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

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

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

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."

Risk Societies
Syllabus Prepared

Risk pervades the present-day political milieu, encompassing topics from fetal screening to the global war on terror. By definition, it is the prospect of danger. But what does this mean, ethnographically? And can there be an anthropology of risk if it inhabits the future, not the present? Beginning from the premise that the struggles of late modernity are also struggles over the definition and distribution of risk, this course considers how anthropologists have made risk an object of study in multiple spheres – including medicine, environment, security, and finance. We will explore how anxiety, uncertainty, and anticipation texture horizons of decision-making in science and policy, while also engaging with risk’s embodied, affective, and sensorial dimensions. Along the way, we will ask: Where does the notion of risk come from? How do we know the risks we face? How do differently situated people respond to the ever-changing nature of danger? Under what circumstances does risk become ground for political engagement? And what does it mean to do ethnography of the future as an arena of intervention? Following our theoretical orientation to the topic (Part 1), the course will be structured around how risk manifests as an object of knowledge (Part 2), a logic of governance (Part 3), and a structure of feeling (Part 4). For their culminating projects, students will produce original 20-page research papers that in one way or another investigate the concept of risk. 

Wastescapes
Syllabus Prepared

In common parlance, waste gestures toward the end of a process. It is the last stage in the materials life cycle, the act of destruction, and—according to theorists like Karl Marx—a harbinger of crisis in the capitalist project. But what would it mean to approach waste as a creative force, a socially and theoretically generative object? This course begins from the premise that waste is a beginning, not an end—that it is by definition an enabling process. It also acknowledges that the consequences of waste (both the stuff and the act) are not evenly distributed in modern society. Together, we will study how waste is made and handled, how it circulates through global systems, and the different ways in which waste (de)stabilizes a variety of spatial, temporal, and social phenomena. Among our key collective tasks will be to elaborate a theory of the “wastescape.” What is it? What makes it? And what “hidden” processes does it stand to reveal as an object of study? Following our theoretical orientation to the topic (Part 1), this course will explore questions associated with waste and space (Part 2), waste and time (Part 3), and the political and affective dimensions of what Zygmunt Bauman calls “wasted lives” (Part 4), before ending with a consideration of the “afterlives” of discarded stuff. For their culminating projects, students will produce original 15-page research papers that in one way or another examine—and theorize—a “wastescape” in contemporary society. 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 primary-source research of some kind.

Anthropology of Climate Change
Syllabus Prepared 

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.

Introduction to Environmental Anthropology
Syllabus Prepared 

Anthropology has traditionally been thought of as the study of human cultures. But what does it mean to do anthropology at a time when the line between “nature” and “culture” has been so thoroughly unsettled? And what, in this context, counts as an “environmental” issue? With the global ecological crisis as its backdrop, this course provides an introduction to environmental anthropology, asking how the environment has figured into studies of human culture, power, knowledge, governance, and social movements. We will engage with insights from classic cultural ecology to multispecies ethnography, and examine cases related to environmental regulation, contested science, extractive economies, hazardous waste, environmental justice, land rights, and land use. We will also consider arguments that poverty, racism, and the erosion of democracy are substantive environmental issues. Along the way, we will ask: How has ecological instability shaped the ways people relate to their surroundings? How does the inauguration of “the Anthropocene” force us to reconsider long-held binaries – such as nature/culture and human/nonhuman – that insist on separating people from the material and ecological worlds on which they depend? How have other societies in different times understood their relationships with the environment? And how might expanding the category of “the environment” help us rethink what it means to be human? Following a few weeks exploring theoretical underpinnings (Part 1), readings will be structured around the materials life cycle, taking us from investigations of extraction (Part 2), to production (Part 3), consumption (Part 4), and disposal (Part 5), before ending with a speculative engagement with the environment-to-come (Part 6). For their 12-page final papers, each student will identify a topic to engage, theoretically and ethnographically, as part of a class-wide effort to answer the question: What is an environmental issue?

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)