Thinking with Infrastructure
While some of the initial excitement that surrounded the emergence of the anthropology of infrastructure seems to have faded, the field has seen the publication of a number of works in recent years that challenge and develop key concepts and methods in novel ways. In this seminar, we will situate these works within their particular conceptual genealogies in order to gain a broad and critical perspective on the theoretical and methodological contributions of the field.
Modes of Inquiry I: Ethnographic Innovations
This course provides a critical introduction to the methods of anthropology, paying special attention to topic formation, deployment of theoretical resources, techniques of engagement in "fields," and the politics and ethics of fieldwork and ethnographic knowledge production. Our approach will combine readings in critical anthropology relevant to methodological practice with workshop-style demonstrations of particular techniques for gathering and analyzing field material. The limits and powers of ethnography (broadly construed) will be explored through exploratory engagement with students' ongoing projects and a few examples of anthropological writing. This course is intended to help students develop the tools needed to develop their own research objects and strategies while reflecting critically on anthropology as a practice.
Anthropology of the Machine
Postwar cybernetics is typically associated with the emergence of information theory, the development of digital computing, Cold War infrastructure, and research into Artificial Intelligence. As such, it is problematized for its relation to the military industrial complex, novel mechanisms of social control, and dismal science fiction scenarios. Yet postwar cybernetics also gave rise to another more philosophically oriented conceptual trajectory concerned with a theory of in-formation, Artificial Life, and new ways thinking technology. This seminar is primarily concerned with this latter dimension of cybernetics and attempts to draw attention to its pervasive presence in contemporary social thought. Specifically, we will trace its resonance in current anthropological trends that emphasize emergence, non-representational theory, materiality, affect, and intensity. In addition, we will explore the kind of methodology that it suggests.
Experimental Architectures: Anthropological Interventions in Design
This course is designed as an advanced graduate-level reading seminar. It emerged from the combined interest of a number of students in questions concerning the intersection of space, architecture and social theory. Among topics of key concern will be the politics and aesthetics of novel global spatial paradigms, current reconceptualizations of the design process, epistemologies of scale, and ontologies of network.
This seminar explores issues in environmental anthropology through the conceptual, methodological, and ethical challenges posed by speculative philosophies at the edge of reason and the intersection of nature, technology, and science. In so doing, it seeks to develop a mode of radical ecology that complicates recent material, ontological, and multispecies responses to the crisis of the anthropocene. Its aim, as such, is also to elaborate the implicit possibilities born of thinking not only in terms of relation but also in relation to a politics and ethics of process. Of particular concern will be a number of questions, such as: how to (re)imagine the conceptual currency of nature as an analytic category or even object of inquiry; how ethnography might reshape nature; and what sort of social transformations might this reshaping render imaginable.