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Fall 2018 Course Offerings

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SHUM 4625/6625 Deranged Authority: The Force of Culture in Climate Change

(also ANTHR 4625/7025) 
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
J. Carlson.
M: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

How does climate denialism persist in the face of evidence that global warming is real? Conversely, how do environmentalists come to believe that specific actions are necessary to save the world? How can climate justice efforts include local forms of knowledge and expertise? As humans struggle to conceive of new ways to live—and make change—in a time of “derangement,” Deranged Authority explores how certain kinds of environmental action and inaction become authoritative in diverse social contexts. Here classical and critical theories of authority illuminate how environmental knowledge attains power in some settings but not others; additionally, ethnographic studies of ecoauthority point to forms of resiliency that diverge from conventional models of climate remediation. In Part I of the seminar, Ghosh’s Great Derangement grounds a discussion of why humans have yet to widely enact strategies for meeting the challenges that climate change presents. In Part II, students consider how authority is established in popular environmental texts, including An Inconvenient Truth and Oreskes and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt. Part III readings explore authorizing processes and expertise, both among climate researchers and in industry campaigns aimed at obfuscating impending ecological collapse. Of interest is the distinction between authority and evidence, and the work of affect in establishing authority. Part IV uses ethnographic texts to engage indigenous modes of “ecoauthority” beyond liberal Western ontologies of climate change. This course will familiarize students with multiple sites at which environmental engagement takes place and the modes of authority and force that animate these engagements. Participants will write short discussion papers, participate regularly in discussion, co-lead one class meeting, and submit a final essay. Through this work, students will draw upon social theory to identify authorizing processes at work in the world around them.


SHUM 4626/6626 Author, Critic, Reader

(also COML 4621, ENGL 4926)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
J. Elam.
R: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m.

What does it mean to have a relationship with a work of literature? This course explores three relationships between text and human: one of authorship and authority, one of critique and criticism, and one of consumption and reading. What are the social relationships imagined by each of positions? What are their relations to each other? The course treats each position – author, critic, reader – as both empirical description and theoretical position. Thinkers and writers across the twentieth century have attempted to describe these positions under historical conditions ranging from authoritarianism and imperialism (Kojève, Arendt, Viswanathan) as well as from historical conditions of post-totalitarianism (Nabokov, Said, Barthes). What might it mean to be an authority over a text, as Alexandre Kojève argues? What might it mean to ‘love literature’, as Deidre Lynch asks? Who does a person become when they read, ask de Certeau asks? Each section draws on essays, literary theory, and an exemplary novel to illuminate the stakes of these questions, for not only aesthetic theory but also political theory and history in the twentieth century.


SHUM 4627/6627 Disobedience, Resistance, Refusal

(also AMST 4626/6627, GOVT 4626, PHIL 4427/6427)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
A. Livingston.
T: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

This seminar surveys contemporary political theories of disobedience and resistance. We will examine liberal, republican, and radical perspectives on the logic of political protest, its functions, justifications, and limits, as well as how transformations in law, economy, and technology are redefining dissent in the twenty-first century. Topics to be discussed will include the terms of political obligation, the relationship between law-breaking and law-making, conceptions of justice, resistance and popular sovereignty, the politics of civility, violence and self-defense, public space and privatization, the digitalization of protest, resistance in non-democratic regimes, as well as deviance and refusal as modes of dissent.


SHUM 4628/6628 Authority and Anonymity: Historical Reflections on a Historically Variable Relationship

Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
A. McKenzie-McHarg.
M: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m.

How does authority operate under conditions of anonymity? The proposed course is made up of four modules that draw upon a variety of sub-disciplines within modern historiography in exploring various permutations of the relationship between anonymity and authority.

(i) Pre-Print Text: Under current conditions, authorship bestows authority upon the author in commenting and elaborating upon the text in question. Yet the relationship was not always configured in this manner. Because in pre-print culture textual production was not framed as the creative act of an individual, texts were often linked not to their actual authors but to the authority under whose intellectual influence they were written.

(ii) Print Text: In print culture the author became a bibliographical category. On this basis, authorial attribution became an important worksite in the protracted task of ordering the house of knowledge; every text, even if originally produced under historically different circumstances, can theoretically be assigned an author. And yet there were important—and highly contested—deviations from this principle. In particular, opinions differed on whether criticism became more effective or merely more irresponsible when practised anonymously.

(iii) Post-Print Text: This module draws out the contemporary relevance of issues explored in the course. Recent trends have heightened our awareness of the challenges in establishing authoritative sources of information within a digital environment largely characterized by bidirectional social media and almost instantaneous dissemination of information.

(iv) Beyond the Text: Anonymity is not only a textual phenomenon. Its nontextual forms include masked balls, the practice of travelling incognito, tombs of unknown soldiers and therapy groups for treating addiction. The focus in this module will fall upon those practices tied to authority such as bureaucracy, a form of impersonal social regulation whose essence Hannah Arendt described as “rule by nobody” and whose absurdities Franz Kafka explored in his fiction.


SHUM 4629/6629 On Political Authority and the Power to Expose

(also ANTHR 4029/7029)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
D. Rojas.
T: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

In this interdisciplinary course we will draw on literature from the fields of critical theory, architectural theory, and cultural anthropology to critically study a notion that informs much current political thinking: humans are unique in their capacity to transform natural “exteriors” indifferent to human life into “interiors” in which human needs and wants can be satisfied and political actions advanced. Contemporary notions of political authority, as we will see in the first part of our course, often appeal to certain humanist architectonics. Rulers are sometimes described as legitimate authorities given their mastery of the uniquely human capacity to construct interior spaces that, by sheltering humans from the inclemency of exterior realms, make it possible for culture and reason to flourish.

The second theme we will address involves imperial topologies established on the basis of the exterior/interior opposition. We will examine how territories that since the sixteenth century had been framed as exterior to European law were addressed by imperial projects as open to appropriation. This nomos of the earth (as Carl Schmidt has described it) carries the potential for remaking the globe into an anomic orb in which the interiority of law cannot be set apart from the authoritarian exteriority of force.

Our third theme of concern will be movements of incorporation fueled by the exterior/interior opposition. We will examine “apparatuses” composed of schools, hospitals, prisons, and other such sites which extend over peoples and territories with paradoxical results: their intensifying sway brings human and non-human lives within the sphere of politics while simultaneously exposing the sphere of politics to self-sacrificial wagers.

Our fourth and final theme will involve political projects that, in a context of ecological destruction at a planetary scale, seek to recompose human–nonhuman relations by cultivating modes of care and attention that may be practiced while enduring exposures—rather than within the security of stable shelters.


SHUM 4630/6630 Recognition, Abjection, and State Ideology

(also ANTHR 4130/7130)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
K. Yamamoto-Hammering.
R: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

“Recognition, Abjection, Ideology” introduces seminal theorizations of modern state power with reference to ethnographic texts that focus both on the formation of national subjectivity and social exclusion. While the course examines relations between capitalism, ideology, and the effectivity with which states today employ techniques of recognition to produce a body of national subjects, willing to give themselves for the nation, it likewise addresses the abjection of marginalized social groups and the ways in which such groups maintain their own socialities. On this note, there are two objectives to the course. On the one hand, it seeks to provide students with a set of theoretical tools with which to analyze and explicate the normative force of modern state ideologies. The course itself undertakes analyses of rituals and embodiments of state rhetoric, be they online or in the immediacy of the everyday. On the other hand, it seeks to enable an ethnographic imagination of socialities which contemporary state ideologies expel from general sociality. To this end, the course explores the relation of such marginalized socialities to the state, and considers the ways in which state ideologies, and particularly fascism, necessitates the expulsion of differences from the social body. Course assignments ask that students integrate theoretical and ethnographic readings with habitual writings, be it as a meditation on assigned texts or as an ethnographic application to our everyday lives. In the spirit of anthropology, the course is emphatically designed to enable the identification of similarity across difference, and thus asks students to apply readings to contexts close to home.