This seminar examines anthropological approaches to the concept of class and social inequality through a close reading of a dozen ethnographies that deal with a broad definition of health, illness, and social suffering. Readings span many of the theoretical, political, sub-disciplinary, and area studies debates in anthropology and the larger fields of poverty, social inequality, international development, violence studies, science studies, governmentality, and social policy interventions over the past century. My hope is to explore a vitalized conceptualization of class to understanding contemporary and historical forms of social inequaltiy as well as a critique of narrow biomedical understandings of illness and health. I hope to bring the problematic concept of power and the management of social inequality to bear on a contemporary critique of punitive neoliberalism into the center of our anthropological and public health concerns. The seminar also aims to bring students from anthropology, and other social science and humanities disciplines in dialogue with students in public health, social studies, and clinical medicine.
Most of the readings address the links between the political structuring of larger historical, political and cutltural forces with the intimate, psycho-affective suffering and trauma of vulnerable catagories of individuals. We will examine anthropological texts within the schools of political economy, critical medical anthropology, post-colonial history, Foucauldian power relations, Bourdieusian cultural reproduction, science studies, symbolic interactionism, and critical Basaglian psychiatry.
I am particularly interested in clarifying our understandings of Marx's concepts of class, class struggle, "primitive accumulation" and "lumpenization", Bourdieu's "cultural capital", "habitus" and "symbolic violence", the U.S. structure-agency ideological impasse, Taussig's "culture of terror" and "space of death", Primo Levi's "gray zone", Agamben's "impossibility of witnessing", Rose's neoliberal health citizen, Gramsci's hegemony, and Foucault's "subjectivation" "biopower" and disciplianry forms of governmentality among other useful theoretical formulations. We will be reading primarily ethnographies based on participant-observation methods that engage various schools of critical social science theory. We will also explore the contrasts between anthropological vs. literary vs. testimonial vs. political journalisitc vs. epidemiological approaches to the topics.
Section 401 - SEM -
Department of Anthropology
Museum, Room 325, 3260 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: (215) 898-7461 Fax: (215) 898-7462