Environmental Anthropology Featured Courses, Fall 2018

ANTH 110-401 Water in the Middle East Throughout History

Instructor: Emily Hammer

Tuesday/Thursday 10:30AM-12:00PM 

The role of water in the Middle East cannot be overstated. The Middle East is an arid region, but human and natural systems have interacted to determine relative water scarcity and abundance at different times and places. The location, accessibility, yield, and quality of natural and managed water resources significantly influenced the location and longevity of ancient and modern settlements. Control of water has always affected the economic, political, social life of the communities inhabiting these settlements. This course examines the distribution of water resources throughout the Middle East and the archaeology and anthropology of water exploitation and management over the last 9000 years. It will consider water in river valleys, deserts, highland zones, steppes, and coastal areas of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant, and Arabia from environmental, political, social, cultural, and technical perspectives. We will engage with a variety of media, including academic readings, popular journalism, films, satellite imagery, and digital maps. We will examine irrigation, water supply, sanitation, and water-driven power systems known from ethnographic studies and archaeological excavations. These data will allow us to engage with debates in Middle Eastern anthropology, including those concerning the relationship between water and political power, the environment in which the earliest cities arose, and present and potential future water crises and "water wars." In our final weeks, we will discuss archaeology and historical anthropology's contribution to conceptions of water "sustainability" and examine attempts to revive traditional and ancient technologies in an effort to better manage modern water resources. 


ANTH 134-001 Making the Natural World: An Introduction to Political Ecology

Instructor: Mark Lycett

Tuesday/Thursday 12:00PM-1:30PM 

What are the limits of nature? When do natural systems become human or socio-natural systems? In this course, we examine the human construction of nature both conceptually, through ideas about environment, ecosystem, organism, and ecology; and materially, through trajectories of direct action in and on the landscape. Beginning with a consideration of foundational concepts in human ecology, we will discuss current problems and approaches, centering on political ecology. Readings and case studies are drawn from human-environmental contexts in Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America. We will also consider topics including a) the relationship between indigenous and technocratic knowledge and resource governance, b) environmental movements themselves as objects of ethnographic study; c) justice and sustainability as environmental goals; d) inequality, displacement and violence as environmental problems; and e) fair trade and food security or sovereignty. 


ANTH 154-401 Liquid Histories and Floating Archives

Instructor: Bethany Wiggin

Tuesday/Thursday 10:30AM-12:00PM 

Climate change transforms the natural and built environments, and it is re-shaping how we understand, make sense, and care for our past. Climate changes history. This course explores the Anthropocene, the age when humans are remaking earth's systems, from an on-water perspective. In on-line dialogue and video conferences with research teams in port cities on four continents, this undergraduate course focuses on Philadelphia as one case study of how rising waters are transfiguring urban history, as well as its present and future. Students projects take them into the archives at the Independence Seaport Museum and at Bartram's Garden. Field trips by boat on the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and on land to the Port of Philadelphia and to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge invite transhistorical dialogues about how colonial and then industrial-era energy and port infrastructure transformed the region's vast tidal marshlands wetlands. Excursions also help document how extreme rain events, storms, and rising waters are re-making the built environment, redrawing lines that had demarcated land from water. In dialogue with one another and invited guest artists, writers, and landscape architects, students final projects consider how our waters might themselves be read and investigated as archives. What do rising seas subsume and hold? Whose stories do they tell? What floats to the surface? 


ANTH 211-401 Religion and Ecology

Instructor: Allison Covey

Monday/Wednesday 2:00PM-3:30PM 

This class will introduce the overlaps between religion and ecology.  Rather than assuming that there is a necessary positive or negative relationship between religion and ecology, we will look at how these relationships have materialized in complicated ways at different moments in history.  We'll consider perspectives and case studies from a range of different moments in history.  We'll consider perspectives and case studies from a range of different traditions, with a special attention paid to the genesis of the field of Religion and Ecology in critiques of Christian attitudes toward the environment in the 1960s and 1970s.


ANTH 311-401 Disasters in the Ancient World 

Instructors: Campbell Grey and Lauren Ristvet

Tuesday/Thursday 10:30AM-12:00PM 

Natural disasters occupy a powerful place in our imagination. Stories of floods, plagues, earthquakes and storms excite and horrify us and communities mobilize their resources quickly in response to these events. In the ancient Mediterranean world, natural disasters could take on potent meaning, indicating the anger or disfavor of the gods, acting as warnings against certain courses of action, or confirmations of individuals' fears or suspicions about the world in which they lived. In this course, we explore the evidence for some disasters in the ancient Mediterranean world, the ways in which contemporaries reacted to those disasters and interpreted their causes. This project is, of necessity, multidisciplinary, involving textual, archaeological, geological, and comparative materials and drawing on methodologies from history, political and archaeological science, and the emerging field of disaster studies. In the process, we will gain an appreciation of the socialstructures of communities in the period, the thought-world in which they operated, and the challenges and opportunities thatattend a project of this sort. No prior knowledge of Ancient History is required, although it would be useful to have taken an introductory survey course. Texts will be discussed in translation. 


ANTH 440-401 Plants and Society

Instructors: Chantel White

Tuesday/Thursday 3:00PM-4:30PM 

Interactions between humans and the living landscape around us have played - and continue to play - a fundamental role in shaping our worldview. This course is designed to introduce students to the diverse ways in which humans interact with plants. We will focus on the integration of ethnographic information and archaeological case studies in order to understand the range of interactions between humans and plants, as well as how plants and people have profoundly changed one another. Topics will include the origins of agriculture; cooking and plant processing; human health and the world of ethnomedicine; and poisonous and psychoactive plants. We will examine ancient plant material firsthand at the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and will handle botanical ecofacts from the Penn Museum's collections. Students will also carry out a substantial research project focused on an archaeological culture and plant species of their own interest.