Time Travel
Freshman writing seminar at Cornell, Fall 2020

You will probably feel, more than once while at Cornell, like you are short on time. But what if that feeling only made sense within a particular sociocultural context? In this course, we will complicate the notion that time runs on a straightforward, linear trajectory. Drawing widely from anthropology, philosophy, history, fiction, film, and art – and reading works by authors from Sigmund Freud to Octavia Butler – we will travel beyond the 24-hour day and learn to think of time as multiple. Along the way, students will refine their skills in critical reading and practice both creative and analytic writing. Assignments include an exercise in representing non-linear time, short essays on topics like the role of nostalgia in American political life, and one longer research project. All of these assignments, as well as our course readings, use time travel as a springboard for thinking about how anthropologists approach social problems.

Anthropology of Climate Change
2000-level course at Cornell, Spring 2021

What does it mean to study humanity at a time when it has become a geological force? What, in other words, is required of us as thinking subjects under the “Anthropocene”? In this course, we will argue that anthropologists have an important role to play at this historical juncture – that our ways of knowing provide key insights into the social, economic, and emotional attachments driving global warming. But we will also consider how climate change troubles some of our discipline’s central categories. Time, space, nature, reason, agency, sovereignty – climate change throws these concepts and others like them into question. It inflects our ways of knowing. It demands adaptive thinking. Over the course of the semester, we will take on this work in common, proceeding from the presumption that it is not enough to think of climate change as a simple ethnographic object. Climate change is the unavoidable context for contemporary anthropology. Following our orientation to the topic (Part 1), this course will explore how climate change complicates anthropological understandings of time (Part 2), space (Part 3), nature (Part 4), reason (Part 5), agency (Part 6) and sovereignty (Part 7) before ending with a speculative engagement with the environment-to-come (Part 8). For their culminating projects, students will produce original 15-page research papers that use an example from the world to show how climate change troubles, expands, or subverts one of our organizing categories. Students may focus on any place and use any methodology deemed appropriate in consultation with the professor, but all students will be expected to engage in some kind of primary research.

Proposal Development
Graduate course at Cornell, Spring 2021

Course description underway.

Self, Culture, and Society I
Part one of a three-quarter social science theory sequence at UChicago, Fall 2018, 2019

The first quarter of Self, Culture, and Society explores the emergence and evolution of complex societies, divided through specialization and reconstituted in businesses, states, and increasingly in global markets. As we consider these features of “modern” life and the engines of industrialization, capitalism, and rationality that lie behind them, we will attempt to untangle the web of interdependence that structures our world. Our readings—which include foundational works by Ibn Khaldūn, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Max Weber, alongside a novel by Kurt Vonnegut and a handful of contemporary texts—offer competing perspectives on human nature, historical change, individual freedom, social conflict, and the possibilities and limits of human society. As we examine their arguments, we will consider what they have to say about relationship between the individual and larger collectives. We will also evaluate the broad social science traditions to which they gave rise. Along the way, we'll focus not simply on learning facts. Instead, we’ll work on building skills central to independent thinking, and on using those skills to assess issues of contemporary consequence. 

Self, Culture, and Society II
Part two of a three-quarter social science theory sequence at UChicago, Winter 2019, 2020

The second quarter of Self, Culture, and Society pivots around foundational works by Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon—alongside a novel by J.M. Coetzee and a handful of contemporary texts. These works offer competing perspectives on symbolic representation, the strength of social forces, the unconscious, ritual, race, gender, and violence. As we examine their arguments, we will consider what they have to say about the relationship between the individual and larger collectives. We will also evaluate the broad social science traditions from which they emerged and to which they gave rise. Along the way, please keep in mind that this is not a lecture course. It is a seminar—a series of conversations—in which we will all take part. Our focus together over the next ten weeks will be on reading, comprehending, critiquing, and extending social theory through reasoned debate.We’ll try, in other words, to focus not simply on learning facts. Instead, we’ll work on building skills central to independent thinking, and on using those skills to assess issues of contemporary consequence. 

Self, Culture, and Society III
Part three of a three-quarter social science theory sequence at UChicago, Spring 2019, 2020

The third quarter of Self, Culture, and Society pivots around foundational works by Thomas Kuhn, Steven Shapin & Simon Schaffer, Michel Foucault, Benedict Anderson, and Hannah Arendt—alongside a novel by George Orwell and a handful of contemporary texts. These works offer a variety of perspectives on the social construction of scientific facts, notions of truth and objectivity, and the centrality of knowledge practices to the production and maintenance of power. They also throw several of the central premises of pre-war social science into question. As we examine their arguments, we will consider what they have to say about the relationship between the individual and larger collectives. We will also evaluate the broad social science traditions from which they emerged and to which they gave rise. Along the way, please keep in mind that this is not a lecture course. It is a seminar—a series of conversations—in which we will all take part. Our focus together over the next ten weeks will be on reading, comprehending, critiquing, and extending social theory through reasoned debate.We’ll try, in other words, to focus not simply on learning facts. Instead, we’ll work on building skills central to independent thinking, and on using those skills to assess issues of contemporary consequence. 

 
 
Crisis and Chronicity
Capstone course for anthropology majors at GWU, Spring 2017

Anthropologists have long been concerned with the experience of crisis as a moment of heightened social action, set apart from the “imponderabilia of everyday life” (Malinowski 1922). But crisis is a privileged designation – a moment of rupture – that incites action and brings contradictions to light. In this class, we not only examined contemporary scholarship on crises and the sociocultural mechanisms marking moments as significant events, but also those forms of insecurity, precarity, and disorder too “slow” to achieve recognition as disasters. Based on our shared conversations about time and event, each student developed an original research project related to these topics, culminating in a 20-page capstone paper. Students were invited to focus their research on any time period and use any methodology deemed appropriate, but all students were expected to engage in primary-source research. Projects emerging from this course took on chronic homelessness, food insecurity, gentrification, and rare disease, investigated the aggregating power of #BlackLivesMatter, and evaluated anthropology's post-election "crisis of truth."

Other Teaching Experience (GWU): 
  • Anthropology Research Practicum 
Associated with NSF project, “Cellular Connections” (Fall 2016)
 
  • Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology
TA for Richard Grinker (Fall 2012, Spring 2014)
TA for Sarah Wagner (Fall 2013)
 
  • Language and Culture in Society
TA for Alexander Dent (Spring 2013)