucracies and humanitarian governance. Students consider and analyze how questions of authority, coercion, and violence have been theorized to relate to the political, and how some aspects of social life are regimented in explicitly non-political ways.
staff

21A.507[J] Resonance: Sonic Experience, Science, and Art
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Arts
(Same subject as 4.648[J])
(Subject meets with 4.649[J], 21A.519[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines the sonic phenomena and experiences that motivate scientific, humanistic, and artistic practices. Explores the aesthetic and technical aspects of how we hear; measure or describe vibrations; record, compress, and distribute resonating materials; and how we ascertain what we know about the world through sound. Although the focus is on sound as an aesthetic, social, and scientific object, the subject also investigates how resonance is used in the analysis of acoustics, architecture, and music theory. Students make a sonic artifact or research project as a final requirement. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
Consult C. Jones

21A.508 Culture and Ethics in Science Fiction Worlds
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines the ethical and controversial aspects of technology's impacts on society, as approached through the lens of science fiction and media. From novels such as Kindred to films like Sleep Dealer, the social inequalities and political complexities portrayed in science fiction worlds offer a launch point to discuss the uneasy aspects and uneven reach of science, technology, and medicine. Covers issues including gene editing, data privacy, border surveillance, human experimentation, environmental crises, war industries, and the impacts of AI.
A. Moran-Thomas

21A.509[J] Art, Craft, Science
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Fall)
(Same subject as STS.474[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Credit cannot also be received for 21A.501, STS.074
______
Examines how people learn, practice, and evaluate traditional and contemporary craft techniques. Social science theories of design, embodiment, apprenticeship learning, skill, labor, expertise, and tacit knowledge are used to explore distinctions among art, craft, and science. Also discusses the commoditization of craft into market goods, collectible art, and tourism industries. Ethnographic and historical case studies include textiles, Shaker furniture, glassblowing, quilting, cheesemaking, industrial design, home and professional cooking, factory and laboratory work, CAD/CAM. Demonstrations, optional field trips, and/or hands-on craft projects may be included. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
H. Paxson

21A.511 Hacking from the South
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Using anthropological perspectives to propose critically reflexive modes of participation in existing socio-technical systems, students draw on ethnographic case studies to understand how practices and definitions of "hacking" are grounded in specific political and cultural contexts. With a focus on the Global South (Africa, Latin America, Caribbean, Middle East, Asia and Southeast Asia, Oceania), examines the relationship between international development and technological empowerment by interrogating assumptions associated with particular locations and peoples, especially those constructed as peripheral to geographic centers of power.
H. Beltran

21A.513 Drawing Human Experience
(New)
______

Undergrad (Fall) HASS Arts
Prereq: None
Units: 3-3-6
______
Introduces fundamental techniques of drawing with traditional media and their application as tools of anthropological inquiry. Examines what the human impulse to draw reveals about connections between mind, hand, and eye. Explores ideas, refines perceptions, and communicates insights through both abstract and figurative drawing. Each student completes a portfolio of original drawings with accompanying written analysis. Limited to 20 due to space constraints.
G. Jones

21A.519[J] Resonance: Sonic Experience, Science, and Art
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Fall)
(Same subject as 4.649[J])
(Subject meets with 4.648[J], 21A.507[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Examines the sonic phenomena and experiences that motivate scientific, humanistic, and artistic practices. Explores the aesthetic and technical aspects of how we hear; measure or describe vibrations; record, compress, and distribute resonating materials; and how we ascertain what we know about the world through sound. Although the focus is on sound as an aesthetic, social, and scientific object, the subject also investigates how resonance is used in the analysis of acoustics, architecture, and music theory. Students make a sonic artifact or research project as a final requirement. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
Consult C. Jones

21A.520 Magic, Science, and Religion
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Undergrad (Fall) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores the origins of magic, science, and religion as forms of belief within and across cultures. Addresses the place of rationality and belief in competing sociocultural theories, with a focus on analyzing modern perspectives. Examines how cases of overlap between magic, science, and religion raise new questions about modernity and human nature.
G. Jones

21A.529 Virtual and Other Realities
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Spring)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
______
Explores virtual worlds created in cyberspace, non-internet ritual spaces, science laboratories, tech companies, and artistic performances from an anthropological perspective. Students acquire analytical tools for thinking about immersive experiences of being someone else, and the socio-economic, political, and technological contexts behind creating specific types of parallel worlds. Examines and contextualizes the ways in which scientists, designers, shamans, ritual specialists, and corporations imagine, respond to, and steer people's desires and needs. Considers debates on the future of imagination, sensory experiences, and creativity in technology. Limited to 20. This class is designed as a seminar class for graduate and advanced undergraduate students.
M. Buyandelger

21A.550[J] DV Lab: Documenting Science through Video and New Media
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Arts Communication Intensive HASS
(Same subject as STS.064[J])
(Subject meets with 21A.559)
Prereq: None
Units: 3-3-6
Lecture: W1-4 (E53-354) Lab: F1-4 (E53-354)
______
Uses documentary video making as a tool to explore everyday social worlds (including those of science and engineering), and for thinking analytically about media itself. Students make videos and engage in critical analysis. Provides students with instruction on how to communicate effectively and creatively in a visual medium, and how to articulate their own analyses of documentary images in writing and spoken word. Readings drawn from documentary film theory, anthropology, and social studies of science. Students view a wide variety of classic documentaries and explore different styles. Lab component devoted to digital video production. Includes a final video project. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 12.
C. Walley, C. Boebel
No textbook information available

21A.559 DV Lab: Documenting Science through Video and New Media
______

Graduate (Spring)
(Subject meets with 21A.550[J], STS.064[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-3-6
Lecture: W1-4 (E53-354) Lab: F1-4 (E53-354)
______
Uses documentary video making as a tool to explore everyday social worlds (including those of science and engineering), and for thinking analytically about media itself. Students make videos and engage in critical analysis. Provides students with instruction on how to communicate effectively and creatively in a visual medium, and how to articulate their own analyses of documentary images in writing and spoken word. Readings drawn from documentary film theory, anthropology, and social studies of science. Students view a wide variety of classic documentaries and explore different styles. Lab component devoted to digital video production. Includes a final video project. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 12.
C. Walley, C. Boebel
No textbook information available

Research Methods in Anthropology

21A.802 Seminar in Ethnography and Fieldwork
______

Undergrad (Spring) HASS Social Sciences
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: R9-12 (2-103)
______
Introduction to ethnographic practices: the study of and communicating about culture. Subject provides instruction and practice in writing, revision of fieldnotes, and a final paper. Preference to Anthropology majors and minors.
G. Jones
Textbooks (Spring 2024)

21A.809 Designing Empirical Research in the Social Sciences
______

Graduate (Spring)
(Subject meets with 15.347)
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: F9-12 (E53-354)
______
Foundations of good empirical research in the social sciences. Introduction to the basic assumptions and underlying logic of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Explores a variety of approaches to research design, evaluates the products of empirical research, and practices several common techniques. Discusses several major theoretical paradigms used as interpretive frameworks for social science research. Students develop a proposal for their own research project.
S. Silbey
Textbooks (Spring 2024)

21A.819 Ethnographic Research Methods
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Fall)
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-6-3
______
Training in the design and practice of qualitative research. Organized around illustrative texts, class exercises, and student projects. Topics include the process of gaining access to and participating in the social worlds of others; techniques of observation, fieldnote-taking, researcher self-monitoring and reflection; methods of inductive analysis of qualitative data including conceptual coding, grounded theory, and narrative analysis. Discussion of research ethics, the politics of fieldwork, modes of validating researcher accounts, and styles of writing up qualitative field research.
G. Jones

21A.829[J] Ethnography
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Fall)
(Same subject as STS.360[J])
Prereq: Permission of instructor
Units: 3-0-9
______
Practicum style course introduces students to ethnographic methods and writing in global health research. Organized around interviewing and observational assignments. Students develop a bibliography of  anthropological and ethnographic writing relevant to their project, and write a short paper about integrating ethnographic methods into a future research project. Preference to HASTS students; open to others with permission of instructor.
M. Fischer

21A.859[J] Social Theory and Analysis
______

Graduate (Spring)
(Same subject as STS.250[J])
Prereq: None
Units: 3-0-9
Lecture: M1-4 (E53-354)
______
Major theorists and theoretical schools since the late 19th century. Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Bourdieu, Levi-Strauss, Geertz, Foucault, Gramsci, and others. Key terms, concepts, and debates.
S. Helmreich
No textbook information available

Independent Study, Special Subjects, and Thesis

21A.901 Independent Study in Anthropology
______

Undergrad (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: Two subjects in Anthropology
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Opportunity for independent study, guided research, practicum, or field work under regular supervision by a faculty member. Projects require prior approval of the instructor and Head of the Anthropology Program. Normal maximum is 6 units; exceptional 9- or 12-unit projects occasionally approved.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.902 Independent Study in Anthropology
______

Undergrad (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: Two subjects in Anthropology
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Opportunity for independent study, guided research, practicum, or field work under regular supervision by a faculty member. Projects require prior approval of the instructor and Head of the Anthropology Program. Normal maximum is 6 units; exceptional 9- or 12-unit projects occasionally approved.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.929 Graduate Independent Study
______

Graduate (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: None
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Opportunity for study or projects at an advanced level with an Anthropology faculty member.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.939 Graduate Independent Study
______

Graduate (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: None
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Opportunity for study or projects at an advanced level with an Anthropology faculty member.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.949 Graduate Independent Study
______

Graduate (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: None
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Opportunity for study or projects at an advanced level with an Anthropology faculty member.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.950 Teaching Anthropology
______

Graduate (Fall, Spring) Can be repeated for credit
Not offered regularly; consult department
Prereq: None
Units arranged [P/D/F]
Subject Cancelled Subject Cancelled
______
For qualified graduate students serving as either a teaching assistant or instructor for subjects in Anthropology. Enrollment limited by availability of suitable teaching assignments.
C. Carlson

21A.S01 Special Subject in Anthropology
______

Undergrad (Fall)
Prereq: None
Units arranged
______
Seminar or lecture on a topic in anthropology that is not covered in the regular curriculum.
M. Buyandelger. M. Short, R. Lavi

21A.S02 Special Subject in Anthropology
______

Undergrad (IAP)
Prereq: None
Units arranged
______
Seminar or lecture on a topic in anthropology that is not covered in the regular curriculum.
G. Jones, C. Taylor-Butler
No textbook information available

21A.S10 Special Graduate Subject in Anthropology
______

Graduate (Spring)
Prereq: None
Units arranged
URL: https://anthropology.mit.edu/21A.S10_Special%20Topic_Capitalism-Theories_and_Ethnographies_Spring_2024
Lecture: R1-4 (E53-354)
______
Seminar or lecture on a topic in anthropology that is not covered in the regular curriculum.
C. Walley
No textbook information available

21A.S11 Special Graduate Subject in Anthropology
______

Not offered academic year 2023-2024Graduate (Fall)
Prereq: None
Units arranged
______
Seminar or lecture on a topic in anthropology that is not covered in the regular curriculum.
Staff

21A.THT Anthropology Pre-Thesis Tutorial
______

Undergrad (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: None
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Students writing a thesis work with an advisor to develop research topics, review relevant research and scholarship, frame research questions, choose an appropriate methodology for data collection and analysis, and draft the introductory and methodology sections of their theses. Includes substantial practice in writing (with revision) and oral presentations.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.THU Undergraduate Thesis in Anthropology
______

Undergrad (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: 21A.THT
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Completion of work on the senior major thesis under supervision of a faculty thesis advisor. Includes oral presentation of thesis progress early in the term, assembling and revising the final text, and a final meeting with a committee of faculty evaluators to discuss the successes and limitations of the project.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.UR Undergraduate Research
______

Undergrad (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: None
Units arranged [P/D/F]
TBA.
______
Individual participation in an ongoing research project. For students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
Fall: C. Carlson
IAP: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
Summer: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks

21A.URG Undergraduate Research
______

Undergrad (Fall, IAP, Spring, Summer) Can be repeated for credit
Prereq: None
Units arranged
TBA.
______
Individual participation in an ongoing research project. For students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
Fall: C. Carlson
Spring: C. Carlson
No required or recommended textbooks


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