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Anthropology and Ethnographic Theory

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - Brooklyn

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68 Jay St
Btwn Water & Front Streets
Brooklyn, New York 11201
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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 12
Teacher: Danya Glabau

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this literature class:

Developed as a tool for colonial empire-building at the close of the 19th century, the ethnographic method has become an important practice for telling the stories of the oppressed, designing for the future, and demanding social change. British and American anthropologists were initially concerned with understanding the discrete cultures of “savage” tribes in faraway places. 

Today, however, anthropologists often seek to understand what dynamics shape ideas about the local and the global, generality and specificity, the material and the symbolic, and similarity and difference in more familiar sites of human activity, including scientific laboratories, urban metropolitan centers, global networks of high-tech experts, and more. How did this transformation take place, and what does it mean for the future of how we humans study and understand ourselves?

This class will survey several enduring concerns in anthropology and ethnographic theory: the life, death, and afterlife of “the culture concept”; the connections between kinship, gift exchange, and the economy; and the challenge of adapting a methodology designed to study local conditions to study global trade, migration, and connection in the 21st century. We will read some of the old classics – including texts by Bronislaw Malinowski, Marcel Mauss, and Clifford Geertz – as well as feminist interventions by Marilyn Strathern and Lila Abu-Lughod, methodological innovations from science studies ethnographers like Bruno Latour, and reconfigurations of Marxist theory by Arjun Appadurai and Elizabeth Chin.

Throughout the course, we will pay close attention to the interplay between ethnographic theories of human social life and the methods (including new approaches like autoethnography and multi-sited ethnography) used to produce them. Supplementary readings will be suggested for each week that provide more examples of current ethnographic research and methods.

Please Note:
There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.

Instructors will contact students approximately one week prior to the first class with reading assignments and details about the course location.

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Refund Policy

Note: This provider has a temporary cancellation policy for COVID-19 related cancellations which is as follows:

We'll grant full course credit up to the start of the first class. After the first class we can offer 75% course credit; after the second 50%; and after the third 25%.


Original cancellation policy (non-COVID-19):

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.


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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (22)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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