01:30 PM to 02:45 PM MW
Horizon Hall 5018
Section Information for Fall 2022
With half of humanity (54% according to UN figures from 2016) now living in cities, and the other half connected to global cultures and economies in one way or another, it is often hard to see where one culture begins and another ends. How have anthropological ideas and methods of studying societies and cultures – which used to focus on the small-scale – adapted to unprecedented urbanization? What can ethnography (the systematic study of peoples, customs and ways of life, based on participant observation research) bring to the understanding of human life in cities? This course will show how urban anthropology asks the big questions (about inequality, conflict, etc.) but answers them through local understandings and on-the-ground perspectives.
The first aim of this course is for students to learn the theoretical trends in urban anthropology by looking at topics such as transnationalism and cultural identity; poverty and inequality; intersections of race, class, and gender; ethnic and religious diversity; urban planning and the built environment; middle class aspiration; how cities globalize, and more. How, we will ask, do cities complicate and unravel what it means to be human? We will read ethnographic studies of cities from around the world to see how scholars devise their research questions, implement their methods, and do their analysis. What do cities around the world today tell us about social problems and how to solve them? How do ethnographic methods of long-term, in-depth study illuminate those problems and their potential solutions?
The second aim of the course is to introduce students to urban ethnographic research methods. Over the course of the semester, students will undertake research projects that they will build piece-by-piece. While they will each work towards an individual research question and project, they will also work with others in the class as they learn and try out research methods (such as observation and interviewing) and improve the quality of their research design and implementation (through peer review and revision). As part of the process students will get out into the city – on buses, in the Metro, on the Mall, in the malls, on streets, and in neighborhoods – to conduct their own ethnographic investigations in the nation's capital. Students will learn how to formulate research questions about city life and to develop and undertake a small-scale, site-based research project; they will also learn the art of taking field notes and how to analyze those notes as they write their own ethnographies.